Voices from My Plate: Phuong Trang – Whole Fried Tilapia

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My plate’s eyes are wide open and her voice is screaming “COMFORT.” Deep fried tilapia with steamed rice reminds me of my childhood. I couldn’t wait for this simple dish to be served so I can devour it, with my mouth, my eyes, and my memories.

I didn’t intend to order this dish at Phuong Trang. I didn’t even see it on their website menu, when I did my usual restaurant research before deciding where to have dinner this past Sunday night. Phuong Tran serves Vietnamese food, which is what I wanted to eat prior to watching the Miss Saigon musical – our dinner and a show night. (I like to match the dinner theme with the event of the night.) I perused their extensive menu a number of times, planning to try dishes typical of Vietnamese food – hot pots, pho, rice vermicelli, anything with lemongrass. But immediately when I saw they offered whole fried tilapia (with an extra 15-minute wait), my growling stomach wanted nothing else.

We checked our phones to make sure we had the extra time before the show, and yes we did – we’d have to skip dessert this dinner. And as we waited, I silently and hungrily waited by wading through email and social media accounts. 

My partner Richard got his meal first, a delicious seafood fried rice – he decided on a basic dish because there were so many choices, he couldn’t decide. As I eye his dish, Richard asks me if I want some…well, just a little bit. Very good and fresh tasting, but I didn’t want to eat too much, even though I was starving at that point. 

“Fish, fish, fish,” my stomach was chanting.

Finally, my whole fish was served – including the head. And hot! Straight from the deep fryer to the plate and into my mouth. Who cares if the crispy skin and white meat was steaming, it seemed like I was waiting for hours! Since we were in a restaurant, I tried to daintily remove the meat with my knife and fork, but after a few morsels flew onto the table (five second rule), I thought forget it – I’m using my hands to grab the fish. I did hold back from going all native, and used my fork to get the right proportion of fish and rice for each bite. I was in food heaven, thinking about my childhood plates.

The dish may seem to look plain and bland, but to me it was a delicacy. As a kid, my Filipino parents would occasionally make fried tilapia for weekend dinners or when guests were invited over. Sometimes served on banana leaves, and always with lots of steamed white rice. We ate tilapia before it became a food thing.

I have never fried fish for myself, but I always smile when my parents prepare it for me and my family. I have been known to drive over to 99 Ranch and have them deep fry tilapia for me, but that’s as close as I’ve gotten. It’s not the same as being freshly prepared for me by my parents, and then eaten as soon as it’s out of the fryer with my rice. Even better when I’m eating with my hands. But now I know I can get my whole fried tilapia at Phuong Trang. And that makes me smile. Because as we say, happy tummy, happy life. This dish represents my comforting childhood and satisfies my eater needs. My plate of simple whole fried tilapia speaks for itself, and asks…when are we coming back?

 

Phuong Trang

4170 Convoy Street

San Diego, CA 92111

858.565.6750

http://phuongtrangrestaurant.com

Notes: Phuong Trang’s menu is very extensive, so take your time in deciding what to order. Prices are very reasonable, our dinner for two was less than $30, including tip. I was first exposed to Phuong Trang by my friend Rosey, who would order trays of food from the restaurant for workplace and personal gatherings. We especially enjoy eating the Glazed Chicken Wings with their house special sauce.  

 

Week 33: Showing Some Pride

Early last week, a friend forwarded me an email request asking for volunteers during the annual Pride Festival. But my kids had basketball and baseball games, and other plans had been made, so the timing of the volunteer slots didn’t work. I had never been to the Pride Festival or watched the Parade, so it got me thinking maybe I should at least go and watch. Then without having mentioned it to her, my friend Lacy asked if I wanted to go to the Parade. I took that as a sign that going to the Pride Parade would be my 50 Weeks activity for Week 33.

 

As with many of my activities with friends we take the time going to and from the destination catching up on life. Lacy had just returned from her sister’s wedding in Jamaica, so I was getting the scoop. We soon drive into the Hillcrest area and after once around the block we park and walk to the Starbucks.

pridestreet

If Starbucks was an indication of the large crowd to be expected, it’s going to be huge. The line for morning lattes reached the door, and more importantly the bathroom line was just as long (of course I forgot to go before leaving the house and needed to stand in this line). Once getting relief and getting introduced to Kelly and Hank (friends of Lacy’s), we leave to find a spot along the parade route. It is already packed with many people bringing chairs and canopies. Luckily it wasn’t that hot of a day.

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We claim a great location at the corner of University and Sixth, where we figured was a spot that Parade participants needed to stop and turn the corner. Already I can tell this is going to be one fun parade. Many spectators themselves were dressed for the occasion, Kelly had on a cute rainbow tutu. Lacy was wearing a colorful blocked dress (later a drag queen commented how she loved Lacy’s dress, and a gay guy said to his boyfriend to look at her great tits).There was a lovely family next to us whose young boy designed a rainbow t-shirt for them to wear, with labels of Dad, Dad, Daughter and Son on the backs. Lots of skimpy clothing too — both men and women. I just had to look at a woman’s ass that was half exposed, you couldn’t miss it.

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  prideumbrella  pridemaskguy

Once the parade started with a leather clad bike club leading the way, there came lots and lots and lots of participating groups. Pretty much every local politician was there, many legal associations, churches, banks, medical groups, nightclubs, radio stations, and of course, all the LGBT associated groups. I was having fun just being there since I haven’t watched a parade since…I can’t even remember, probably when I was a little girl. (I’ve always wanted to watch the Rose Parade too, but I have been to the Rose Bowl.)

pridefetish  pridecops

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priderevivals  pridemamaskitchen  pridehula

You really have to experience the Parade to truly enjoy it, which is why this blog is mostly pictures because there was so much to see — and there was so much more that I didn’t include, need to edit you know. What was my favorite? So much…all the cute guys (so what if they’re gay, still great eye candy, especially the half naked ones with ripped bodies, is there a gay strip club I can go to?), the foam truck, all the fun giveaways (I was given a bunch of condoms), the Chipotle truck with the giant riding burrito, the costumes, and all the signs expressing love for all (“I love all my children, even the straight ones”, “God loves us all”, and “size matters” — oh wait, well still a great sign).

pridehalfnaked  priderichs

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The vibe of the Parade and the festival is one of acceptance. No matter your sexual preference, race, religion, big or little, how you looked, favorite dog breed or bank affiliation, Pride welcomes all and judges no one. Well, the anti-circumcision group drew a few “not the right place for that, honey” type of comments, but overall it was a fun gathering of people enjoying life and who they are. Always take pride in yourself — you are beautiful, inside and out!

pridepugs  pridewalkers  pridefoam  prideteddybear

pridepubdef  pridefall  priderv

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pridesizematters        pridewheelchair    prideflags  pridesm  pridebikenun  pridebears  prideflagwalkers  prideloveisgod  pridescooter

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San Diego Pride, https://sdpride.org/. This was the Pride festival’s 40th anniversary, which drew a 300,000 parade attendance (yes, it was really, really crowded), 40,000 music festival attendance, and 940 volunteers. Be prepared, with so many groups participating, the Parade was long, over 3 hours (we had time to eat fish tacos at Oscar’s during the parade, http://www.oscarsmexicanseafood.com). The music festival was only $20 for both Saturday and Sunday, so plan for next year. Lacy and I are trying to figure out how to participate in the parade next year — anyone have a flatbed truck, DJ equipment, and racy costumes we can borrow?

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pridegoodies