Chow Bella

My Mini Taste of Phoenix: Seeking Sweets and Asian Comfort Food in the Valley

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We set out to tackle as many places in a general area as our appetites can stomach in a day. On the way over, we chat about Winnie's sweet tooth and their affinity for two items on the list: Tammie Coe's giant apple oatmeal cookies as well as macarons and fast-selling croissants from Essence (all of which I later grew to love, except for the croissants which sold out before I could get to them, too).

Our first destination? Mekong Plaza -- a mecca of Southeast Asian goods and food. At Unphogettable, Winnie and I opt to share a bowl of pho chin (with tender well done brisket). The familiar warmly spiced beef broth, slinky vermicelli noodles and crunchy bean sprouts spiked with a shot of Sriracha draws me in immediately.

Though it's not quite as good as mom's (nothing ever is), it still hits the spot. I could scarf down a whole bowl on my own but know that it's wiser to save room for the rest of Uncle Son's eating expedition.

Following that, we wander over to Mekong Plaza's food court for cute little dishes of Vietnamese bánh bèo -- steamed, jiggly rice cakes sprinkled with scallions and seafood flake, served with light fish sauce -- and some fresh and flaky Chinese egg custard tarts that melt in the mouth.

The pair say the best rendition of this dessert they've ever had was a Portuguese version at a KFC in Hong Kong. Throughout the course of the day, I learn that they've traveled to something like twenty different countries together, sampling all sorts of interesting eats in each.

They've had Beduoin tea in a cave in Petra, guinea pig in Cusco, giant king crab in Vancouver, fish straight from the river in Istanbul, fresh gnocchi in Italy, and hasma, the dried fatty tissue found near the fallopian tubes of frogs, as a drink supplement in Hong Kong. Man, my family's cool.

Following dessert, we get even more dessert (fine by me!) in the form of walnut baklava from Haji-Baba to go with a bit of frozen yogurt from Yogurtland to cool off. Winnie's tip, which I have since dutifully used: Always try to end a meal with fresh fruit to lighten the load.

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Mabel Suen
Contact: Mabel Suen