The term ‘moment’ has been pushed around a lot lately in the food world to underscore momentum and fervor around something. The one that seemed strangest to me was the notion of a “hot dog moment.” Summertime is grilling season so hot dogs and hamburgers have many moments. What seemed different were all the non-traditional hot dog sandwiches that have been part of the growing lists of hot dog ideas. Given the rising popularity of Vietnamese banh mi sandwiches, banh mi hot dogs were part of the action.
Real Simple dubbed theirs a “banh mi dog,” which made me cringe a bit because dog is an exotic meat in the Vietnamese repertory. As you can imagine, the topic has sparked debate, the nature of which depends on which end of the table you sit at – with animal rights activists or aficionados, who may begin expounding the virtues of dog blood sausages that are part of the head to tail approach. For the record, I have never eaten Vietnamese dog dishes. However, I grew up on a mock dog stew that my mom prepared from pork. Thit nau gia cay is a northern Vietnamese specialty, one that Vice Munchies recently interviewed me on.
Let’s return to the American understanding of a hot dog. My family adored them when we arrived here in the United States. I loved their fine texture and snap, both of which remind me of the texture of Asian meat and seafood pastes. Vietnamese silky sausages (gio lua and cha lua) have a similar snap too. Growing up, I sliced and seared hot dogs for instant top ramen lunches and made sandwiches.
We could rarely afford Oscar Mayer or Ball Park brands. When they went on sale, I sang the Oscar Mayer wiener song in my head. Similarly I marveled as the Ball Park franks plumped up as they cooked. Our family of seven enjoyed mostly off brands, and maybe had too many of them. Since I left for college, I’ve rarely eaten a hot dog at home.