hair pills, beef bile + fermented fish head

rice to riches

My ass is tired. It’s 2pm. I awoke at 7:30am (went to bed midnight-ish), cooked kids’ breakfasts, cleaned dishes, washed fruits, hulled strawberries. Logged my food in a journal. Am still exhaustivo. Down 7 lbs., week one of Weight Watchers (Hell to the yeah), yet oh, so, yes, tired. Will take a B-12 now to see if that helps, then going grocery shopping … yet again. I should pay rent there. I wonder if they sell Viviscal pills there. I just read about it in Vogue, that it’s THE THING for hair regrowth, thickening, strengthening. I always wonder how your body knows to give you the regrowth on your head and not your… tail.

I’m back. Nope, they didn’t sell the pills. I’m buying them online. Bought a whole bunch of Thai cooking stuff. I’m on a kick. Since I haven’t actually made it to Vietnam, Cambodia, or Thailand yet, I’m doing what I can from deep in the heart of Texas. Thankfully, I have the most beautiful cookbook to keep me true: Hot Sour Salty Sweet: A Culinary Journey Through Southeast Asia

I loaded up on greens. Baby bok choy, basil, watercress, cilantro, scallions. Actually, most of that is just herb, ya know? Those don’t really count as greens, but I already have swiss chard and cabbage stocked in the house.

I spent HOURS in the Asian market (M & T) pointing to a page with words written in Vietnamese and Thai to people who were likely Chinese. They had no idea what Tao-jiaw was. Nor did I, which was super helpful (it’s fermented soybean paste, FYI).

“But it’s in my recipe,” I said. In truth, it was likely less of a “said” and more of a “whined.” I was cranky. They couldn’t find it. Nor could they find Thai sticky rice. I’m sorry, but what the fermented fish head is that about? No wild lime leaves either. No soup for you.

beef bileI’d officially like to bring one of my New York Asian friends to Texas, so they can walk me through the market and explain some things. Or any Asian who can cook. Actually, I’m not picky, you don’t even need to be Asian, just know how to cook like one. Meanwhile, how is this not a service? I don’t want a full-on class, though a one-off class would work. Mostly I’d love to find a guide who’ll walk us through a market, teach us how to load our a Southeast Asian pantry (with the best brand of fish sauce, for example), then we’d cook a single meal together. Is that too much to ask? Apparently not. Though Austin’s Thai-Fresh does look pretty kick ass.

In the end, I foraged the only bag of sweet glutenous Thai rice in the store (for sweet sticky rice with mangoes), made me some on an oil splatter screen over a pot of boiling water, with an upturned bowl over the rice. No sticking, no cleaning. Perfect sticky rice. Got me some black rice vinegar. Roasted chili paste. Bean sprouts, mangoes, and cans of coconut milk. But I decided against the vomit. That’s Edible Beef Bile for one and for all. And thank goodness there’s “NO WATER ADDED” because I’d really hate to dilute bile.



  1. I can’t lead you through an Austin Asian market (though I would love to come along!) but the best fish sauce is the one with the 3 crabs on the label. The Asian market by my house has a “quantity limited per shopper” sign next to it, and I’ve heard it rec’d by other Asian foodie types too.

    1. Author

      Well don’t you rock for sharing that lovely gem! Thank you Sara. Now I must dig for a receipt and return whatever cloudy anchovy sauce I brought home.

  2. A few years ago while on vacation, I took a course in Vietnamese cooking. Although we were given recipes, were treated to demonstrations & encouraged to buy Hot, Sour, Salty, Sweet once we mastered the principles, we were taught technique & what complemented what. Then we were divided into teams, given ingredients & told to wing it….sort of like Iron Chef minus the ticking clock & hoopla. I love that kind of teaching! When I got home I bought the book and set about finding ingredients, just as you did. We have a good-sized Vietnamese community in Philadelphia. When I went into the huge market & realized that no one had a clue what I was talking about I looked for the youngest person in the place, figuring s/he’d speak English. Voila! It worked. Try it & I’ll bet it works for you too.

  3. I’d love to come down to Austin and show you how to cook Asian style. Our favorite places to shop in NYC are the little Thai and Malaysian shops in Chinatown – or any of the groceries in Queens (though we don’t get out there much).

    Or, when you’re in NYC next time, come over and we’ll cook up a storm.

  4. I don’t know anything about those pills, but Moroccan oil (name brand) has been keeping my hair from getting heat damage, drying out, and getting split ends. So, it’s actually growing without having to cut a bunch of it off every time.

  5. ‘hell yeah’ (well at least not hells yeah) and ‘kick ass’ = living in Texass too long. Lassie come home

  6. I just frickin’ love this blog. Such a great writing style and keen sense of humor! As a working mom with a few extra portions of love around my handles, still a hot momma and exhausted as well, I have to tell you the Viviscal thing does WORK! It is fabulous, and to the previous tweeter(Azizeh): Morocon Oil is the BOMB! I loooove it! Has anyone used a shampoo powder for cleaning your hair between washes?

    1. Author

      Bumble & Bumble makes one that I’ve used before (I just got a haircut & blowout). Last night I used baby powder (eek)… still, it feels like it did the job. And I use Moroccan Oil Cream for Curly hair when my hair is wet only.

  7. Thanks Stephanie, I went to Sephora last night and found a dry shampoo powder by Oscar Balndi, not sure I like the result, the hair looks okay, but scalp still feels dirty, only two days between shampoo. Not impressed. But I do love all things Morrocan oil, and Viviscal..I will try the Morrocan Oil Cream for my summer curls! Have a great day/weekend!

  8. I’m not sure about Texas, but in Toronto, Calphalon does a one-off cooking night in a variety of Asian styles. They have couples cooking classes too! Calphalon is pretty universal, so if they have it in Canada, they probably have it in Texas. Good luck!

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