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Friday, December 16, 2011

An Authenticity Crisis 

Today's lesson in not making assumptions ...

I stopped in to D.C. Sandwich to pick up two banh mí for lunch (one đậu hủ chay and one bì chay) and had a brief moment of concern when the order ticket was written with a note that looked (to my inexpert eye) like hangul at the bottom. Should I be concerned about the authenticity of the sandwiches? (And really, what does "authenticity" mean or matter when you're talking about a really tasty sandwich?)

I'd asked for no hot peppers on the banh mí, and from the context that would seem to explain the writing. However, I couldn't figure out what the characters were; 으아 was as close as I could get, but that makes no sense and there appeared to be another stroke or two in 아, like a poorly formed/out of proportion 감 or something. (Google Translate renders 으아 as "whoa" ... which I guess could mean "no jalapeños," but that would be some really odd diner slang. 오감 is "five senses," which would seem to be a request for more heat, not less.)

Flipping through a dictionary and Google Translate, I couldn't find any rendering of capsicum (고추류) or jalapeño (할라페뇨) or something similar in Korean that it might be the equivalent of hot pepper. Then I looked at Vietnamese words for hot peppers, wondering if it were a hangul rendering of a Vietnamese word, and came across ớt ... and then pretty quickly realized my mistake ... the first character wasn't 으 or 오 or 우 or anything similar, it was an underlined zero — 0 ớt.

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