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Posted on Fri, Nov 11, 2011 : 8 a.m.

Frugal Friday at Dalat features fresh flavors, variety and value

By Mary Bilyeu


Mary Bilyeu, Contributor

Wendy and I meandered through an evening recently, first attending a class about Rembrandt's representations of Jesus and other Biblical figures, then learning about a cross-country bike ride being planned for this summer by Hazon, the country's largest Jewish environmental group.

After all of these adventures, we were hungry. We tried to go to one place that had been recommended as an inexpensive option, but it was closed; so we walked over to Dalat [dah-LAHT] - today's Frugal Floozie Friday feature — and enjoyed some lovely Vietnamese cuisine at a family-run restaurant.

Wendy and I could have split one of the many dishes on the extensive menu, but we decided to go for a bit more variety: we ordered one of each of the four appetizers.

The first item we tried was the Vietnamese Shrimp Roll for a mere $1.30: "A salad roll of shredded chicken, shrimp, lettuce, bean sprouts, cilantro and rice vermicelli wrapped in translucent rice-paper. Served with peanut sauce." This was not some measly egg roll-sized portion, but rather it was very generous — lacking a ruler and spatial ability, I would guess seven inches long by one and a half wide. It was packed with all of the listed ingredients and artfully presented with the shrimp peeking through the translucent rice paper. The peanut sauce was sweet, not at all spicy, and complemented the vegetables beautifully.

Our next treat was the Dalat Special Roll, for $1.95: "A Special salad roll of grilled chicken, shrimp, shredded pork, lettuce, bean sprouts, cilantro and rice vermicelli wrapped in translucent rice-paper. Served with peanut sauce." It sounds quite reminiscent of its predecessor, but the flavors of each appetizer were remarkably different. The slight difference in ingredients combined with the modification in preparing the fillings created a taste that was not quite like the other.

Next on our list of taste treats was the Vietnamese Egg Roll for $1.35: "Deep-fried roll of chicken, thin transparent noodles, black mushrooms, shredded cabbages and carrots. Served with Vietnamese sweet and sour sauce." The exterior was just as crisp and flaky as expected, with an abundant filling that nearly fell out once freed when bitten into. The dipping sauce was more sour than sweet, which I liked very much; Wendy, however, doesn't care for anything vinegary. I found that the tartness was an ideal complement to the simplicity of the vegetables.

Our final selection (pictured at the top) was the Steamed Rice Roll with Sliced Pork Loaf, our greatest expenditure at only $4.95: "Steamed rice roll stuffed of chicken, black mushrooms and onions topped with sliced Vietnamese pork loaf, cucumber, bean sprouts and fried onions. Served with Vietnamese sweet and sour sauce." The vegetables were fresh and crisp and vibrantly flavored, while the sliced meat was intriguing and unique. This salad was quite substantial, even when shared, and was quite nice without the sweet and sour sauce but also enhanced by it, as well.

For $10 — right on the mark of our $5 per person Frugal Floozie Friday budget — Wendy and I shared an abundant meal of tremendous nutrition, flavor, freshness, variety and value. What a great deal!

100 W. Michigan Ave.
Ypsilanti, MI 48197

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Mary Bilyeu has won or placed in more than 60 cooking contests and writes about her adventures in the kitchen. She was thrilled to have her post about Scottish Oatmeal Shortbread named as one of the daily "Best of the Blogs" by the prestigious Food News Journal.

Go visit Mary's blog — Food Floozie — on which she enthuses and effuses over all things food-related. Her newest feature is Frugal Floozie Friday, seeking fun and food for $5 or less ... really! Feel free to email her with questions or comments or suggestions:

The phrase "You Should Only Be Happy" (written in Hebrew on the stone pictured in this post) comes from Deuteronomy 16:15 and is a wish for all her readers as they cook along with her ... may you always be happy here.


Sarah Rigg

Fri, Nov 11, 2011 : 2:17 p.m.

Mary, I'm really thrilled to see you featuring Dalat. I believe it's an overlooked gem in our area. Eating off their vegetarian menu, which is one full page, you can also save a lot of money. You might not squeak by under $5 for a full meal but it's close. And the vegetarian appetizers fit in your Frugal Floozie budget as well.

Mary Bilyeu

Fri, Nov 11, 2011 : 2:57 p.m.

The menu at Dalat is tremendous and extensive; and yet, everything I've ever eaten there has been freshly made and beautifully presented. I'm happy to feature it today!