My Culinary Trip Around the World: Vietnam
Heading to the Unknown
We boarded the plane to Vietnam in Bangkok not knowing what to expect from the country let along the food.
We touched down in Ho Chi Minh on the morning of 22nd February 2011. Our days in Ho Chi Minh were spent exploring the many museums and trying not to get run over by the thousands of mopeds and motorbikes. We ate fascinating street food including a sweet pastry which was filled with potato and topped with caramelised sugar and sesame seeds (surprisingly nice).We also braved some of the local rice wine which contained a dead, but once very much alive, cobra.
Making our way North
Our next stop was Nah Trang, the place itself wasn’t up to much but the food definitely made up for that. Our days were spent on the beach and not too far from a Vietnamese lady barbequing an assortment of fresh seafood including: mini lobsters, crab, scallops and sea snail. Everything was coated in a very strong chilli and garlic oil. On our last day I decided to go against my mother’s advice and eat the locally caught and barbequed seafood. We made our way through:
2 x scallops
2 x crabs
1 x sea snail
5 x mini lobster
This cost us a mere 240,000 Dong which translates to around £6. What a bargain and it was delicious!
Reaching the cultural Capital
After Nah Trang it was time for the food and cultural capital of ‘Nam’: Hoi An. The food in Hoi An was almost faultless. I wish we could have stayed longer purely to work our way through all the amazing Vietnamese dishes including local speciality white rose: steamed open pork dumplings made with rice paper. The beer was the cheapest beer I would ever have: priced at only 11pence! Squid is a real favourite there, you can have it with lemongrass and chilli or even stuffed with pork and mushrooms (the latter sadly gave me the worst food poisoning I have ever had!). Vietnam also has the most amazing spring rolls (made with rice paper) available deep fried or fresh.
Street stalls sell drink as well as food. In Hoi An there was a very old lady who crushed sugar canes on her street cart the deliciously sweet liquid was served in a bag with a straw.
Sadly I have little to say about food from the north of Hoi An due to being nil by mouth. Seriously gutted I didn’t get to try Pho from one of the many Pho stalls in Hanoi. I did however, manage to stomach a meal on our last night in this incredible country. We headed for a restaurant as mentioned in the Lonely Planet called KOTO. KOTO is by no means average backpacking food and it was also considerably more expensive than we were used to but the food and service were magnificent plus it’s a charity. It’s a non-profit restaurant that provides training programmes for disadvantaged and street youths in Vietnam; I think this is great because it gives them a skill to go and start their lives. Sadly there was a lack of Vietnamese food on the menu but what we did have was lovely.
Overall Vietnam was one the most interesting and raw countries I visited in my four month trip it was raw, we felt like we were going off the beaten track and the food was delicious!