And after Part 1 and Part 2 we have now reached Part 3, the final part of my Tribute to Vietnamese food!
Ready? Let’s go!
The hotpot in the header image was served in a budget restaurant in Da Lat. The pot was placed at the centre of the table and kept simmering while the ingredients were cooking. Not being familiar with the cooking technique, I kept staring at the pot wondering when it would be ready and safe to eat. I must say, it tasted very good.
The rolls and dumplings above are from Hoi An, a town whose reputation as the ultimate gourmet getaway is steadily growing. Great food and lovely composition on the plate for this dish!
Cao lau is one of the most popular Hoi An specialties, and its ingredients are noodles, slabs of pork, bean sprouts and fresh vegetables. The noodles are quite different from any other Vietnamese dish: thicker, quite chewy and with a firmer texture. The dish tastes delicious!
Last but not least, here’s the highlight of my food experiences in Vietnam: a fully homemade meal which I helped preparing when in Hanoi! Noodles, vegetables, and rice paper rolls. Very tasty.
See also this post for the full experience.
And this is the end (for now) of my Vietnamese food memoirs.
I hope you enjoyed it!
Vietnam is a country of waters: hundreds of miles of coastline, rivers, and huge delta areas characterise its length. Fresh fish and seafood are readily available, and therefore such dishes abound in the Vietnamese cuisine.
Here are some of the mouth-watering seafood dishes that I savoured during my trips:
The one above was my first meal at the night market in Phu Quoc, a great place to be. The squid looked fresh and tasted great. The sugarcane juice went very well with it too. The fact that my stomach was not upset at all after the meal (I am sadly prone to food poisoning when in the tropics) made me return to the same market a few times during my stay. And more seafood dishes were tried.
This steamed squid dish was nice and fresh and served at one of the cheap seafood restaurants on Ang Bang beach in Hoi An. A pile of morning glory was my choice of side dish as usual…
This shrimp and squid combo was actually made of two separate dishes but when put on the same plate they fit very nicely together. Again, all seafood looked and tasted very fresh. As you would expect on an island like Con Dao.
The mackerel soup above was prepared using a mackerel that had been caught under my eyes in Con Dao and then immediately taken to the restaurant kitchen. It couldn’t have been any fresher! The mackerel was cooked in three different ways, and the soup version is the only one I took a photo of. Very colourful and yummie!
One more from Con Dao: fish in garlic sauce. A bit too much garlic maybe, but it supposedly helps keeping the mosquitoes away. Regardless of any mozzie repellent properties the dish tasted good, the presentation on the plate was very nice and it was incredibly cheap (I don’t remember ever paying more than 180,000 dong for a seafood dish, which is equivalent to less than £5!).
Last but not least in my seafood tribute is nuoc mam, the notorious Vietnamese fish sauce! Largely produced from fermented fish in smelly factories in Phu Quoc, the fish sauce is an ever-present ingredient in the Vietnamese cuisine.
More images and comments about Vietnamese dishes are still to come. Keep following me!
I am not exactly a cooking enthusiast or a foodie.
And I never thought I would ever write about food.
But I love Vietnamese food so I thought I’d pay a small pictorial – but not only – tribute to some of the dishes that I tasted during my two trips to Vietnam. Disclaimer: this is not meant to be an extensive review of Vietnamese cuisine, but only a sample of what I tried (and took a photo of).
Let’s start with this:
This was my very first meal in Vietnam. On my first trip. Stir-fry with beef and rice. And a cup of coffee.
It looks like dinner or lunch, but in fact it was given to me as breakfast. A slight shock to my Western palate used to sugar rushes first thing in the morning! But I had to learn more about Vietnamese breakfast…
Next is the world renowned Pho, a bowl of broth with noodles and meat (usually chicken or beef) – another very common type of breakfast:
I must admit I love Pho (not for breakfast, though! Lunch for me, please). Simple but tasty and filling. And cheap – which is always a plus. I love the little street kitchens that serve Pho, with their simple tables and chairs. I love sitting with the locals and watching them as they talk to each other and enjoy their meals. There is such a lively atmosphere there :-).
Talking about popular dishes, let’s not forget what is probably the most popular vegetable dish in Vietnam: morning glory with garlic!
Morning glory, also called water spinach, is probably the most common vegie in Vietnam. As a result, it never fails to show in restaurant menus, usually in the “sautéed” version. When travelling, this became quickly my favourite vegetable dish and I honestly cannot remember going two consecutive days without having my fix of morning glory with garlic!
The tribute to Vietnamese food doesn’t end here, so keep following me!
When they invited me to have “egg coffee” with them, I followed them with no hesitation. But when we walked into the back of a shop and up dodgy-looking stairs in very dim light, I started doubting my instinct and my trust in people.
There was no need to panic, though. Instead I was about to embark on a journey of discovery off the beaten track!
I had met these two students at the Hoan Kiem lake park, where University students in Hanoi go to meet foreigners and practice English. After several weeks in Vietnam I was totally familiar with the scenario and quite enjoyed chatting to whoever approached me.
After the egg coffee – which was delicious – we promised to keep in touch. And when I was back in Hanoi 10 days later I contacted them.
“Would you like to see our University?”. Why not, I thought. And we got on a local bus full of students for our long ride to the campus. Once we got there, I soon realised that there were no other foreigners around. Everyone seemed to be staring at me with surprise and curiosity. Celebrity of the day!
“Now we are taking bicycles and going to my room so we can cook lunch”. Cool! We first stopped to buy some food from a tiny grocery shop in the street, then two more students joined us and the five of us rode our bicycles through the countryside to reach the area where these students live.
Compared to the standards of students digs in my own city, these Hanoi ones appeared pretty “scruffy” and very basic. But they indeed do the job, and have everything we needed.
So we started preparing lunch. After washing and chopping the vegetables, I joined in the “rolling phase” of the nam (rice paper rolls) making. I broke the first one but soon mastered the art :-).
Our “masterchef” skillfully pan-fried all rolls while her “assistant” made a nice sauce, and the rest of us prepared the table. The resulting meal was a five-star!
“Do you want to see an artisan village?” I was asked after lunch.
Why not, I thought. And this time we hopped on motorbikes and drove (me as passenger) to Bat Trang village, which is famous for its ceramic/pottery production. We walked around the shops taking a lot of silly photos, then when I thought we were about to leave another surprise came.
We entered a small shop full of little plastic chairs and wheels with lumps of clay on top. We sat and were shown the basic technique for making a small vase. Then it was our turn! I have to say that none of us appeared a natural pottery maker, but we had lots of fun messing around with the clay. And after a while some of our production didn’t look too bad!
I had so much fun and loved the whole experience that day, and I am sure that other tourists would love it too! My student friends could even create a “tour package” based on my day with them (guinea pig!) and offer it to others, in exchange for their time and some English practice. I will suggest it :-).