We are definitely not losing weight on our trip.
Eating in Vietnam is a smorgasbord of choices. The streets are literally lined with restaurants, and the sidewalks have even more people with pop up stalls and plastic chairs. You cannot walk 10 feet without a different aroma wafting towards your nose and your mouth starting to salivate in anticipation.
Let me introduce you to some of our favourite dishes.
It’s morning and breakfast is on your mind. The Vietnamese don’t eat the typical bacon and egg breakfast (no shock there) that can be enjoyed at home. In fact, it’s almost impossible to find something like that. The most common breakfast here is Pho (pronounced fuuh). It’s a common occurrence to see some lady dishing out on the sidewalk, having lugged her big pot of broth and a pile of chickens from home. Pho consists of a broth, filled with rice noodles, fresh green onions and herbs, and topped with chicken. Tables have garlic, chili peppers, hot sauce and fish sauce for your palate’s exact desire. It’s the Vietnamese version of chicken noodle soup.
Soup for breakfast not your thing? Well, Banh Mi is not exactly a western breakfast either, but it’s a little closer. A french style baguette filled with savoury meats and veggies. Most commonly this is grilled pork, pate, cucumbers and carrots with a sweet and salty sauce.
Coffee is the universal breakfast drink. Dairy is scarce here so they drink their coffee with sweetened condensed milk. The Northern Vietnam specialty coffee is Egg Coffee. Don’t let the name turn you off, it’s so good that I can’t believe Starbucks hasn’t made this a worldwide phenomenon. Alayna doesn’t drink coffee. She downed two of these suckers in under 15 minutes. She was bouncing off walls until 1 AM, but doesn’t regret it for a second. Egg yolks are beaten with sugar and coffee, mixed with a little condensed milk and then the soft, delicious foam tops a shot of espresso. Add a little cocoa to the top and it’s like a foamy, creamy, delicious, tiramisu-esque coffee. They love their sweet coffee, and coconut coffee is also a favourite. A cold espresso shot mixed with coconut milk, something sweet, topped with blended ice and roasted coconut.
Now that breakfast is done with, your options are endless for lunch and dinner. The styles and flavours are similar but interesting. Some meat, some fish sauce, fresh herbs (mint, coriander, thai basil), pickled veggies (carrots and papaya) and rice noodles. The meat is hot and the rest is cold. Mix it all up and enjoy!
Bún Bò Nam Bộ is a “beef noodle salad” topped with roasted peanuts and fried shallots.
Bun Cha (talked about on previous post)
Chả Cá is a lightly battered fish dish that is grilled right at your table. Seasoned with fresh dill, green onions, and turmeric.
Spring rolls are very popular here, in all types of forms. Make your own spring rolls with Bánh xèo. You roll up a crispy, deep fried pancake filled with meats and beans sprouts into a rice paper that you’ve added some fresh lettuce and herbs to.
Now for dessert! The Vietnamese seem to have it backwards, all of their good sweets are in coffee at breakfast. The typical dessert involves coconut milk, tapioca, beans, and/or sweet potatoes. Doesn’t sound that appealing, does it? Chè is “Vietnamese sweet soup”, available with different fillings. We got Chè Ba Mau (three coloured dessert) and the best way I can describe is like runny, cold rice pudding, minus the rice and replace it with tasteless gummy worms. Needless to say, we did not get it again.
Luckily the fruit here is delicious and plentiful. Women on bikes carry large platters of fresh fruit, dice it expertly for you on the street, and sprinkle it with salt and chili powder.