Small edit – see below.
Well if you didn’t feel exhausted after reading about travelling around in Vietnam, here’s a post on the food. (I forgot to mention that streets in Vietnam tend to be dirty and you get the occasional whiff of sewage and there’s rubbish piled up on the pavements, but don’t fear it is collected).
So here’s a post on food because we love food and also in order to understand a bit more about the Vietnamese culture, you need to know about a bit about their food. What struck us is the abundance of Vietnamese food when you go out and eat is that on the whole vietnamese people go out and eat vietnamese food (although they do go to a few other non-vietnamese places). It’s not like in the UK, where we would go out for an ‘Indian’, ‘Chinese’or ‘Italian’ etc, I mean we don’t really go out for an ‘English’ do we??
Vietnamese people love their food. We spoke to Yen and Toan our airbnb hosts in Saigon (aka Ho Chi Minh City) and it’s because it’s so fresh (there’s a lot of herbs and greens especially in the South of Vietnam) and for example with noodle (bún) soup, there’s an amazing variety of different noodle soups, you can’t get bored. Also, the food is so healthy!
Here is a selection of what we’ve tried in no particular order really.
This is bún bò Huế. bún is noodle, bò is beef and Huế is named after the city (its cooking style). It was pretty good, it had thick white noodles, lots of meat and a sausage thing on top that was tasty. You can see in some of the pictures below that the soup is incomplete – you add a selection of fresh herbs, bean sprouts, lime etc to it! It totally transforms the soups.
Chicken Pho.1.41 GBP for a bowl. This was amazing, the stock tasted like the pure essence of chicken. There’s also herbs, limes, chilis, beam sprouts to add too. This is seriously on another level from phos sold in the UK, in part I guess you can’t get the variety of herbs as you can in Vietnam. But we noticed that northern pho doesn’t have as much herbs or any as Southern versions do.
So I mentioned our airbnb hosts, here’s Yen on the left, Sunny in the middle and Toan on the right. They took us out for a meal in Saigon and we had bún chả. Noodles with grilled pork. You put a bit of the rice noodles in your bowl, add some grilled meat from another bowl and spoon over some of the dipping sauce and crunchy veg like papaya (it’s green not like what we have in the UK) and add some herbs! It’s sweet, slightly sour, refreshing and maybe slightly peppery from the herbs with the savouriness from the grilled meat. One of our favourite dishes.
We also had a side dish of fried pork rolls, which was good.
My bún chả. Yum. We really mis this.
We went to a famous pho bo (beef noodle soup) in Hanoi and it was good. As well as the normal sides you add to it, it came with chinese fried dough (this is savoury not like a western doughnut and for chinese people, we usually have it with chinese rice porridge). It was good to dip it in but not too much so you get a nice softness from being dipped into the soup but still fried crunchy exterior. The stock was pretty good.
Here are Yen, Toan and Sunny again. We asked them how to cook this after we spied Toan making this on the weekend (it looked so good) – fresh spring rolls with herbs, belly pork, sliced peppers, rice noodles with a dipping sauce (Vietnamese fish sauce isn’t as strong as thai fish sauce) and they taught us how to make it! It’s really easy aside from rolling the rice roll itself with your fillings into something that doesn’t look ridiculous….I miss this.
We sampled some pancakes too.
Large rice crepe filled with veg, pork and prawns and wrap it with herbs and lettuce and have with dipping sauce. It was quite tasty.
Mini pancakes we got from a street stall. You can just see the lady cooking it in the background.
Little fried rice flour pancakes, half shrimp and half pork. You eat with with lettuce, herbs and dipping sauce too. I don’t think we realised this as it was our first time and ate it how it was : D Usually we like to do ‘monkey see, monkey do’ but people around us had either finished or were waiting for food…
Little sticky rice flour pancakes with fried pork rind and shrimp powder with fish sauce dipping. It was okay but not as tasty as I thought it’d be. Maybe I need to try some more. Apologies for the photo, it was really bad lighting.
So another thing that Vietnam is famous for – Banh Mi, which means bread. You can get banh mi sandwiches and often the best ones (and the cheapest) are from street stalls. Best time to get them is early in the morning as the fillings are fresh and you get more choice of filling. Usually comes with pate, pickled veg, herbs, meat. The bread is crunchy on the outside and soft and fluffly inside. It’s pretty damn good. I haven’t put any pictures of it here because we’ve usually eaten it before I thought about it.
The one below did really good sandwiches with all the works and just for 52p. Yes that’s right, 52p. Beats buying sandwiches from tescos or whatever.
We went to a famous bun bo nam bo place in Hanoi. I like it when places only serve 1 or 2 dishes because it means they’re bloody good at it and it’ll taste good.
A bowl of rice noodles, beef, bean sprouts, fried shallots, crushed peanuts with a bit of sauce and chili/lime as you wish. So simple and so tasty. You get the freshness from herbs, sweet and sour from the sauce and yummy-ness from fried shallots and peanuts. I wish I could eat it again right now.
So our friend Simon came and visited and we also made a friend from Milan- Veronica. We braved it (well more me I’m bit cautious) and ate from the purest form of a street stall. It cost about 70p for a bowl.
Noodles, peanuts, fried shallots, sausage, fried crispy fish thing? This was amazing in terms of flavour and texture.
Even Veronica braved a bowl of this after we’d been chowing down on it.
As much as enjoyed eating noodles, our heart and stomach is always with rice. It was so good to eat rice again – here’s one of our favourite dishes – Com suon op la. Grilled pork chop with fried egg. It’s so good, the thinly grilled pork with so much flavour, then you’ve got fried egg and a sweet chili sauce to pour over the top and with beautiful rice. It ony cost 1.23 GBP.
A close up of the poached quail’s egg soup that it came with. This was so good I had to include a close up. When the guy forgot to bring it to me on our second visit there, I had to remind him. It’s that good.
Here’s another version we got from a street stall, also tasty and we got a free ice tea drink (pefect for hot days) and a banana to finish!
I forgot to mention that Vietnam does pretty good vegetarian food- here’s a photo to prove it. It was so good we only thought about a picture after. Bonus points for being a bookshop with manga as well!
Vietnam is probably our first proper experience of eating from street stalls (discounting Taipei, HK and the other richer asian countries). I mean there’s always the fear of catching a stomach bug but if you stick to stalls that have a lot of customers (especially locals) it’s good – because at the end of the day they don’t want to poison their daily customers. You also want to eat at the same times as they do because it means the food is fresh and hasn’t been sat around for a long time.
We did start off being a bit like er not sure about it but became more comfortable with it. And we met a few locals through going out who were incredibly nice and helped us with our food choices/translations.
It was good, cheap and tasty and so much variety as well. I seriously miss it. Even sitting on little stools that’s too low for anyone above 5’4 and gradually numbs your ass. Street stalls are good also for people watching, you get to see some interesting stuff being carried on scooters (a whole tree or a step ladder) or parents picking up their kids from school by scooters rather than cars. Life is similar all over the world.
I think there’s a couple of typos in here somewhere but can’t be bothered to fix it as I am surrounded by mosquitoes and will run away from them now.
The next blog will be about places we’ve visited in Vietnam.