01 February 2011

food in vietnam

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In November I went on a 3-week trip to Vietnam (with micro-trips to Cambodia and Seoul). I've always loved Vietnamese food, but was a little concerned that I wouldn't be able to keep to a vegetarian diet while there, and had already planned to make a lot of concessions. Amazingly, I hardly had to make any compromises, which makes sense given the strong Buddhist community there, though I will say it's a good think I like fish sauce.

hungry? Walking through the markets was a really amazing experience-- you've got your produce and dry goods vendors, butchers and the like, but then you've also got women hawking live fish, shrimp, crabs, frogs, chickens, ducks, and more. You pick what fish you'd like and they ahem, take care of it, and hand it over. Different than what we're used to, but I love that, I love that you get to pick what looks good to you and know that you couldn't really have gotten it any fresher. In Cambodia we went to a market with lots of different spicy fried bugs. I was tempted by the chili-scallion crickets because I've had roasted crickets before and liked them, but I just couldn't do it. There were too many. I failed!

IMG_5836As with most of the travel I do in tropical areas, I get really excited about the fruit I'm going to experience. Vietnam did not disappoint-- from tiny baby bananas, dragon fruit, papaya, pomelo, mangoes, and rock melons in the south to passion fruit and persimmons in the mountain regions, I was a pretty happy camper. I think avocados were out of season, otherwise I would have been extremely happy. And of course there were French pastries galore.

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IMG_5795In the South the food was very produce and seafood oriented, lots of fish sauce, very fresh with a lot of availability for raw dishes-- bun, summer rolls, and the like-- these are the kinds of things that we more associate with Vietnamese food here in the States. Pho of course, is everywhere in the country, and makes a really delightful breakfast. I might have to start making noodle soup to start my day-- with all of the herbs and lettuce and simple, but refreshing flavors-- I really enjoyed that. Up North the food was more meat-based, and overall less exciting in my opinion. We splurged one night at a 4-course French dinner at the Sofitel in Da Lat-- something that was pretty affordable there but would have cost us half a month of rent here.

IMG_6546 Misha and I embarked on a spring roll tasting mission, mostly partaking of the vegetarian variety. Out of at least 10 orders of spring rolls throughout the country, we only found 2 that satisfied our criteria of proper texture, flavor, appearance, and sauce. 

There are a few things I need to start seeking how to make, including banh chung (sticky rice cakes-- though the ones we had didn't have meat and were fried), banh chuoi nuong (banana cake), and banh dua nuong (coconut cake). Maybe just in time for Lunar New Year!

1 comment:

Lindsay said...

Wonderful post! Definitely left me hungry and wanting to travel to Vietnam!

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