The minute we sat down at our first restaurant in Vietnam and devoured a massive bowl of pho, I knew we were in for a few tantalizing treats for this leg of the journey. In Toronto Kyle and I had tasted our fair share of Vietnamese food, including pho and banh mi (a Vietnamese sandwich), so we had an idea for what certain dishes were, instead of choosing blindly from a menu. However even when venturing away from our comfort zone we rarely came across a meal we didn’t enjoy. Below are a few of our favourites.
Pho is traditionally a breakfast meal in Vietnam, but we ate this pretty much any time of day. Contents include beef, noodles, bean sprouts, cilantro, onions and certain versions can also include beef balls, brisket and even tendon (surprisingly tasty). The contents are cooked in a broth and served with a wedge of lime, hot peppers and mint leaves to throw in at will.
This Vietnamese sandwich can be bought from various street vendors, and while some decide to add more toppings than others, the main contents include cilantro, tomatoes, chopped carrots, cucumber and some type of meat glazed with either chilli sauce or soy sauce. What really sets this sandwich apart, however, is the crisp baguette everything is served in. The influence of French occupation from times gone by still runs rampant in most of the country.
I much prefer Vietnamese spring rolls over Chinese. The Vietnamese wrap the spring rolls in rice paper, which are then deep fried and dipped in a chilli-garlic sauce. Stuffing includes a meat of your choice, ginger, carrots, cabbage and garlic. I even tried my hand at making these during the boat tour of Halong Bay (the key I learned was to not stuff them too full).
Iced Coffee with Condensed Milk
The only way to make Vietnamese iced coffee with milk any more addictive would be to throw in some crack cocaine and call it a day. I soon found myself craving this drink from the minute I woke up until my head hit the pillow at night, and even then if I hadn’t had my fix I was nearly twitching with anticipation the next day. This is not in reference to the caffeine content, but instead the pure joy it brings when the coffee mixed with condensed milk chilled with ice hits your tongue. My only complaint was that an iced coffee in front of me never lasted more than 30 seconds.
Mango and Dragon Fruit
Certain vendors are relentless in Vietnam, but the one thing I rarely passed up were the Vietnamese women selling fruit on the beach. Mangos and dragon fruit were my two favourites, and each could be bought for as little as 50 cents. The women would cut the fruit into biteable chunks making it perfect for an afternoon snack.
In Mui Ne we stumbled across seafood markets/restaurants where you could pick and choose your dinner, pay by the kilo and have someone grill your full feast accompanied by 50 cent beer. There are multiple of these along the main road in Mui Ne, but we found one in particular with a guy named San who gave us some stellar deals (clams, fish, muscles, scallops, crabs, shrimps, prawns and a few other unknowns) for $7 each in a group of four. I know I say this a lot, but at home this would cost a minimum of $20 each.
Cost-wise most meals in Vietnam ranged between three to six dollars, and usually included a beer in that final price. Overall we loved the food here, and I even picked up some coffee to feed my addiction upon returning to Canada!