Sunday, July 10, 2011

South East Asian culinary adventures

I was recently away in Vietnam with 2 lifelong friends. Recent lifelong friends. I've known Ann for 8 years and Jessica for 2, and we are friends for life. I suspect we get along so well because we share similar outlook on life and travel and friendship and food. We all love food equally and makeup a sort of culinary supertrio. We are all adventurous eaters and can all pack away more than your average fat man. It's not unusual for waitstaff to be confused when we order at restaurants.

After 2 weeks of gallivanting around Vietnam, here are my top 10 delicious Vietnamese culinary delights that you must absolutely eat if you are going to Vietnam.

1. Jackfruit chips

I don't know how I lived a happy life before discovering jackfruit chips. I have only ever eaten jackfruit in its deep fried form. I believe it's jackfruit with its best foot forward.

2. Pho

Soup for breakfast. Great idea. Soup for lunch. Great idea. Soup for dinner. Great idea. It's cheap, it's delicious and it's hot. Which is a good thing in a hot country because while you are eating it your insides are warmed while your exterior feels cooler in contrast. Try it. It's a real phenomenon.

Here is some beef pho, or Pho Bo. For breakfast. Why not?

Pho is a clear broth with vermacelli noodles, some veg and beef or chicken. I did eat a crab pho in Ho Chi Minh City that was nothing less than life changing.
The most amazing crab pho of life

3. Wontons

Need I say more? Ok one more thing. Deep fried wontons.

These are traditional won tons made in Hoi An, the culinary capital of Vietnam

4. Street Sandwhich / Bánh mì

Vietnamese street sandiwch apparently includes a type of pate on a fluffy white roll. It's that French influence brought down to street level. I watched my sandwich being made and still had no idea what I was eating. All I know is it was delicious.

5. Ginger and Lemongrass tea

Man oh man, us girls drank so much of this delicious stuff all accross the country. Served hot or cold, fresh ginger and lemongrass are pummeled and infused into a tea. A clarified local honey syrup is served on the side. This a) allows for they honey to dissolve easily into either cold or hot drinks and b) you can adjust the sweetness to your own taste.

6. Fresh Fruit

I am a cankle sufferer while travelling. Lucky for me pineapples have anti-inflamatory properties and really helped my difficult relationship with my fikle ankles. They have a fancy way of preparing the tiny pineapples that involves diagonal cuts to remove those stalky dimples while retaining as much fruit as possible. The pineapple is then quartered and can be eating by holding the leafy crown. The best place to buy fresh exotic fruit including pineapples, mangoes, watermelon, etc. is on the street where the vendor will prepare if for you.

Fancy pineapple cutting

7. Non profit restaurants

We ate at a number of really good restaurants that were training environments for street kids. Baguette & Chocolat is Sapa and KOTO (Know One Teach One) in Hanoi were so good we went to them twice. Actually Baguette & Chocolat became our local for our 3 days trekking in Sapa. Doing street kids a service only encouraged us to maintain our schedule of eating a meal every 3 hours. For research purposes of course.
A photo of a photo at KOTO, Hanoi

8. Vietnamese coffee

Milk is extremely expensive and scarce in Vietnam. So this iced coffee is seved with condensed milk. It's soooooo gooood. Pioneer Woman has a great recipe for Vetnamese coffee on her blog:

9. Watermelon juice

Some restarants actually juiced the watermelon, leaving a clear pink drink. Others just shtuck the watermelon in a blender and I was given a glass of thick, bitty watermelon liquid. Extremely refreshing and healthy.

10. Coconut water

Coconut water is extremely high in potassium and electrolytes, making it perfect for keeping hydrated in a hot place. This also helps prevent the cankles. I usually buy the stuff in a carton in Dublin. I loved that in Vietnam I could just stick a straw in a coconut.

Since I've been back I have had ginger and lemongrass tea every day. I'm to blame for a friend's new addiction to jackfruit chips. I've had watermelon juice twice and dreamed of won tons every night. 


Caryna Camerino

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