Vietnam, hands down the best street food I’ve encountered so far on my overseas travels. There, I said it. In saying that, I’ve only traveled through South East Asia so far so I might be proven wrong on my future endeavours. Until then, I’ll show you what I ate throughout my massive one week trip to Vietnam. We only spent a week because it’s difficult for Linda to take leave. Whilst she does work for herself, she doesn’t have the luxury of taking leave whenever she wants!
Now, we didn’t just goto Vietnam to eat. We met up with Teresa and M and spent a few days in Nha Trang in a resort called Hon Tam which was amazing. We had our own bungalows looking onto the water and spent more time relaxing than anything else which was great. That office desk job of mine really does hurt my shoulders, getting massages every day was the least I could treat to myself.
I’ve been to Vietnam a few times now and the country never ceases to amaze me. It is progressing at an alarming rate, with new roads being built and trendy apartments being completed every week. Unlike some Countries, this doesn’t seem to phase the locals. There is no concept of the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. Food and consumer services are still affordable and the array of street food catered for locals is just amazing. We tried to avoid restaurants as much as possible, with the logic that if a corner street stall sells only one thing then they must be good at it right ?
Anyone need to charge their laptop or iPhone ? We spotted a power point sticking out from a power line in the middle of a street, it was hilarious (and dangerous). We also ate lots of Vietnamese wraps, with the one up there being everyones bbq favourite, nem nuong in Nha Trang. What made this version unique was the addition of shaved ripe mango and deep fried rice paper. The rice paper is deep fried and wrapped inside the normal wraps with normal rice paper. This means that with every bite you get this delicious crunch and contrasting textures. Simple, yet effective.
Pho, some say it’s the national dish of Vietnam. The thing is, different regions of Vietnam specialise in different dishes so it’s hard to say. Either way, it’s one dish that we HAD to try otherwise it would be considered a failure of a trip. It’s like going to New York and not checking out the Stature of Liberty, you get the drift.
We spotted a corner store outside our hotel in the Ben Tanh district. There were 4 or 5 plastic tables set up, with every seat taken. I spotted a spare table folded away in a corner and helped myself by setting up my own table and chairs for the 4 of us. Where else in the world can you do that ? Whilst we were eating, the Police approached the store owners and told them they were set up illegally and had to close up certain parts of their ‘store’ which were too close the road. The cops took away everything which was in the ‘illegal zone’ and left everything else. As you can see in picture 3, they had tiered setup going on with a stand which held all their ingredients. The Police took that all away and threw it in their ute and drove off. We thought that was the end of it all until the owners came back five minutes later with a completely new setup, as you can see in picture 4. This must happen quite often.
50 cents a bowl ? Damn straight. Whilst not as big as bowls in Sydney, it’s still an absolute bargain which allows us to have 2 or 3 breakfast meals hah! The broth was aromatic, noodles were al dente but the real surprise was the different herbs and vegetables. There are a few unique ones which are not common in Sydney or Australia pho restaurants. One thing I’ll admit though is that whatever beef they use at this store has nothing on Australian beef. No doubt we have some of the best beef in the world. Either way, this cheap and cheerful bowl of pho on the side of the road was one of my most memorable meals. Sitting on a dodgy table and chair at 7.30am in the morning with a Vietnamese iced coffee, life doesn’t get any better.
Two other dishes which we ate more than once were hu tieu noodles and com tam. We spotted countless little stores set up on the side of the road, as well as others tucked away in little alleys leading to residential areas. In fact, one of my tips if you walk the streets of Ho Chi Minh City is to keep an eye on alley ways. We found some of the best food in these little alleys, run by husband and wives or mothers and daughters.
Hu Tieu commonly includes rice noodles, pork, beansprouts, random cuts of meat such as liver and giblet and a sweet and aromatic pork both. The broth is usually quite clear and is a light bowl of noodles compared to something like Pho or Bun Riu. The one we had here had carrot in it’s broth, probably explained why it was a lot sweet than usual which actually worked quite well. Once again, fresh noodles and herbs made this a winner, not bad for breakfast number two.
Laneway bars move over, laneway street side dining is the new black (atleast in Vietnam for the past 50 years or more ?) We walked past this alley by accident and when we saw practically every seat taken with local men like above, we had to check it out. Turns out that it was a com tam store which is one of my favourite Vietnamese dishes.
Com tam is usually served with marinated grilled pork, broken rice, bi (thinly shredded pork with pork skin, yum). The dac biet (special version) usually has a fried egg on top and an egg quiche of some sort. What I loved about this store’s version was the charcoal grilled pork, pickles and home made fish sauce. You can see how they manage to run a whole ‘restaurant’ with a small charcoal bbq a few photos up.
As we we were walking back to our hotel, I spotted 2 motorcycle drivers eating this dish whilst sitting on their bikes. It’s something which I have been seen before and my spidey sense told me to fit in one more snack before we got on with the rest of our day. The closest thing I’ve found to this dish is on noodle pie’s blog . This looks like a cut down breakfast version which is essentially two fried eggs on a hot plate with pate’, coriander and a fresh bread roll. On the side is a small bowl of soy sauce and fresh cut chili. Mix everything together and I had one of my favourite meals of the trip. The dish was so good that I purchased a few of the pans you see in the photo so I could make the dish myself at home.
Anyway, I hope you enjoyed my snapshot of our Vietnam trip. I have a few photos left so I’ll whip up a part 2 for next week. Until then, happy drooling and do consider a trip to Vietnam. It’s such a beautiful country with so much history and culture. A trip to the North and South will open you up to totally different people and food. And of course, everything is so cheap. Linda and I bought $500 AUD between the both of us for 7 days and we still had change left.