Sunday, January 5, 2014

Food memories of Vietnam, by Bureaucrat

Naturally, as a food blogger, I can't help but take photos of almost every meal that I eat.  Here are some final foodie memories of Vietnam that I'd like to share with you dear readers.

We totally loved the impressive full buffet breakfasts at our hotels.  I didn't need to order pho at a restaurant, as I started each day with a nice bowl of beef or chicken pho (prepared on the spot).  The broth was delightfully clear and flavoursome, and I loved squeezing a lot of fresh lime juice into it - it was like a wonderful, healthy tonic for the soul and tummy.

(Although, having said that, we did order pho once on the streets - due to the fact that my blood sugar was plummeting and I needed some food fast.  We got chicken pho from Pho 24 - a chain restaurant in Vietnam, and it was one the worst that I ever have had.  Each portion of chicken is weighed to make sure you get a mingy serve of it.  The chicken was rubbery, old and just plain yuck.)

I also started each day with a bowl of lurvely rice porridge, which I piled high with salted eggs, pork floss, spring onions and pickled mustard vegs.

While in HCMC, Beaker insisted that we go, find and eat at the Lunch Lady, who's a street food vendor that was featured in an episode on Anthony Bourdain's television show.  The Lunch Lady has found international foodie fame, after Mr B waxed lyrical about the food that's made here.  

While we made sure to get to the Lunch Lady early (she apparently sells out quite quickly), I wimped out almost immediately when I saw how the food was handled by staff sans gloves and/or utensils, and also the seafood being left out in the sun without refrigeration.  

Beaker struggled with the dilemma of wanting to follow in Mr B's footsteps but having to reconcile with the same thoughts that I had.  I think her seeing the few cockroaches (of the dead and alive varieties) in the nearby area convinced her to pass on dining at the Lunch Lady.

Our trying the local iced coffee was another example of our risk-adverse approach to all our meals.  Having heard from Aussie travelers at our hotel who ended up paying for, but not drinking, the iced coffees from a local coffee chain (because of the language barrier, they couldn't confirm with the staff who made the drink as to whether the coffee and the ice cubes were made from bottled water), we decided to have ours in our hotel.  

So, for an exorbitant cost (which equated to the cost of a two course dinner and drinks), we each got a nattily made iced coffee. The coffee was made from robusta beans, which are generally more bitter in flavour than arabica beans, and also has twice as much caffeine.  Instead of sweetened condensed milk, we had ours with a sugar syrup. 

For me, one of the highlights of our time in Vietnam was our private  boat ride up the Mekong river.  Along with another Aussie duo, we sipped fresh coconut juice as we sped through the intricate canals of the river.  

Then arriving at our mid-point destination, we climbed on board our 'Mekong Mercedes'.  During our ride, a torrential amount of rain just bucketed down, leaving us water-logged and feeling like we were carrying all the water from the Mekong on our clothes and belongings.

From there, we squelched onto our river barge and managed to dry up a bit and commence our cooking lessons.  Even if I may say so myself, our spring rolls were some of the tastiest that I've ever eaten!  I was surprised that there were no less than 12 ingredients that went into those spring rolls.  The spring rolls was part of the six course lunch that we had as we chugged down the river.

While I have had guava in juice form before, it wasn't until this trip that I tried fresh guava.  It was kinda of a let down, as I was expecting the fresh fruit to be more florally/aromatic in flavour.  I also came across Buddha's Hand.  I didn't know what they were used for until I got home and did a bit of research on it.  It's a member of the citrus family, and has a sweet, lemony flavour.  It is pretty much consists of pith and peel, with no juice or pulp on the inside.  Now I'm on the look out to try this myself.  

C'mon, how could I not include this?  :)


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