Jun 26, 2014

Vietnam: Food Diary

A lot of my friends back in Canada seem to have a fascination with Vietnamese food since its not a cuisine they frequent often. What is sad is that I myself, don't know much about it either. So I thought I'd use this trip as an opportunity to learn about those different dishes.

[cheesy confession] What's really sad is that most of these fruit names I had only heard of as "restaurant names" - I didn't realize they were named after actual fruit (to be fair, all of those restaurants were Thai/Vietnamese, so it was somewhat related). [/cheesy confession]

Just an important caveat, I only visited Southern/Southwest Vietnam, and did not venture to the North (we do not have family there, and this is a family trip otherwise I certainly would have gone!).

Măng cụt - Mangosteen, Saigon, VN

Thats the purple fruit on the top left corner. This also happened to be my first meal in Vietnam (instant noodles FTW!)
Instant Noodles

Phở: Vietnamese Beef Noodle Soup

Pho in Saigon, VN - We went to a local restaurant in Saigon and had Pho! A huge difference between Canadian and authentic Vietnamese pho that I noticed is that there's considerably less salt/MSG in Vietnam pho broth. All the ingredients are fresh and local and feels like a much "cleaner" taste! I am still puzzled how a "hot soup" is so popular in a hot country in Vietnam, but its delicious nonetheless!


Vietnamese Fruit - Ben Than Market, Saigon, VN

"Wet Markets" refer to fresh meat and produce and is used to differentiate from "dry market" (cloth and electronics). -Wk

Many of these fruits I've had in Canada already, but they grow naturally here in Vietnam. Some have been picked that morning or only travel for a few hours before reaching fresh markets. Needless to say, everything is delicious here.
Pomelo, Durian, Jackfruit, Dragonfruit, Mangos, Lychee, Logan Fruit, Rambutan, and Mangosteen 

Fresh Meat Market - Ben Than Market, Saigon, VN

70% of the Vietnamese population is employed in the agriculture sector. Livelihoods depend on bringing fresh fruit and meat to market to sell to locals and tourists. Farms surrounding big cities and fruit/meat doesn't travel for more than a few hours before reaching the markets. So you can count on fresh meats/fruits at the markets each day! 
Open meat market

Lòng heo - Pork Organs, Ben Thanh Market, Saigon, VN

I stopped and took a double take at this vendor stand. Nothing goes to waste here! Pig intestines and organs for sale.

Gỏi cuốn - Fresh Rolls, Saigon, VN

Fresh Rolls

Cơm gà - Sticky Rice with Chicken, Saigon, VN

Chicken with Rice

Nước dừa - Coconut Water, Saigon, VN

Coconut Water

Bánh bao - Steamed Pork Buns, Saigon, VN

Banh Bao

Khoai tây chiên - Frech Fries with Butter and Sugar, Saigon, VN

French Fries with butter and sugar?

Goi Tom - Vietnamese Shrimp Salad, Saigon VN

Ingredients include Daikon, carrots, cucumbers, celery, minced Garlic, onions, vinegar, soy sauce, fresh shrimp and dried shrimp, Vietnamese mint, Cilantro, Crushed roasted peanuts, and Fish Sauce. 
Shrimp and Tofu

Con đà điểu - Ostrich Meat, Saigon, VN

This is probably something I would not have tried a few years ago, but I decided that I might as well take the opportunity. I ... ate Ostrich!

What was really unusual is that ostriches have red meat, not white meat like their other bird counterparts. The colour has to do with their muscles. It looks and tastes like beef. Whats interesting though, is that its lower in fat, calories and cholesterol than beef, chicken and turkey. They belong to the group "ratites" which include other flightless birds like Emus and Rheas. -Source

Cá kèo - Vietnamese Goby Fish, Saigon, VN

No need to filet this fish as all parts are edible, although I did end up removing the bones beforehand. It is commonly made as street food, however I had this one in a restaurant. Although it is common to grill and eat whole (like below), its actually more famous made in a hotpot soup. This is an air-breathing vegetarian fish found mainly in the Mekong Delta of Southwest Vietnam.

Cá chưng tương - Grouper, Saigon VN

My dad thought this was Red Snapper... *smh*. lol, this was tender and delicious.


Steaming over a stove.

Bằng Cường Cha Lua - Saigon, VN

Nem Nướng̣ - Grilled Pork Sausages, Quy Nhon, VN

Nem refers to Vietnamese sausage, which is rolled up in rice paper and eaten with fresh vegetables. I had lettuce, among other vegetables (sliced mango, cucumbers) as well as fried rice paper. With soy sauce this was a very delicious dish!

Bánh xèo - "Vietnamese Crepes", Quy Nhon, VN

I've eaten Banh Xeo many times back in Canada when my mom would make this for dinner on occasion. What I'm learning more and more with my travels is that each city has their own version of classic Vietnamese dishes.

Banh Xeo is made with rice flour, water, tumeric. The version my mom makes is much more yellow, the crepes are much larger in diameter and are soft, not fried like the ones here in Quy Nhon. 

It seems more common to eat with Banh Xeo with rice paper in Quy Nhon. However, my cousin Alex pointed out that eating it with rice paper isn't as commonplace.

Rau muống - Water Spinach, Quy Nhon, VN

This was cooked with garlic and was easily one of my favourite dishes.

Spring Rolls

Roll up the spring roll in lettuce:

Bánh bèo - Vietnamese Steamed Rice Cake, Quy Nhon, VN

Epic Seafood Feast in Nhon Ly, small fishing village in Quy Nhon, VN

Sea Snails:

Salt, Pepper, LemonJuice Dipping Sauce:

Baby Abalone:

Squid and freshly caught crab (not farmed): 


My dad called this "ghost fish":

Bánh canh - soup with thick Vietnamese Noodle, Quy Nhon VN

Mi Thanh - Yellow Noodles with Wonton dumplings! Quy Nhon, VN

Vietnamese Sponge Cake & Pastries!

Grilled Pork

Mekong Fish

Mekong Fish is eaten upright instead of facing one side on a plate. This comes from the idea that when eaten on a boat, wh rchocks side to side the fish is more likely to slip off your plate. This setup prevents it from going anywhere. 

BBQ Mouse

I did not eat this, they were just demonstrating this on the tour :P

and ... Pizza

I just had to try the pizza here. I've been craving western food towards the end of the trip. This was actually pretty delicious :D

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