It has been a few weeks since we got back from a wonderful, much-needed holiday in Vietnam and as my memories are starting to lose their freshness, it’s time I documented our food adventures.
Vietnam is a long, thin country with a cuisine influenced by its neighbours China and the rest of Southeast Asia. As we travelled through five different locations we tried to sample as much authentic cuisine as possible.
We started off our journey in Hanoi in the north which is one of the areas influenced most by China and the food is more rustic and comforting – think noodles and crispy spring rolls.
Hanoi is known for its street food where you sit on small stools on the pavements, mainly in the Old Quarter, watching the noisy, busy world go by. It takes a bit of getting used to, not least trying to get yourself back up off these tiny stools and avoiding looking at the filthy streets and roaming cockroaches.
However, the food is delicious and you can enjoy it with one or two or three… Bia Hois which are fresh draught beers brewed daily and sold on packed street corners for 5000 dong, the equivalent of about 15p!
It is hard to separate the food into good and bad because it was all so fresh and flavoursome but bun cha is a dish which really stood out for us.
It is barbecued minced or sliced pork served with vermicelli, loads of fresh herbs and salad and a bowl of fish sauce to dip it all in.
Spring rolls were also something we felt we needed to have everywhere we went – mainly because no type was the same as another. The pho cuon would typically contain shrimp, pork or beef, lettuce and herbs such as mint or Thai basil. They would be served with fish sauce for dipping.
The typical Hanoi version (nem ha noi), like those in the first photo below were deep fried and crispy with minced pork, shittake mushrooms and a sweet and sour dipping sauce.
Although eating street food is great fun, sometimes you just want a proper chair, table, air con and a decent toilet to go to. So we made sure we tried some good authentic restaurants too.
Fusion was one which really sticks in our minds as the food was cheap, but beautifully presented and of top quality.
One of the most memorable dishes of the whole holiday was the pomelo salad with prawns. It was just a fantastic mix of flavours with the sour segmented fruit mixing with the juicy prawns and acidic shallots, with crunchy peanuts and a final hit from the herbs.
Note: Peanuts are served with everything in Vietnam, mainly just sprinkled on the top of dishes for that added bit of crunch and to test your chopstick skills once and for all!
The dish we probably ate the most of was pho bo or beef noodles. Most people probably know this one as it’s become very trendy over here in recent years.
We’d eat it for breakfast, lunch or dinner, at airports or on street corners. Again every type was different and some of the cuts of meat a little questionable but usually just plain deeeee-licious! Below is bun bo nam bo which is dry noodles with beef, herbs, lettuce and dipping sauce.
Vietnamese coffee is also worth a mention at this point as it quickly became a part of our daily lives. We switched between two types mainly. First the iced black coffee which is served with super sweet condensed milk. This became our drink of choice when we needed to cool down between sightseeing.
The other type is the ‘drip-style’ where hot water drips (very slooowly) on to the coffee granules below. This could take up to 10 minutes in some circumstances, by which time, the drink itself was more than a little lukewarm!
Hanoi was a great introduction to Vietnam and set the standard for which we expected all of our meals for the rest of the trip…More of which to come very soon!
Ma May street in the Old Quarter – a bustling street with loads of street food options and bars. We tried New Day and Nola
Koto – a not-for-profit restaurant with serves Vietnamese and western food. Bit more expensive
Fusion – as mentioned above, great quality food
Cong Caphe – a perfect place to rest your legs and enjoy an iced coffee surrounded by Communist memorabilia and interesting music.
Hanoi Street Food Tours – we went on a tour for our first night as a way of exploring the Old Quarter and to have the dishes explained to us.