Only Planet

One Child, One Year, One Planet. A family of three traveling around the world...

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Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Ho Chi Minh City Viet Nam: Cám ón, ngon lám! (Thank you, that was delicious!)

Before we leave Viet Nam we want to thank our gracious hosts and talk about the amazing food here, which--when we think about it--are two tasks that go hand in hand. Not since Japan have we been so inspired by the food. Viet Nam is a culinary delight. Its food is less spicy than Thai, less greasy than Chinese, and more varied than the ubiquitous chips we’ve had in Australia and New Zealand.

While here, we’ve eaten a lot of pho (pronounced fuh, as in what the fuh….?!?), a Vietnamese staple for any meal. It is a broth with rice noodles and slices of meat, topped with fresh herbs and lime juice. A delicious simple dish.

Pho can be found for as little as 10,000 Vietnamese dong (about 70 US cents) or as much as 25,000 dong (which is about US$1.50) The only difference price brings is that the surroundings at the cheaper places may consist of an open air roadside restaurant, often tacked onto the front of a family’s home, complete with plastic stools and dubious cleanliness,

while the more expensive food comes in an air-conditioned modern setting. At every place the soup’s been great.

Another staple is French bread, a legacy of the occupation, which is sold on nearly every street corner for pennies.

The markets are full of colorful and exotic fruits,

as well as the odd bottle of snake- and scorpion-infused wine, something we’ve not gathered the courage to try.

But we did snack on wild frog legs, which--as you might have guessed--taste like chicken.

I have happy memories of being a guest at Bay’s home in Montana when she made us bahn xeo (an amazing rice pancake eaten inside lettuce leaves and dipped in the ever-present nuc mam, a fermented fish sauce diluted with vinegar, fresh lime and garlic)

and goi (pronounced goy, as in “she went and married herself a nice goy”), a cabbage and chicken salad with mint, basil and other spices. And so she and Lein have treated us to some delicious comfort food.

They even let us help once in a while, like when we made heaps of spring rolls for dinner one day, and six of us were busy wrapping the rolls, while two others fried them in a wok.

The Vietnamese can produce all of this food with some pretty basic supplies. Lein works with a two burner gas cook plate, uses a strong knife for all of her chopping, and has a few plastic colanders where she puts all the prepared vegetables while she cooks.

On our only full day in Saigon we’ve visited the Reunification Palace, which gives an interesting take on the war and has groovy 70’s decoration,

had massages, a haircut (for Andy), and spent hours using the free internet in our room. It’s almost time to check out of the Continental Hotel where we’re staying, also the place where Graham Greene wrote The Quiet American. Next stop, Cambodia and the temples of Angkor Wat!


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Pho is the best. Don't forget get to have ngo gai (cordiander) and Hung Que (Thai Basil) - Personal FX Hair & Nail

February 14, 2006 2:28 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Andy and family, looks like you are having so much fun in Vietnam. Happy New Year ( Year of the Dog )! The fruits in the pictures look ssoooo good. Did you try all the fruits? I am really jealous. Great blog. Everyone is doing fine here back in Portland Oregon... even at ESI!


Chi, Kathy, & Family

February 14, 2006 7:23 PM  

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