Archive of ‘Vietnam’ category

Our last meals in Hanoi.

Hanoi is a crazy city with loads of people, crazy drivers zooming on scooters, tons of shops, markets, food, smog and noise…lots and lots of noise. Oddly enough by 10:30 pm everything is shut down and the city is deserted.

 

 

 

Che Troi Nuoc? Gluttonous rice balls with fresh grated coconut, sesame seeds and a piece of candied ginger inside.

 

Nem Cua Bien, crab spring rolls.

 

 

BBQ pork with zucchini.

 

 

View from our window in Hanoi. We spent 6 night here.

So much Vietnamese food in Hanoi!

Grilled eggplant with ginger peanut sauce.

 

Sweet and sour pork soup. I urge you to start adding pineapple in your soup, amazing flavor explosion.

 

Deep fried tofu with mint and green onion. You can find this everywhere, ladies with Vietnamese hats fry tofu right in the middle of the sidewalk.

 

Honey glazed chicken.

 

Bun ca? Sour soup with fresh dill, not my favorite but very different from other soups.

Having fun eating in Hanoi.

The fluffiest tomato omelet in the world with warm baguette.

 

I’ve order this soup twice now, it’s freaking delicious. White asparagus and crab soup, it tastes like Asia’s version of chowder.

 

 

Japanese Takoyaki balls!

 

 

Octopus, green onions, pickled ginger, dough, Japanese mayo, BBQ sauce, seaweed and benito flakes. Yummy searing hot treats, good with cold beers.

How to eat in Hanoi

First, grab yourself a “fresh beer“, it’s locally made light beer (not particularly delicious yet certainly non-offensive) served in glass mugs on the side of the road or at local eateries. This weak beer only costs $0.16 a cup, everyone loves it, even the kids.

 

 

Eat one bowl of sticky rice with fried garlic and mung beans a day to help stiffen up “toilet-time”.

 

 

Treat yourself to a steaming bowl of Pho every few hours, very refreshing.

 

 

Find a busy local restaurant and order a bowl of Sup Ga (chicken soup).

 

 

Find the most festive table at the restaurant and take a picture of them.

 

 

Next, get invited to said table and start drinking Vietnamese vodka with your new friends.

 

 

Eat lots of food, laugh non-stop, exchange Facebooks and PLEASE, don’t forget to drink more vodka!

Side note: ALWAYS take your hotel’s business card with you, you never know if you’ll find your way home after so many cheers!

Cau Lau Hoi An, Vietnam

Before arriving in a new city most would research the town’s attractions or points of interest, not me, I inquire about the local delicacies. On the top of Hoi An’s must-eats list is Cau Lau , a special noodle dish made with “magical” water from the town’s well.

 

Main market with fancy well out front.

 

Bowl #1 at the market:

Broth: Porky but weak.

Bits: Fried tofu and pork skin with lettuce and sprouts.

Noodles: Harder than rice noodles, very similar to udon noodles. I would have like to eat a massive bowl.

 

 

Bowl # 2 at Café 43:

So much better, the broth was deep and rich like Pho Bo and we actually got pieces of pork.

Hoi An snacks

Another treat from Café 43, fried wontons with mango and pineapple salsa. YUMMY!!! IT reminded me of Mexico.

 

Fried tofu with pineapple, tomato and onion.

 

Voulez-vous café; baguette, lettuce, cucumber, tomato, peppers and grilled shrimp.

Café 43 in Hoi An, Vietnam.

I found this restaurant online and was curious to check it out because it has killer reviews and now I understand why. The food is local, extremely inexpensive, friendly staff and the local draft beer costs $0.16 a glass.

These are White Rose dumplings, a Hoi An specialty. Homemade rice wrapper filled with sprouts, ginger, pork and onion with a chili vinegar dipping sauce.

 

Fried tofu with carrots, onions, tomatoes, pineapples and black pepper.

 

Banh Xeo, another Hoi An specialty. You roll these as you eat right at your table: fresh rice paper, crepes made from rice flour and turmeric, shrimp, sprouts, egg and lots of fresh herbs and then you dip them in a sweet garlic fish sauce. I thought it was absolutely fantastic!

 

 

My first real Vietnamese Pho.

As soon as we settled into our hotel and showered, Matt and I headed to the local market downtown Ho Chi Minh City and ordered one steaming bowl of Pho with beef and intestines. The broth was weak, the beef tender and the intestines surprizingly clean with a shitake mushroom texture. Overall not a bad soup, the best Pho in town was to be discovered a few hours later by the river (see “Lunch Lady vs. Pho Lady” post).

 

 

 

Real Vietnamese coffee sans condensed milk.

The Lunch Lady vs. the Pho Lady.

We’re huge Anthony Bourdain fans. I mean, anyone with an adventurous palate and a love for travel probably is. When Anthony and his TV crew visited Saigon last they ate at a particular food stall run by a bossy lady who is locally known as “The Lunch Lady”. Everyday she creates one new dish, take it or leave it that’s what she is serving, just make sure to come and get it before it runs out.

We arrived at the Lunch Lady at 3:30pm, a little late I worried I really didn’t want to miss her. There she was under her bright yellow and green awning waiting for us, not one other customer insight. We sat at a plastic table and immediately women started bringing us eggrolls, spring rolls and dipping sauces, items we certainly did not order nor want. ‘Soup’ we said over and over, trying to convey our order with hand gestures. The “Lunch Lady” comes over to greet us and shakes her head, ‘no soup’. I clue in and remember Bourdain mentioning that it was only one dish a day and that’s it. I motion “1 please” and she goes into action.

 

One huge handful of rice noodles topped with 2 deep fried spring rolls cut into bit sized piece with scissors. She grabs the bowl then shuffles to the next station and adds lovely pieces of BBQ pork, deep fried pork skin, green stuff, sweet stuff, peanut stuff and voila!

 

 

 

The meal was great, perfect balance of sweet, sour, savory, spicy, hot, cold, soft and crunchy. The whole experience was a little bizarre because the entire time we were there we never certain if she was closing down or just opening up, no one spoke English, a cab driver converted our American money to Vietnamese Dong and tried to rip us off $0.50, but the oddest thing of all was when the ladies brought us a bunch of food before we even ordered, it reeked of a tourist scam and we wanted no part of it.

 

The Lunch Lady to the right preparing our food.

 

40 meters down the alley from the Lunch Lady we found our next stop, a wonderful Pho making station. Again no one spoke a word of English but this time we were received with warm smiles. Before even sitting down I spotted the ingredient I was after, beef tendon. I first became addicted to the stuff a few years back when Matt and I lived downtown Victoria, only steps away from a delicious Pho restaurant. Albeit tendon might not be for everyone those addicted to the crunchy yet marrow like properties surely understand my excitement when I saw a huge pile of it on a tray, right beside my second favorite ingredient, razor thin sliced quality raw steak. We went all out and ordered 2 extra sides of meat and tendon and had ourselves a wonderful Pho party on the side of the road looking out on the river.

 

Her magical broth bubbles all day turning it into a sweet rich meaty piece of art. Lunch Lady vs. Pho Lady? Today Pho Lady wins by a landslide.

Too many socks, backpacking vs. campervaning.

By now it is clear to all that Matt and I enjoy traveling. We prefer to do it as much and as often as possible. Over the last 2 years we’ve spent more than 12 months living out of our campervan exploring Europe, we’ve also enjoyed several camping trips around lesser known parts of Bulgaria and finally, we are currently enjoying a 6 week trek around Southeast Asia. Our thirst for adventure in unquenchable.

 

A few days ago while we waited for our bus in Bangkok to take us to the southern islands of Thailand we met a friendly Canadian from Calgary who also had a passion for travel. As we told him about our year long trip around Europe he pointed out how different it must be now traveling out of a backpack.

Neither Matt nor I prefer a style of traveling over the other, they are just too different but I thought it would be interesting to make a list of pros and cons.

 

Campervaning:

 

Pros:

  • You get to see places and things most tourists will never see. I have a list of a hundred little villages and towns no one has ever heard yet are just as beautiful if not prettier than the tourist destinations.
  • You have your house with you, it’s impossible to get homesick.
  • You can cook like a local as you have your kitchen with you.
  • No waiting around wasting time. You don’t have to arrange your days around bus and train schedules, if you want to pack up and go you can.
  • You can stay neat and orderly, shirts are hung on real hangers and your pants are folded neatly in a cupboard.
  • A tiny bit of room for storage. Our camper has a “trunk” where we store tools, camping equipment, and a badminton set. Our roof top bin holds folding chairs, a table and a mini BBQ.
  • If you are in the mood to party, pull over and start dancing and drinking, no need to drink and drive, your bed is only 2 feet away.
  • Never knowing where we’d end up next.
  • You always have a washroom and a shower available.

 

Cons:

  • Everything you own is contained within a tin can thin walled vehicle. You always worry if the car is parked in a safe area, braking into a van is rather easy to do.
  • The cost of fuel
  • Parking and driving an oversized vehicle. Some ancient cities have tiny narrow roads, steep inclines are scary especially if you need to brake rapidly. Low hanging trees, electrical wires and driving under small bridges or tunnels can also be of concern.
  • Managing electricity, water and waste is a lot more complicated that you think. The first month with the camper we consumed water and electricity so rapidly that we needed a campsite every 2-3 days, by the end of our trip we could free camp for a month without any problems. Click here for more.
  • Showering. Our camper has a nice hot shower but it takes up a lot of water. Modern truck stops often offer showers for only a few dollars.
  • Never knowing where we’d end up next.

 

Backpacking:

  • Meeting new people (an often likeminded people). As soon as you strap on a large bag to your back fellow backpackers will find you and strike up fascinating conversations.
  • Interesting accommodations (with lovely hot showers). Sometimes you can luck out and get ultra-luxurious room at an affordable price.
  • Matt and I can experience everything together, sometimes I felt that Matt was missing out because he always had the responsibility of driving.

Cons:

  • Everything you own is in a thin fabric bag. Pickpockets target backpackers as they know that they will surely find something worth stealing.
  • Waiting for buses, planes and trains, so much time is wasted this way yet you can’t do anything about it.
  • Booking hotels, haggling for deals, not knowing where you will sleep next.
  • Food is more expensive when you have someone else make it for you.
  • Not being able to perform my #1 hobby, cooking.

 

So far our backpacking trip has gone smoothly with the exception of us catching colds. Our packs are comfortable and weigh 6 kilograms each and our day bag (we only have 1) an additional 4 kilograms. The only thing that I’ve packed which now seems superfluous are 5 pairs of socks, Matt brought gloves (?).