Best. Food. Ever.
I just can’t tell you how much I love eating here. It’s the food, the experience, the smiling faces, the bread, the noodles, the pork, the constant availability of good food, it just consumes you and you can’t not love this stuff.
One of the best things about Vietnam. The beer here isn’t that great BUT it only cost twenty-five cents. That’s a quarter people, one measly quarter! And it’s cold and it’s the best twenty-five cent beer you will ever have. Not only that but it’s just a lady sitting next to a keg, you give her money, she gives you a cold one. Then you sit down on those little stools and just chill on the side of the street with about fifty other folks. Maybe some of you would like to call it a “Beer Garden” of sorts.
I don’t even want to call it a market cause honestly, Vietnam is one big amazing market.
There’s this one in particular that sells everything from food to fresh seafood, meat, dried goods, clothing, shoes, and a plethora of many items for the household or the office or pretty much anything you can think of and you can purchase things either wholesale or retail. It’s the Ben Thant Market and you’ve got to have some amazing bargaining skills to do well here.
Their food area.
Yummy snails, many kinds.
Some really good offal congee.
This awesome rice noodle salad is with shrimp dumplings in clear wrappers and mung bean dumplings. There’s a little army making them.
And it just looks like a mess but tastes awesome. Fresh dumplings and herbs.
And these clear shrimp dumplings look like little aliens.
Then you’ve got some of the typical market items like spices
Across from the veg was some awesome seafood and really awesome fish mongers
Now these meat butchers have some really amazing displays and awesome meat cleaver skills
No? Not your cup of tea? How about some intestines? Or liver?
You don’t like offal you say? How about some feet?
Are you a vegetarian now? Did you want some noodles? Cause they dry them in the sun. And that’s how they make bread crumbs as well.
Then they’re stacked up all nice nice to sell.
Maybe you’re not hungry anymore, so you walk into the center and walk upon this crazy jam packed market filled with so much stuff, you kinda go crazy.
I gotta shoe guy.
I also happen to love that outside of the market center, all the streets around are just an extension of the market. So you have blocks of veggie stalls, grains, noodles, etc. etc.
Flowers are sold from little old ladies on bicycles.
There are just so many things to look at. Sensory overload.
How I love thee!
Contents equal but not limiting to:
Pork Belly, Pork Sausage, Grill Pork, Pork Floss, Pork Liver Pate, Pork Meatballs, and Tofu. Vegetables of the cucumber, pickled carrot, pickled diakon, and cilantro variety.
Sauces of the North are chili, of the South are mayonnaise based.
Bánh Mì actually translates into bread/sandwich. So really any type of sandwich but this bread, OH THE BREAD. I love you French for leaving behind the skills of bread making in Vietnam! Fresh, crunchy outer part, soft delicate inner part, better than any kind of bread you will ever eat, EVER!
There’s a whole shopping center just for bánh mì parts.
You can buy all those pates and sausages.
And of course suckling pigs.
Then there’s always the street lady!
And it was so satisfying.
Bánh Xèo, you are so delicious. You are light and crispy, packed with shrimpy flavor. You come with a perfectly fishy fish sauce with pickled daikon and carrots and a plethora of green leaves to be wrapped in and with. The ladies creating you are equally as talented, with the super thin liquid that turns into batter and running about six sizzling platters at a time, on well maintained coal clay pots, all at different temperatures to make the perfect bánh xèo.
They also happen to make some killer summer rolls.
Bánh xèo happens to be a literal translation of sizzling cake, which is exactly what it is. Imagine the most delicate, crispy, thinner than a wafer pancake. Really thin crispy edges, slightly meatier in the center but still crunchy, filled with little shrimp, pork bits, bean sprouts and of course the essential side vegetable condiments of different leafy greens with herbs, accompanied by the perfect sauce. Doesn’t get better than that. Really.
Northern Vietnam is all about the seafood. You’ll see stalls of people selling snails, crabs and of course, grilled fish. The snails I found the most interesting, mostly because it reminded me of my childhood when my Grandmother used to make snails. We would have either toothpicks or a needle, like a sowing needle and we would have to pick the little sucker out of it’s shell. Snails can be tricky, sometimes they don’t want to come out, so you’ve really gotta dig. I remember I used to pick a bunch out then pierce them all onto one toothpick, then I’d have a snailsicle. Oh memories. I bet so many of you can relate.
Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to get a good photo of the snail stalls cause you can’t see much. It’s just people sitting around a tiny stool with a plate of snails, an empty bowl for shells and chili sauce. But since they are sitting on the same exact size stool as the stool holding the food, all you see are huddle crowds of people sucking on toothpicks.
But here’s one of the crab lady. Now this takes some serious commitment to eat on a street, I mean if you’ve ever eaten a crab whole, you know the messy consequences and it’s not like these places have sinks for you. But I bet it’s worth it! And you can see the whole sitting on stool, eating off of a stool situation in the background of the photo.
And did I mention the doughnut craze? This is the munchkin version and ladies walk around with these baskets around their necks. They are GROSS. Poor texture, like a cake with sandy bits in it, poor flavor, something of a mix of super sweet and ever sweeter, toss that out pretty quickly.
And then there are Vietnamese pancakes but I’ll talk more about those later, in this photo there are things that look like Vietnamese empanadas.
Off to Ho Chi Minh City or better known as Saigon.
Rice is the ultimate asian grain and this place, Xoi Yen has the best bowl of Xoi Xeo by far! What is Xoi Xeo you ask? Well, it’s a mixture of yellow sticky rice with mung bean shavings and fried shallots topped with some sort of meat. What are mung bean shavings you ask? Well, it’s a giant yellow ball made of mashed up mung bean paste, which they take and shave like a block of cheese over your rice. Oh the joy!
They serve the dish with a side of spicy pickled cucumbers, perfect.
Then we’ve got rice noodles, dry with a sauce, crispy spring roll and meat. You take a little bit of the rice noodle, put it in the sauce so to soften them, take some fresh herbs and add it to the bowl. You can wrap a piece of the spring roll in a lettuce leaf and dip it in the sauce. You can just eat the noodles with the sauce cause it’s that good.
Square springs rolls that come with the dry noodles.
Then you’ve got rice noodle dumplings. Comes from Chinese cooking but it’s basically one sheet of noodle rolled up with meat inside and topped with fresh cilantro, fried shallots, nuts and you have a sauce. All amazingly delicious.
Another version of the dried noodled dish is to have it with grilled meat and over veggies, so it’s like a noodle meat salad with sauce. You can walk down so many allies and find them filled with “bun”.
And of course there’s pho, rice noodle soup. This time I had the beef variety and this woman and her meat, my goodness is it tasty tasty.
All this rice, you need a beverage.
And maybe a view.
I flew into Hanoi and before I even show you any pictures or tell you any stories. This is the best food experience I have had in an extremely long time. This is the kind of food you eat and when you’re finished you are so satisfied, nothing around you matters. I was on a food high the whole time. It was just as dirty, gritty, busy, loud, traffic-filled, as any other city in Southeast Asia but the old streets filled with food stalls, tea shops, old dudes drinking coffee, young dudes drinking beer, people smoking bamboo bongs, moto bikes skimming by seemed to all mesh into an incredibly amazing space that only echoed food.
Pho. For those of you who don’t know what Pho is, I think I’ll have to shoot you. I already love the stuff you can get from NYC Chinatown and Flushing, let alone the actual seriously authentic, coming out of the old lady’s kitchen in Vietnam, Pho. I can live off of noodle soup forever. I had pho constantly, for breakfast, lunch, dinner, brunch, afternoon tea, snack time… the first bowl I had was of the chicken variety. They have tons of these chicken soup places and it’s better than any chicken soup you’ll ever have.
I saw that all these motos were waiting in line for this street stall, so I decided to follow suit. And what did I end up with? Some magically deep fried thing.
Which ended up being deep fried gluton and it was so good.
Then there were all these local dessert spots. If any of you know what sesame mochi balls are, then you know what I’m talking about. Basically rice balls stuffed with a mash of black sesame seeds but what they do here is they have coconut shavings and nuts inside as well and the seeds aren’t all in paste form, there are whole bits and smashed up bits and it came in this really nice gingery sweet liquid.
I got the dessert on it’s own but you can have shaved ice or sweet rice with a variety of toppings like red bean, grass jelly, peanut sauce, etc.
First night was an extremely satisfying one.