Archives for posts with tag: Southeast Asia

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

Vegetables

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

Some brain?

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.

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.

Laos has this drink called “Laos Laos”. It is basically their local moonshine and where do you go drink their local moonshine? At the Laos beer garden of course. Before sampling Laos Laos I had to fill my stomach with some traditional fare.

Laap. A meat salad with fresh herds and seasonings all smashed together and eaten with sticky rice. I should tell you that their sticky rice is the stickiest. So sticky that you actually take your hand, grab two bites worth, roll it up into a oblong ball and then use that to pick up a mouthful of laap. Very very good!

Water buffalo stew. I should have known such a big animal would have really tough meat but the stew flavors were good. Lots of dill.

And Laos Laos! It’s a weaker version of baijiu. But then again, it sure gets the tummy warm and fuzzy.

Luang Prabang has these amazing waterfalls not too far from town. Took a day trip there and got to do a little three hour trek and some swimming in the falls. Insanely beautiful.

The country side is just gorgeous. The sounds you hear are unreal.

And they might be coming from this guy.

We went to a local village.




Couple of their local piglets.

We walked by some rubber tree plantations

Then we finally made it to lunch. Some local fare with the infamous Laos sticky rice.

Then it was the springs and waterfalls!





This market was maybe three blocks long but filled to the brim with stuff. For such a little town, it was really jam packed when it had to be and really wide open when it had to be.

The most interesting item I found… tuberculosis. Seriously, someone explain this to me.

Then we’ve got Buffalo Skin – basically buffalo chicharon. No I didn’t try it cause it only came in dried pre-cooked form and I didn’t have the ability to fry them. Otherwise it would have been game on!

Some other mystery greens

And your typical mysterious and sometimes not so mysterious market goods… bugs with the shell, dried seaweed, so many limes, chilies, etc.






I also just have to say that these folks love their donuts.

There was also this awesome pancake lady, who made these delicious coconut flavored mini pancakes.

Then there’s this egg pancake guy. If you look at the photo, in the very front, he’s got a tray of homemade dough that he’s portioned out into balls. He’ll take one and roll it out to the right size, super thin, then toss it on the hot plate, crack an egg on it and swirl it around. Since it’s so thin, it cooks so fast and it’s so crispy, yet still juicy from the egg. So good.


Then of course you’ve got your hot buffets on the street.

Take away wraps of all sorts.

So much grilled meat.

Last but not least, hot pot. This is a serious hot pot with a large clay pot for the coals in the center of the table and all they do is throw a pot on top.


Really amazing sites to see and scents to smell and random fun things to try.