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Asia, 2014-06-16

Vietnamese food isn’t that famous (yet) as for instance Thai cuisine, but that is changing quickly and for good reason. As soon as we set foot in this charming country we were blown away with taste, texture and creativity. Every meal felt as a splurge, even if it was streetfood, so if food is high on your priority list, Vietnam won’t let you down!

Life expectancy is pretty high here, the food is said to be one of the most healthy diets in the world, so we might be on to something here.

Of course rice is the staple, as elsewhere in Asia, and so are noodles. There is no village too small to have their own place where pho bo is served, delicious full of flavour broth with noodles and beef, very similar to the ones we had in China. China has been a huge influence on the cuisine in Vietnam, especially in the north. You could say that the food in north Vietnam leans more towards the Chinese, using a lot of soysauce, the south has the more exotic south east asia flavour using fishsauce (the best one comming from Phu Quoc).

The French also left their mark, one of the more known examples is banh mi, a twist on our western sandwich, a baguette filled with cold cuts of meat, paté, mayo, soysauce, koriander and pickled veggies. No, a simple sandwich wont be the same anymore once you tried this!

Another example is bhan flan, little versions of flan caramel, often made with duck eggs, on the street served in a glass with coffee and crushed ice.

Because of the extended coastline, seafood is always abundant, with many fish and seafood dishes as a result. Our favourite were definetely the bbq clams with spring onion oil and a sprinkling of roasted peanuts or the bahn canh cang ghe, noodlesoup with crab.

It’s all about home made and fresh ingredients and often simplicity. Vietnamese rarely eat processed food. They even prefer to make their famous springrolls with homemade rice paper although if it has more imperfections.

And simplicity? Mix lemon juice, sea salt and ground black pepper and you made the most common Vietnamese dip, to be eaten with seafood or deep fried food.

We’ll point you in the right direction with a list of our favorite places, but go explore! Their is so much to taste, it’s difficult to try it all. Every stall might hide a culinary treasure.

Vietnam is a coffeelovers paradise, the country’s swarming with ca phê, hot or cold, with our without condensed milk, the coffee is tasty! Try the ca phê sua chua, thick yoghurt with ice and strong black coffee. One cup and we were sold. It’s creamy and thick, a little bit sour and sweet.

Oh, and don’t get us started about bia hoi, the fresh locally brewed beer that can be found almost anywhere and costs as little as 3000 dong (around 0,10 euro), the taste is great, but it’s known for huge hangovers.

Adresses

  • Phu Quoc
    The island in the south is famous for the buzzing seafood fish night market. You should eat there at least once.
    A little restaurant in the centre of town, just on a corner under a huge overhanging tree on Nguyen Tra serves up some delicious bahn xeo, a sort of crepe coloured with turmeric and with a filling of ground pork, shrimps and veggies. Roll it in the salad leaves and fresh herbs and dip it in the fishsauce. It will leave you speechless.
    You’ll find this in whole Vietnam, but this one was the best, more Northern, the dish is deep-fried and greasier.
  • HCMC
    Bahn Mi Huynh Hoa, Le Thi Rieng street.
    We can say with confidence that this is thé best banh mi spot. It opens up at 4 p.m. and is always busy until closing time at 12 a.m. Have the special one, just by pointing at everything or shrugging, they make their own paté and mayonaise
  • Nha Hang Ngon
    Eating streetfood in a beautiful colonial setting? This is the spot. All the things on the menu are made by a different ‘stall’, you can have a look around or order from the menu. A great introduction to Vietnams best food.
  • Dalat
    The market is possibly the best in Vietnam with an amazing amount of western vegetables like artichoke and asparagus due to Dalats high elevation (it’s cooler than the rest of Vietnam). Head to the first floor for some of the best food in town, the nem nuong (make yourself rolls with BBQ pork sausage, pickled vegetables, herbs and deep fried porc skin) comes recommended. Order a glass of avocado that you mash with condensed milk as dessert.
  • Nha Trang
    Nghia Bia Hoi
    Don’t panic when you arrive in Nha Trang and see a disturbing amount of Russian restaurants, if you head a bit out of town, you can find some nice seafood restaurants. The bia hoi spot on Hung Vuong street makes for a good local night out, they open at 7 p.m, if you arrive much later it will be hard to find a table. Good fresh beer and little eats.
  • Hoi An
    Again, the market is your best bet to get some decent, dirt cheap, local food. The lau lac are a must, the thick noodles with crispy pork make you come back for more.
    A lot of bia Hoi deals are to be found here, look for the fresh beer signs.
  • Hanoi
    Cong Ca Phê
    Nice retro ca phê with delicious healthy juices and the unbeatable ca phê sua chua. Various outlets.
    Bia Hoi Corner in the old quarter will guarantee a legendary night out and an equal hangover the next morning.
    The best streetfood try-outs are bahn bao chay: a sort of deep fried sandwich filled with noodles and mushrooms and bahn cuon: a steamed rice pancake filled with minced pork and mushrooms, rolled up and served with fried shallot.
  • Hang Dieu 72
    In this street you will find desserts! Bakeries with for example passion fruit mousses and at this address chè desserts, coconut soups with all sorts of fillings (like glutinous rice or beans) and crushed ice.