Half the reason I travel is to try the local food and Vietnam is a really good country for it. I came knowing I’d have to try at least one banh mi and one pho before leaving. I found an excellent blog post that I basically used as a check list for what other food I should try and where to find them. She did not disappoint and everything I tried from her list was fantastic. The best thing was that meals were never more than $3 so it was easy to overindulge. I’m not as good as the author Jodi is as describing the flavors and differences so I’ll let you read her site on your own if you want better descriptions.
My list of foods eaten goes as follows:
- 3 bahn mi, my favorite being the 2nd one, from 37 Ngyuen Trai Street
- 1 bowl pho bo
- 1 bowl bun cha Ha Noi
- 1 bowl bun bo Hue
- 1 bowl sour pho
- 2 che desserts
- 1 plate banh cuon
- 2 bowls hu tieu
- 1 plate bot chien
- 1 bowl bun thit noung cha gio
- 1 glass guava jelly
- 1 glass cherry juice
- 1 glass sugar cane juice
- 1 bowl pha lau (pig intestine)
- several cups of coffee
- myriad of snacks that I don’t know the names to
Undoubtedly, the best food day was spent with Khoi. We started off lunch (actually, my second lunch of the day) of hu tieu in a little alley way. Khoi said this place had been in business since 1947 or something like that. This was served “dry” like the restaurant Jodi recommends on her blog. Then we moved onto dessert in another alley way that was owned by a Chinese family. Here I tried a guava fruit jelly. It was served with the jelly on the bottom, yogurt on the top and you add your ice and stir together. The jelly was not like jell-o but maybe a bit more similar in consistency to a pudding but lighter. It was surprisingly not too sweet, nor did it really taste like guava to me, but it was really delicious and refreshing. I also tried a cherry fruit drink that tasted more like strawberry. The juice wasn’t teeth-clenching sweet like it might be in the US and also refreshing.
We took a little break to go see a movie (the usual pre-show announcements warned me no smoking was allowed, meaning no cigarettes, cigars or bongs. They really covered their bases), then got a banh mi to go before heading over to have buffalo intestine. Khoi didn’t know what it was called in English so he just called it “little bit of everything.” I think all innards must be chewy and rubbery since it reminded me of the cow intestine I ate. However the broth it was served in was fantastic. Khoi said it was made with coconut water, chili and saffron, then you could spoon in a little bit of tangerine juice. Amazingly tasty, both sweet and citrusy.
Finally, we ended up getting what Khoi described as sour pho. This one was probably my favorite meal of the day, if not the whole trip. This kind of pho is made in the north, and was also “dry” with the broth served on the side. At the table there was a big bowl of fried fat (I think like pork crackling) mixed in with some kind of seasonings. I was directed to put some of the fat in my bowl as well as in my broth. This pho was unlike others because it had far more vegetables like morning glory and cucumbers. It was almost more like a salad that you happen to put broth over. It came in a thick kind of sweet and sour sauce that when mixed in with the broth was absolutely great. The broth alone was sweet and had lots of spices that I have no idea how to identify. With the seasoning on the fat, it made for the best bowl of food I had in Vietnam.