It started with my first meal in Vietnam. I was hooked instantly. I kept discovering foods I hadn’t tried yet. Everything was a mystery to me, passing up various street food vendors and questioning what it could be even after trying it. The lack of English sometimes just kept that dish as a distant memory of something delicious and never knowing what it was. I’d get upset when finding out there was a dish I hadn’t tried in a certain city after I had already left the city. For the first time in my life, I even took a cooking course. It cured my adventurous side, exploring foods like eating a fertilized duck egg and ripping the heart out of a live snake with my teeth while it was still attached. In my one month in Vietnam, I started to have a few favorite foods.
Warning: These pictures will make you hungry…
There are plenty of different types of spring rolls between each region. I generally like all of them but my top choice were the deep fried Saigon style spring rolls and the Hoi An style spring rolls.
Vietnamese baguette (Bánh mì kẹp thịt)
Perfect for a snack. I loved grabbing a quick sandwich off the streets and especially loved my sandwiches with cheese. It was really great for long travel days on a bus or train. The bread itself is near perfection as well.
Rice Pancake (Bánh xèo)
One of the three dishes I learned how to cook at the cooking class. This wonderful meal has a certain process to eating it and is incredibly delicious. Served in a wrap you make yourself, it includes pork, shrimp, eggs, bean sprouts, mustard leaf, lettuce leaves, and stuffed with mint leaves, basil, fish leaf and/or other herbs. I always smuther it with the included dipping sauce of nuoc cham (Vietnamese Fish Sauce).
Chicken in Lemon grass and Chilli (Ga Xao Xa Ot)
Another dish I cooked up in Hoi An. No matter where I ordered this dish, it never went wrong.
Hot pots (Lẩu)
Sitting around with a large group of your closest friends and a big boiling soup pot in the middle of the table. Everyone contributes to the meal putting in meats, seafood, and vegetables. There’s something about the togetherness of a small table and everyone sharing and talking that makes this meal one of my favorites. I suppose it’s not just the taste of the meal that makes it worth while but also the social aspect of having the meal.
Similar to the hot pot, there is a pan in the middle and you can go ahead and just fry your food right in front of you. Most of these are sitting right on the streets of Hanoi Old Quarter. Perfect for people watching and taking your time. I love having this meal with a ton of bread making mini meat sandwiches dipped in a special sugary, orange, and lime sauce. I wish I had a picture to show you but it looks like I never took one.
Tofu with Tomato Sauce (Dau Sot Ca Chua)
Simple and yet delicious.