Good Morning Saigon!

When we think of Vietnam we always have that reference to the Vietnam War which occurred many years ago between the communist backed Northern Vietnam and Southern Vietnam. Now the city of Ho Chi Minh also known as Saigon is bustling with life as motorcyclist crowd up the streets. As a kid I had always grown up eating the traditional noodle dish known as Pho. Now I had the opportunity to sample the authentic dish in the country which it was born and samples other exotic flavors from the region.

Vietnam had always been one of the ASEAN countries in which I desired to visit. The culinary flavors of Vietnam have been influenced by the French whom have colonized the country since the late 1800s. Even though Vietnam had proclaimed their independence in 1954, much of the present dishes still eaten today show hints of France’s dominance in the country.

Breakfast from Ho Chi Minh

I had woken up hungry and excited to explore the city. Down the street from the hotel I had been staying I had found a stand which sold sandwiches known as ‘Banh Mi‘.

For less than a dollar, this deliciously constructed sandwich composes of fresh herbs like cilantro, pate’ (grounded seasoned meat spread), and sliced meat all folded inside a beautifully crispy baguette. Simply the best meal which can be carried on the go during your visit in Ho Chi Minh.

Banh Mi Stand with ingredients laid out by vendor
Beautifully crispy Banh Mi filled with meat and vegetables
One bite of the Banh Mi reveals delicious meat and vegetables

As I wandered down the alleyways of the city I had spotted a noodle shop, selling the typically well known ‘Pho‘ dish. A dish to warm up your soul, created by slowly boiling spices with meat to create that robust umami flavor. This dish is definitely one of the trademarks of Vietnamese cuisine and worth trying. Price for this bowl of Pho was approximately USD 2.20.

Meaty brothy Pho Noodles with sliced meat and white and green onions to garnish the dish

Coffee Break

Perhaps you may know that the typical drink of choice for the Vietnamese is coffee rather than tea. One of the more popular coffee shops to sample while visiting Ho Chi Minh City is the ‘Phuc Long‘ coffee.

With its freshly roasted coffee beans enable the consumer to distinguish different notes of the coffee. The added milk gives it that creamy richness that binds the flavors all together.

Deliciously brewed Phuc Long Coffee and milk

Street Side Snack

Surrounded by high-rises, the city center which displays a statue of the former revolutionary leader, Ho Chi Minh, which the city was officially named in the late 70s.

The atmosphere in the heart of the city is absolutely beautiful. Residents come here to enjoy their leisure time with family and their significant other. The beautiful lights of the water fountains attract passerbys while providing entertainment for children to run across.

As the center contains numerous people, both foreign and local, sure enough street side vendors would have their mobile snack shops set up on the pavement. One of the vendors who made a crunchy snack made from rice paper had caught my eye so I decided to give it a try.

Butter and onions are spread onto the paper-thin rice paper

The snack was made to order enabling me to taste the full flavors and freshness of the ingredients.

The base of the snack had been the paper thin rice paper. Butter along with onions, dried shrimp, peanuts, quail egg and minced meat had been spread across the snack. It began to bubble up and get crispy as the crackling sounds of the charcoal were heard.

Ingredients were spread onto the rice paper, heated over a makeshift charcoal grill
A piece of brie was added to enhance the flavors of the snack

The finishing ingredients that lifted the dish was the slice of brie and a sweet spicy chili sauce for extra flavoring. The crunchy texture of the rice paper mixed with the sweetness of the chili sauce and sour flavor of the cheese had somehow worked to my amusement.

One for the Bucket List – Duck Fetus

Yes, you read that correctly, duck fetus. I had the opportunity to try it during dinner while I was visiting Vietnam.

The restaurant had brought out a hot pot filled with a brothy soup and was accompanied by a variety of vegetables and noodles.

Broth soup hot pot
Array of ingredients to be added to the hot pot broth
Cracked duck egg into the boiling soup. Feathers can be observed from the fetus

As the pot slowly turns into a boil, the duck egg containing the embryo is cracked directly into the soup. Feathers and blood vessels can be seen starting to develop.

Once ensuring that it had been fully cooked, I proceeded to dip the cooked fetus into some fish sauce to add some flavor to it. I quickly put it into my mouth and chewed it rapidly not wanting to think what I was consuming was morally inhumane.

The texture possessed similarities to that of grilled chicken gizzard, meaning it was very chewy.

Cook duck fetus ready to be eaten
Side of hors d’oeuvre before the hot pot
Salted slices of beef with a sweet chili sauce
Bia Ha Noi with the food
Deep fried calamari beaks with fried garlic
Salted pork slices

Delicious Fish Dinner

I had to opportunity to meet my university friend who took me to enjoy a delicious fish dinner.

There had been various types of preparations for the fish dishes available at this restaurant, from fried to grilled and boiled.

We had ordered a hot pot soup in which the essence of the fish, which had probably been boiled for hours, literally fell off the bone. A variety of herbs and vegetables accounted to the flavorful broth.

Restaurant serving their specialty, fish

Boiled fish with herbs in a pot
Fish from the pot is dipped into fish sauce for added flavor
Saigon beer with the fish dinner
Grilled fish on skewers
Fried fish which bones can be consumed

Go on and visit Vietnam

I would have to say Vietnam had been an incredible country to visit and was quite cheap. Overall expectations of the country were good.

The culinary flavors and sights of the city had captured my curiosity from day one until the last day of my visit. For those with the spirit of adventure, give in to your cravings of new flavors, try something out of the ordinary.

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