So as a homage to food and food bloggers, I was planning to showcase specialties from Trung (Central Vietnam), where my mother comes from (more specifically Quang Ngai). However, it seems it’s just a mishmash of food images from the past few weeks. As well, my sister e-mailed me, whining "you haven’t talked about food yet!", so here are some food pics with commentary!
Like most countries, food is quite localized here in Vietnam. So you may find one version of a dish in a very specific region, never to find it again anywhere else. Quang Ngai’s banh beo is served with a sauce that consists of ground pork and shrimp, rather than the usual minced shrimp with fish sauce (which I actually prefer). Note the special wooden stick used just to eat this dish!
Ok, so I’ll have to work on my picture taking skills. I was so focused on getting the picture focused, that it’s not quite centered. In the big plate, are nem nuong - grilled ground pork balls (ball shape and not the pig’s anatomy as someone I met once thought), bo la lot (grilled ground beef wrapped in a green called la lot) and ram tom - spring roll with whole shrimps. Top right is a plate of grilled beef.
Sometimes it’s combining existing things that is the novelty. Nem nuong is quite common across Vietnam. Then you have ram tom, which is simply a spring roll with whole shrimps. But roll them together in rice paper with some fresh herbs and vegetables, that’s a Quang Ngai specialty. You can’t beat that! [Two notes: 1) we're actually using "special" rice paper that does not require dipping in water and 2) The Boyfriend was served a vegetarian dish of spring rolls with... peanuts inside?!]
In the usual plate of fresh veggies, were these innocent looking vegetables. Looking more closely now, it’s clear that they’re NOT cucumber; however, when you’re in a rush to eat, you just make WRONG assumptions. These are actually unriped bananas, cut in a cross-section. The only way to describe it (there’s a specific word in Vietnamese for it) is that it takes all liquid out of your mouth and dries it out. Acquired taste? I don’t know…
My aunt (in Quang Ngai) grilled fresh squid and shrimp outside, to worship our ancestors. Hmmm... Some of the shrimp sizes here are HUGE! (My friend T: do these beat the shrimps you buy at Costco?)
Baguette et Chocolat (in Sapa) is a bakery with a cause. A French NGO started these bakeries as a means to train disadvantaged youths as bakers and pastry makers. According to Le Routard, there are also locations in Hue and Hanoi; however, we had no luck finding them (we tried!). We did find the one in Sapa and it was SO worth it! The pastries were excellent and that’s also when we ran into the two Hmong girls mentioned in the Sapa post. And by my snooty Montreal standards (which is less than the Parisian standards), these pastries were awesome!
Again, I wouldn’t make a very good food blogger because I can’t record details very well. This classic combination - bun thit nuong & cha gio – was eaten at Bunta in Hanoi near the water puppet theatre. You get a beautiful view of Hoan Kiem Lake. It’s next to the Calvin Klein store, on the second floor. Bun are rice vermicelli, thit nuong is grilled meat and cha gio, fried spring rolls. Bunta is one of those restaurants that target tourists. It’s trying a bit too hard: note the the tri-coloured (white, yellow, and subtle green – top left) bun. Unlike tri-coloured pasta, which is infused with flavour, this looks just like food colouring. But it was pretty yummy! Especially considering this was after the Perfume Pagoda day… No mystery meat here!
The Boyfriend LOVES café sua da, iced coffee. He even knows how to order it in Vietnamese! It’s quite the process: first coffee filters through a percolator, in a cup where there is condensed milk. Then you take this sweet mixture and pour it in a glass full of ice. Miam! The only thing is that this drink is NOT fast food; filtering takes time and sometimes you’re impatient, especially when it’s hot!
I love exotic fruits and there is an abundance here. I just couldn’t resist fresh jackfruit from a street vendor in Saigon. Sticky and sweet!
I got a call from my uncle calling us to join them for my second cousin’s birthday party. Family seem never ending here! It was at a hot pot restaurant (Lau Chen – 152 Nguyen in Saigon). Hot pot is always fun and they were some great seafood AND mushrooms, like oyster, enoki and shitake. The boys also enjoyed some sake.