A travel journal about Vietnam would hardly be complete without an entry on Vietnamese food. While there are plenty of eating options for palates who prefer a taste of home, our motto this trip has been, “When in Vietnam, eat what the Vietnamese do.” Thankfully, our travel companions, Keith and Joan Garborg, agree.
Before our kayak outing on Halong Bay, the host on our five-star ship informed us lunch would be served. Lunch turned out to be more like a five-course dinner. We opted for the seafood menu which included crab rolls, tender squid on a bed of sautéed vegetables, and a plate of mussels and prawn cakes. And who could beat the dining room view.
We’ve had equally delicious meals, though, that are simple in appearance but complex in flavor. One of the dishes Hanoi is famous for is pho, a traditional noodle soup, accompanied with an array of fresh greens and sauces. Everywhere you look street side vendors set up shop alongside bubbling pots of broth and noodles. Their obliging customers sitting on knee-high plastic chairs, chopsticks in hand, slurping up hot deliciousness.
One of our first nights in Vietnam, we climbed a set of narrow stairs to a small restaurant above the street. A slightly stooped gentlemen promptly walked over and placed this note on the table.
Our choice made for us, we ordered four cha ca entrees. Chunks of fish are thrown into a simmering central pot along with heaps of green onions and dills. Once they’ve wilted until tender, you spoon the mixture into bowls of thin rice noodles and top with fish sauce, fresh chilies, and peanuts. Oh my. Need I say more?
One of the more well-known restaurants we’ve visited is called Koto. Started by Australian chef Jimmy Pham, the restaurant offers an array of both Western and Vietnamese dishes prepared by at-risk youth who have been accepted into a restaurant training program. According to our palates, at least, the investment is paying off. Marinated seabass in banana leaves, anyone?
So far this adventure in Vietnamese food is a totally win.
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