People don’t talk about Vietnamese food as much as they should. Everyone’s all up for Thai and Indian and so-hot-right-now Mexican. Excuse me? Can we get some PHO up in here?! Maybe a fresh spring roll?! Some Banh Mi???!?!??!?!??! WHERE IS THE LOVE???!?!?!
I’ll tell you where the love is, and where my foodie heart will probably remain for the rest of my life: the glorious land of ‘Nam. Oh my lorde. The food in Vietnam was without a doubt the best of any of the countries I went to. It beat fresh sashimi in Japan and even everyones favourite; Thai. I loved it so much that I decided I needed to dedicate two entire posts to all the wonderfully amazing things I sipped and slurped and shoved down my gob while I was there. So, I hereby give you part one of almost every delicious thing I ate in Vietnam.
By the way, I apologise for the amount of iPhone photos that you’re about to see.
1. Bánh Mì
Bánh mì as a Vietnamese term means all kinds of bread, however these days when foreigners use the term bánh mì, we are usually referring to delicious meats and vegetables encased within a crusty baguette. This humble little sandwich is freakin’ delicious, and is available in a variety of flavours. Traditionally, it is made with sliced pork, French liver pâté, mayonnaise, cheese and native Vietnamese vegetables like coriander and carrots.
Whilst in Hoi An, I visited Bánh Mì Phuong, the very busy little sandwich shop which Anthony Bourdain dubbed the best in the country here. I’d have to say he’s probably pretty spot on. These sandwiches were SO DELICIOUS. The bread was perfectly crusty whilst remaining thin and airy and the meat was to die for! Best part? Each sandwich was less than $2.
2. Banh Xeo
This crispy pocket of goodness is a bit like a savoury pancake. Loaded with pork, sautéed onions and bean shoots, Banh Xeo is yum yum yum and definitely not one to miss. Tear off little pieces of the pancake, dip into the Nuoc Cham (that’s sweet chilli dipping sauce to you plebs) and enjoy!
3. Banh Mi Bo Kho
Ohhhhhh my goodness. This one was good. Really good.
Popular in the central highlands, Banh Mi Bo Kho is a hearty beef stew. Chock full of locally grown carrots, fresh herbs and melt-in-your-mouth beef chunks, this is one of the yummiest meals I ate in Vietnam. As the name would suggest, the soup comes with Banh Mi (bread) and the idea is that you dunk the bread into the soup to soak up all that soupy goodness. This one’s from Lien Hoa Bakery in Da Lat. From the outside this place looks just like your average (though very popular) bakery. If you head upstairs, you’ll find the restaurant, which will probably be packed with locals slurping and dunking away. This is a popular breakfast dish, so get in early to warm up those cold and rainy Da Lat mornings.
Tip: make sure you let a few pieces of your baguette swim around in the soup until the very end, soaking up as much tasty goodness as possible. Then when the bread is so soggy its almost falling apart, it will be like a big blob of concentrated flavour.
4. Iced Coffee
Sweet, syrupy, ice-cold caffeine. Deeeeelicious. The best iced coffee I had in Vietnam was the one above, from a street side vendor in the main backpacker district of Ho Chi Minh City. Some wonderful combination of strong coffee, sugar syrup, ice and condensed milk (yes, really) came together in harmonious glory to create this astonishingly good beverage. I noticed as I travelled further North that the iced coffees became much thinner and less sweet. They weren’t exactly stronger, but there just seemed to be less sweetness in there to cover up the coffee taste. Now don’t get me wrong, I loooooove a good coffee but I think I got addicted to that early morning liquid sugar hit I found in HCMC.
5. Mi Quang
Mi Quang is a rice noodle dish that originated in central Vietnam and is thus extremely popular in Hoi An. It usually contains pork, chicken, prawns, hard-boiled eggs and peanuts. A tiny amount of intensely flavoured broth is used to wet the noodles, before it is served with crunchy prawn crackers and fresh herbs. I absolutely LOVED this stuff, and if I had’ve discovered it when I first arrived in Hoi An, it would have been all I ate while I was there.