Before coming to Vietnam, I had both hope and confusion about Vietnamese street food, reporter Liane Faulder shared.
Below is a translation of an article by reporter Liane Faulder published in the National Post (Canada) in 2017:
But everyone said, Vietnamese street food is great… So we chose to do three tours with three different guides in Hanoi, Hoi An and Saigon – because we believe that locals with rich knowledge will plan a street food experience for us.
We couldn’t be more pleased. Not all food is to our taste, my companion doesn’t eat pork, a common ingredient on menus in Vietnam or boiled duck eggs, quite difficult to eat… But we found that we knew a lot more and enjoyed it more than we imagined before.
Our tour booked through [a tourist center], nor was it a food tour schedule [nothing like it at the time]. But our guide took us to Hang Be market, a five-minute walk from the famous Hoan Kiem Lake, where locals sometimes shop twice a day to make sure they get their hands on farm produce. the freshest produce. There, we really started to understand what street food means. Not only is it prepared by street vendors squatting on the side of the road, everything from charcoal-grilled chicken skewers to sautéed fresh snails, obviously the only thing to do is eat on the street.
Ta Hien old town is crowded with diners.Photo: itourvn
The street food is very cheap, a dollar or two for most dishes.
In the old quarter, diners will be very comfortable sitting on small red plastic chairs. Quite noisy because people gather nearby to socialize and eat. Interspersed with the hawkers’ cries, you can still hear the chirping of birds in stylish cages hanging from rooftops throughout the Old Quarter.
Thanks to our tour guide, we discovered how to judge a really good pho. First, look for a restaurant that only sells pho and only sells one type of pho, we chose beef pho, because of the small number of dishes, the chef will focus on the quality of that particular dish. Second, look for clear, non-greasy broth, another sign of deliciousness. And know that the meat is poached and then placed in your own bowl, not in a communal pot. Don’t be afraid of the tiny condiments, like chili peppers and pickled garlic. The more flavors, the better.
In Hoi An, a seaside town in central Vietnam, and in Saigon – we opted for a food tour. Our guides in each city brought completely different experiences and all gave us a unique perspective on street food culture.
Lovely Hoi An.Photo: SCMP
In Hoi An, [the guide] took us on foot through 8 to 10 different restaurants, mostly in the lovely old town. He shares stories about the shops and explains their specialties.
At a small shop, we ate typical Hoi An noodles. Cao Lau is a thick, chewy bowl of noodles with thinly sliced pork and side ingredients like fried pork skin and fresh mint.
Another typical dish of Hoi An is banh mi. It’s a perfect baguette, crispy on the outside, soft and spongy on the inside, stuffed with all sorts of delicacies, from pork liver pate to papaya pickles, cucumbers, shiitake, scallions and the occasional… fried egg.
In Saigon, we enjoyed the best food tour by [a motorbike tour company with a female driver]. Guests will be picked up at the hotel and driven by female drivers to visit many remote locations of the city. Dressed in traditional Vietnamese costumes, a long dress with a slit and a pair of loose pants, the female drivers also act as polite hosts for the dinner party. They are fluent in English, can help each guest break crab claws or roast goat breast marinated in fermented tofu sauce and can answer many cultural questions.
Our tour started with a big bowl of soup called Bun Bo Hue, named after the imperial city of Hue, with a broth made from beef or pork. The noodles are thick and round, not as flat as pho, very delicious. Our guide warned us to control our food intake wisely; because there are at least eight dishes in the tour.
[Guide] roams around on a motorbike between food spots, giving informative presentations at each stop….
Watching Ho Chi Minh City come to life at night on a motorbike is now officially one of the best travel experiences I’ve ever had. Traffic in Saigon is extremely chaotic. But our guide skillfully made his way through the busy roads. All we had to do was sit and shake our heads left and right like dolls.
Sometimes I just need to take a deep breath to feel the breath of the city. My nostrils were filled with the pungent aroma of medicinal herbs as we passed the area specializing in traditional medicine. The small night markets exude a strong smell, from the charcoal of a street vendor, to the fresh scent of farm produce, to the fishy taste of raw fish swimming in buckets brought back from the sea.
In the evening, when I was waiting for a red light, I saw a family of four riding motorbikes beside me. The father was driving, a baby sling in front, as he carried his cargo through the neon-lit streets. Another baby slept soundly, sandwiched between his father and mother, who sat in the back of the car. The boy’s mouth was tightly closed with his thumb, sucking deliciously. I imagine a feeling of warmth and peace all around him and I feel it too, if only for a moment.