One of my ‘bucket list’ holiday destinations has always been Vietnam, and as my daughter, Rachel, lives in New Zealand we recently decided to meet half way and tick it off my list!
Vietnam surpassed all of my expectations, the people, the sights and just the sheer craziness of the country. Rachel is a real foodie so made it her mission to seek out the best and sometimes more unusual dishes for us to try. As is quite often the case, the tastiest meals were at the simplest restaurants.
In Hoi-An she took me down a series of back alleys to find Bale Well restaurant which serves just the one meal: rice paper wraps, BBQ pork skewers, picked vegetables, omelette, crispy prawn spring rolls and a huge heap of fresh herbs. You use all of these to make larger rolls and then dip them in a satay sauce, all for less than £4.00!! So delicious but we just couldn’t finish it all. I think this was my favourite meal of the trip.
One of my not so fond memories was trying ‘Half-done Goat’ in Hue, it really was almost raw goat meat, so didn’t eat so much of that meal, but I was pleasantly surprised by the frogs legs that we also tried!
As a result of the deprivations they have suffered throughout their history, the Vietnamese became very adept at eating anything and everything. We saw examples of this when we did a cooking class – duck egg embryos, which are as revolting to look at as they sound, jellyfish salad and we did actually see dog meat for sale. Our guide told us that nowadays it is only the much older Vietnamese who still eat dog, the younger ones view it with the same horror that we do, which is comforting! We saw ‘Yoga chicken’ which are male chickens tied up into what looks like a yoga pose and then used for a religious ceremony, then eaten! They also manage to do strange things with rice including Banh Ben rice cakes, which are sort of gloopy little pots of set rice milk topped with shrimp, crispy onion and fish sauce. Tasty but I wasn’t so keen on the texture!
I didn’t realise that Vietnam is the second largest exporter of coffee in the world – they take their coffee very seriously. In Hanoi we were taken to a 100 year old coffee bar which specialises in egg coffee. This is very sweet coffee made using condensed milk with a raw egg added, more a dessert than a drink – bit too eggy for me, but we did love the coconut coffee we had in the Cong Cafes in Hanoi and Hoi An. We also sampled the local beer which is made on site by the local bar owners so has to be drunk very quickly (not a problem) as it has no preservatives.
One of favourite nights out was doing a night tour round Saigon on the back of a Vespa. Clinging on for dear life we were whizzed off to some restaurants and bars we would never have found ourselves; a fish restaurant where we eat fried crab, mussels with nuts and yet more frogs legs, one that specialised in huge crispy pancakes, a hidden jazz bar and finally a Mexican bar which seemed a little incongruous in Vietnam!
It really is a stunning country and there was such a lot of it we didn’t have time to visit so I think I’m still going to keep it on my bucket list so we can go back again sometime soon.
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Keep reading! Why not read our blog on Vietnam; A Foodie Paradise