Vietnam is definitely my favourite country for food that I have visited so far. The variety is stunning, from Pho to spring rolls, strange looking fish to omelettes, stunning fresh vegetables to Banh Mi (breakfast baguettes) plus locally brewed beer and wine.

Vietnamese Coffee Culture

Thanks to the influence of France from when Vietnam was part of French Indochina, coffee plays a huge part in Vietnamese daily life, unlike their tea loving neighbours. Did you know that Vietnam is the world’s second biggest exporter of coffee? Our favourite find was Coconut coffee enjoyed at a Cong Caphe which can be found in most Vietnamese towns and cities fitted with décor to remind you of the communist era Viet Cong!

We also tried local egg coffee in a 100 year old coffee bar hidden away up a narrow rickety staircase and over looking Hoan Kiem Lake in Hanoi. It is very sweet coffee made with condensed milk and raw egg, so very thick (and a bit too eggy for my liking) and almost like a dessert.

Beer and wine

In Hanoi the local bars brew their own beer on the premises and it has to be drunk immediately before it goes off – not a problem in that heat – served with a giant rice cracker the size of a pizza. The best local wine we found comes from Da Lat, a hill city which the French used to retreat to so they could escape the heat and bustle of Hanoi & Saigon (Ho Chi Minh city). The climate there is perfect for wine making and growing fruit and vegetables.

Food highs and lows

I loved the variety of vegetables – so fresh! – and huge piles of herbs that were served with most of our meals. In Hoi-An we wandered through 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 – best meal of the holiday I think.

Not so appetising was the ‘half-cooked’ goat I had in Hue, basically almost raw goat meat – surprisingly I didn’t eat much of that meal but I did try frogs’ legs which were surprisingly tasty!

We also tried Banh Ben rice cakes, a sort of gloopy rice topped with fish sauce, shrimp and dried onion, tasty but texture was a bit too slimy for my liking.

I passed on the jellyfish salad and duck egg embryos – a throwback to the days when the Vietnamese were so starved they would eat anything they could get their hands on.

Best night 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 ate 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!

One day I’ll get back there – Vietnam really is irresistible!