March 21, 2012 by Nina
I can’t tell you how many people have told me how jealous they are that I get to enjoy Vietnamese food, but I disagree. I have found the majority of the food to be unordinary and without flavor. Unlike Indian food, it is without spices, and unlike Thai food, it is not spicy. In fact, in our first six weeks in Vietnam, we have eaten more Indian and Japanese food than Vietnamese food. Though a favorite among locals and foreigner’s alike, I am not a fan of Pho (pronounced “fuh?).
While in Thailand, we were adamant about “eating like a local” and almost never went to restaurants for the entire month; I regret not having splurged, as maybe I would have liked Thai food more. So, in Vietnam we have been to many street stalls and nice restaurants. Both of which have for the most part disappointed me (actually I prefered the street food); So, here were my favorite dishes:
Banh mi (sandwiches) is one of the most popular things to eat in Southern Vietnam. Many times I find the meat to be too sketchy or just plain gross (much of the street meat is very fatty), so Julian and I ate our sandwiches mostly with egg, but I had ones with schweinshaxe and it was so good. My favorite street food for sure. No two sandwiches are the same, but they usually have cucumbers, a meat spread, tomato, and chili and soy sauce, and are always wrapped in a used piece of paper (recycling!).
One of my favorite Vietnamese foods is the fried corn with dried shrimp. It’s especially funny that it’s made on the back of a bicycle. I got mine on the sidewalk across the street from the Post Office in district one of Ho Chi Minh, where there are many street vendors.
Our Vietnamese friend who we met on Couchsurfing took us to eat “seafood,” aka snails, at this local joint that we would have never found on our own. But since then, I have seen many places to eat snails, mostly outside of district 1. We ordered a bunch of dishes that we all shared, and it was a lot of fun digging into food we were so unfamiliar with. We also had fertilized duck eggs.
Street Kem (ice cream) costs between 1,000 and 9,000dong. Julian’s vanilla cone came with chocolate sauce and sprinkles (cute). I had an affogato (espresso with vanilla ice cream) for 15,000dong (they usually cost about $8 in the U.S.).
Another great thing to eat is Bahn Trang Nuong (rice cracker with scallions, pork, quail egg, peppers, and hot sauce cooked on the grill). Again, a great place to get street food in Ho Chi Minh is next to the Cathedral/across from the Post Office in district 1.
We saw many restaurants with signs saying “broken rice” outside, so I was pretty excited to try it, but was disappointed. Like many of the rice dishes, the meat and veggies are sparce and you are left with a large, bland plate of rice with only fish sauce (gets boring quickly) to season it.
Bo Bia (spring rolls made of rice paper and stuffed with dried shrimp, jicama, and carrots) is accompanied with a nice chili sauce with peanuts. Unfortunately, they are not as good as the Chinese spring rolls I am used to eating in America, but Cha Gio (fried spring rolls with beef) is seriously good.
Hint: one thing I do love about the culture of Vietnamese food is that it is okay to eat anything, anytime and it is probably the only country where the ice cream truck (or actually bicycle) comes around at 9am–and this suits me!
Have you ever been to Vietnam? If so, which was your favorite street food? How does it compare to Vietnamese food in your home country?
Category Vietnam | Tags: , "eating like a local”, a meat spread, affogato, American in Vietnam, and carrots, and chili and soy sauce, and hot sauce cooked on the grill, Bahn Trang Nuong, Banh mi, bland plate of rice, Bo Bia, broken rice, Cha Gio, chili sauce with peanuts, Chinese spring rolls, Couchsurfing Vietnam, cucumbers, district 1, district one, egg sandwiches, fertilized duck eggs, fish sauce, fried corn with dried shrimp, fried spring rolls with beef, Ho Chi Minh, Hochiminh, ice cream, ice cream bicycle, ice cream truck, indian food, is it safe to eat street meat?, Japanese food, jicama, Kem, Kem Xoi, nice restaurants, Notre Dame cathedral, Peppers, Phổ, pork, pork sandwiches, Post Office, quail egg, rice cracker with scallions, safe to eat street food?, Saigon, sandwiches, schweinshaxe sandwiches, seafood, snails, Southern Vietnam, spring rolls made of rice paper and stuffed with dried shrimp, street meat, street stalls, street vendors, Thai food, Thailand, Things to do in Ho Chi Minh, Things to do in Saigon, Things to eat in Vietnam, tomato, Vietnamese food | 5 Comments
March 5, 2012 by Nina
Getting tired of eating street food? Willing to spend $6 on a great meal? Here are some of my favorite chains in Saigon:
ABC Bakery: the very first place we stepped into when reaching Ho Chi Minh, and we returned many times after that. It is a chain, but many bakeries sell only cakes and do not have a place to sit down. The one on Pham Ngu Lao has pastries and baguettes galore. But possibly the best part are the cappuccinos, with adorable hearts shaped in the foam. The baguette sandwiches (popular street food in Vietnam) are the best because the baguettes are much crunchier than the street versions. You can even get vegetarian ones, which are scrumptious. It was such a relief to find bread after a month without it, in Thailand.
There are so many Japanese restaurants to enjoy in Ho Chi Minh. Tokoyo Deli is a chain that provides “authentic” floor-style seating and delicious Sushi. The prices are not the cheapest in the city, but the sushi is fresh.
Pat A Chou is a bakery located near the Notre Dame cathedral, and boasts fresh pastries, delivered via scooter.
Mochi Sweets is a chain, located in malls around the city that has a wide assortment of one of my favorite desserts. If you haven’t tried it before, you must. Mochi has a pastry exterior made from glutenous rice with ice cream stuffed inside. Common flavors include: green tea, strawberry, mango, chocolate, and vanilla.
Annam Market is a haven for those of us missing gourmet cheeses and chocolates. A market filled with these imported goodies, as well as beer and cleaning products.
Highlands Coffee is the best chain in Vietnam. It’s like Starbucks, but better. The door is opened for you, and you are welcomed inside. There is WiFi, air-conditioning, frappes, free computers to use, and kind service. You can find them almost as easily as a Starbucks in NYC. My favorite items are the Cafe Frappe and Cookies and Cream Frappe and my favorite location is on Pham Ngu Lao, as it has the best couches. Still, I think Kita Coffee (pictured right) has better cappuccinos. Actually, let me say that they have the best cappuccinos, ever. I am not exaggerating.
Note: Of course, you should also try the street foods of Vietnam, but I will admit I quickly got bored with Phổ, and with all the inexpensive restaurants ($10 or less for two people!), cafes, and patisseries, we couldn’t help but try them.
What was your favorite meal in Ho Chi Minh? Do you feel guilty eating at touristy or chain restaurants when in a foreign country?
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March 2, 2012 by Nina
Fanny’s ice cream buffet was everything I wanted, and more. I sort of expected lame flavors, or less-than-stellar quality (perhaps the old cartons) for $5, but they had at least 20 flavors including, but not limited to: dark chocolate, peanut butter, yogurt, mixed berry, strawberry, strawberry yogurt, blueberry, raspberry, green tea, coconut, mango, ginger, caramel, salted caramel, chocolate chili, cookie, soursop, yum rice, banana, and milk chocolate. The buffet occurs on the first Friday of each month, and starts at 6:30pm and ends at 11pm. My recommendation: get there at 6 to get a table (it’s a bit of a mad house). In Vietnam, there is no concept of a line, so you just sort of shout and push your way to the front. Not only was there ice cream, but also a toppings bar (Oreo, whipped cream, and hot fudge included), fresh fruit, wafers, cream puffs, and pancakes. In three words: heaven on earth.
I limited my toppings to fit in more ice cream, and was able to have 18 flavors in this breakdown:
Round 1-green tea, chocolate chili, caramel, peanut butter, dark chocolate with hot fudge, 2 Oreos, and chocolate chips
Round 2- strawberry yogurt, mango, banana, mixed berry, strawberry, raspberry
Round 3-two strawberry yogurts, one yogurt, one banana with fresh fruits
Round 4-three green tea (Hmmm, I wonder which my favorite was)
Granted these scoops added up to one sundae at Friendly’s and I only ate one meal that day, but I am still proud.
Category Dessert, Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam | Tags: , fanny's, fanny's Ho Chi Minh, fanny's ice cream buffet, fanny's ice cream buffet HCM, fanny's ice cream buffet HCMC, fanny's ice cream buffet Ho Chi Minh, Ho Chi Minh, Ho Chi Minh ice cream, ice cream buffet, ice cream Ho Chi Minh, where to eat ice cream in HCM, where to eat ice cream in Ho Chi Minh, where to eat ice cream in Vietnam, where to go in Ho Chi Minh | 1 Comment
February 25, 2012 by Nina
Though most people don’t spend much time in Trang, except as a jumping off point to get to the islands, such as Ko Muk, it is actually a fun place to spend the day. Try and be here on the weekend because they have two fabulous night markets going on simultaneously. They start between 6-7pm. The first is located near the clock tower, and has not only food, but a large assortment of used (and new) clothing, sold very cheaply. I had some very excellent dumplings here, and would have enjoyed a whole chicken if I wasn’t saving my appetite for the next market. The second is located on the same street of the train station (easy walking distance along a tree lined boulevard from one market to the other). This one is very crowded, and boasts all kinds of goodies such as Fresh Fruit, nicknacks, Kabobs, Hamburgers-and the best thing: Home-made Potato Chips. Julian and I were so excited to find this, and I was so fascinated by the chip making machine that the owners let me have a try. They give you four choices for powder toppings, but we chose hot and spicy both times. These were certainly the best chips I’ve had, and what a surprise to find them in Thailand!
Though it was located right down the street from our hotel, we found the Wunderbar restaurant online. I think we might have passed right by it otherwise because the sign is not easy to spot. This was one of the first times we had Western food the whole trip (3 weeks in), and-to my surprise-I can’t express how happy I was to find bread. Thai food includes a lot of rice and even more noodles, but absolutely no bread, and this restaurant boasted of its baguettes, so I was excited. I had a Gouda Sandwich, which though expensive, it was worth having bread and good cheese for the first time in weeks.
The next day we had their “Western Breakfast,” which was a good deal at $4 for Croissants with butter and Jelly, Coffee or Tea, Orange Juice, Baguettes, Salami, Cheese, and Eggs Anyway.
Attached to the Wunderbar by rotating door is a cafe that has excellent smoothies (I had Strawberry Banana) and even better is the Choco Banana Shake. Better still is the 1952 Hamburger. It’s expensive, but so worth it if you’re in the mood for one. It comes with French Fries, and has nice, crispy Bacon on top.
In hopes of finding ice cream (always a fail in Southeast Asia), we tried their version of shaved ice. Is costs only $1, and is a refreshing treat. We had the Thai Iced Tea flavor, which the woman took out a huge chunk that was shaved by a machine into a bowl for us to enjoy. Like Pinkberry or Red Mango, they have all kinds of unusual toppings. We of course had oreo.
Sometimes the least expected places are most memorable when on vacation. Have you ever enjoyed a place that is supposed to be only a temporary layover location?
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February 22, 2012 by Nina
Koh Tao is a great little island located on the Gulf of Thailand (Southeastern Thailand), with great snorkeling trips for under $15/day, and a wide selection of great western food. Some of the best things to eat on the island include: Fruit Shakes, Fruit Yogurt and Muesli, and Banana Nutella Pancakes. But even better is Dolce Vita. If you’re looking for great Italian food, look no further. We came here for my birthday dinner, and were so happy with our choice to splurge here. Starting with the funny glasses that tilt to the side, to the bobble head dog that came with the check, it was in some ways not your traditional Italian restaurant experience (you of course need to take your shoes off before entering). We started with Bruschetta, which did not disappoint, and I was in food heaven with my 16-month-aged Ham and Homemade Taglietti pasta. It was one of the best pasta dishes I’ve ever had! I couldn’t imagine how good ham can taste, until I tried this.
Category Italian Cuisine/Pasta, Thailand | Tags: , 16-month-aged Ham, and Banana Nutella Pancakes, best pasta in Thailand, Bruschetta, Dolce Vita, food heaven, Fresh Taglietti, Fruit Shakes, Fruit Yogurt and Muesli, Homemade Taglietti pasta, Italian food, Italian food in Thailand, Italian food on Koh Tao, Koh Tao | 3 Comments