Over the last few weeks we spent some time in Vietnam, a country that has managed to leave behind the scars left by the War and look forward to a more prosperous future instead.
Amongst all the hustle and bustle of everyday city life, food remains at the centre of it all. In both Saigon and Hanoi, Vietnam’s two largest cities, traditional street food culture prevails as people prefer to eat small portions regularly throughout the day. With the variety of great flavours on offer and the sheer number of street vendors, this makes complete sense – not to mention the affordable prices.
Despite initially being a bit cautious about eating street food due to our stomachs not yet being used to the water in Vietnam, we couldn’t resist for long. From Vietnamese spring roles to caramelised frog legs, Pho (noodle soup) to Banh Mi (baguette sandwiches), the cuisine is characterised by simplicity and freshness. The different combinations of herbs, heat, sweetness, sourness, bitterness, and the all-powerful fish sauce never leave you bored and short for choice.
A special thank you goes out to food blogger Van Cong Tu, author of Vietnamese God for showing us some of Hanoi’s best street food spots and for his recommendations of spots in Hoi An. With Van, we tasted numerous local specialities such as Vietnamese herb omelette, Pho and Banh Tom (shrimp fritters). However the pick of the bunch and our trip favourite was Com Ga (Chicken Rice) – a dish that we could easily eat every day which just goes to show how the most simple flavours can often be the most effective.
In addition to all the food, you can’t be in Vietnam and not visit a coffee shop at least twice a day. Rather than fresh milk, coffees are served with sweetened condensed milk. The sweet, lusciously thick blanket of milk cunningly disguises how strong the coffee is, leaving you with a smooth and comforting drink. Thanks to Van, we also tasted both coffee with frozen yoghurt and Egg Coffee showing once again the variety of ways food and drink can be enjoyed in Vietnam.
After a couple of weeks enjoying the tastes of Vietnam, we felt that it wouldn’t be fair not to share with you some of the simple but tasty recipes we picked up along the way. Keep an eye out over the coming weeks for a number of great dishes that you will be able to enjoy in the comfort of your home and hopefully through these you will be able to understand why we fell in love with Vietnamese cuisine.