Published: April 14th 2012April 8th 2012
I have tried a lot of food in the last three and a half months - much I have not blogged about becuase I have been without camera or too distracted by the yumminess to take pictures. But I have to say that Vietnamese food has been my favourite thus far. Which is a big surprise, because in all my years of going for pho and other dishes back home, the cuisine has never really caught my attention. Fortunately, it has it now.
So why have I fallen in love with Vietnamese? Simple - the flavour. While other countries get the flavour of food talked up, I think Vietnamese is marginalized because so many people think of pho when they think of the cuisine. As that flavour is partly DIY, the lack of spice you choose to put in it gives doesn't do it justice. But I had mouthwatering (and sometimes eyewatering) dishes all across this country, and it left me wanting more.
Now officially in my Top 5 Foods is sweet and sour fish soup
. The flavours are a perfect blend of sweet and sour. Even after I choked on a fishbone rather violently,
I went back for more as I couldn't resist the broth. I also loved the penchant for caramelized
dishes - while I tried to stay veggie, the group I'm travelling with mmm'd their way through chicken, pork, and fish variations. And these dishes were the tip of the iceburg - while some things made me tear from the spice (I was happy to let them), other things melted in my mouth and many did both. I don't think I had a single dish I regretted.
I ate a lot of pho and streetfood (where I did neglect to take pitures, always expecting there to be another opportunity), and many of my favourite dishes were in restaurants across the country. But my absolute best meal though was when we decided to take a cooking class
in Hoi An. We took it at a place called Hong Phuc Restaurant, and I would highly recommend the class (message me or comment if you want the details). Excellent English, they provided the recipes (no secret recipes), and the food was delicious. While we struggled with the spring rolls - FYI, the picture provided is not
what Vietnamese spring rolls should look
like, everything else turned out great. I think I will be impressing friends for years with the melt-in-your-mouth, making me drool just thinking about it sweet and sour sauce
we learned to make, as well as the banana leaf fish
. I also no how to cut and prepare a whole fish, which is a skill I never though I would have.
Now there is one more thing I have to mention - Vietnamese chili sauce
. Not the fancy kind, but the one on every table in almost every restaurant and street stall in the country. As my time in Vietnam progressed, I began to use more and more of it. I also managed to get the 4 girls I was travelling with as hooked as I am (it has continued on in Laos, but their chili sauce is just not the same). It is now something I crave, and I thank the powers that be I live in Toronto, a city I know I'll be able to source my new favourite condiment in.
So the moral of the story is venture past pho, which while delicious, is just the tip of the iceberg for
Vietnamese yumminess. I'm excited to get home and try more dishes that I never got around to. It will definitely help that one of my good friends back home is Vietnamese, as I know she will send me to the best places and hopefully teach me how to cook some more (Phi - I'm sending you transpacific puppy-dog eyes right now!). The only problem I now have is that I'm craving it right now, and I'm in a tiny town on the Laos/Thailand border that does not serve Vietnamese.
There are more photos below