A traveler’s review of authentic Vietnamese cuisine

We shared a bit about Liz Hutchins’ first trip to Vietnam in a previous post, but Liz has more to share with us! Read on for her personal account of experiencing authentic Vietnamese cuisine.

“The most interesting food I encountered in Vietnam was the infamous durian fruit. I consider myself a pretty adventurous eater, and after hearing many stories about the world’s stinkiest fruit, I decided I had to try it.

I thought I’d be clever and try durian-flavored ice cream, and found it at Fanny’s Ice Cream Parlor in Ho Chi Minh. As I scanned the pristine ice cream selections, I noticed that the durian ice cream was not in the glass case in the front of the store, but in the back freezer. I became apprehensive, so instead of getting an entire serving, I asked for a sample to taste only. I was alone in my adventure, as no one else in my group had any desire to try it.

These signs should have tipped me off that I was in for an unpleasant experience. I had been warned that durian ice cream smelled like dirty gym socks or garbage, so I held my breath and just went for it. At first, it wasn’t that bad … different is the only way I can describe it. Afterwards however, oh boy! Every breath I took, every sip of water, every attempted bite of food, all I could do was relive that awful bite of ice cream. Sadly, I had to endure a night of illness and plain rice, as the dreaded durian got the best of me. I’m told that many Vietnamese people love it though, and the fruit is sold all over the country.  All I have to say is … consumer beware of this funky fruit.

I certainly did not, however, lose faith in Vietnamese cuisine after this incident. As they say, when one door closes, an open window with delicious smelling food wafts through it. Case in point was my amazing tour with food blogger, cookbook author, and restaurateur Daniel Hoyer, who owns a restaurant in Hanoi and knows all of the best places to eat in this fabulous city.

We got an early start and visited one of his favorite open-air markets where we learned about staples used in Vietnamese cuisine, and got to try some of the fresh ingredients like fish mint, lemon basil, and red and green coriander. After the market, we sat by the river and had a lovely break with our favorite drink of the trip, iced coffee with condensed milk. David talked to us about the food culture in Vietnam, and the diverse menus that are always prepared with the best ingredients.

At our next stop, we had Pho Cuon, a rice noodle roll with beef dipped in a spicy fish sauce. We knew that this dish would be a treat, but it was the side dishes that really blew my mind. As a starter, we had steamed clams with crispy shallots and chopped spring onion sprinkled on top; a sauce of lemongrass, chili, and shredded lime leaves; and of course, more fish sauce. This dish was heaven on a plate!

Then, for the more adventurous foodies, we had snails cooked in a crock pot with garlic and chilies. An equally delicious sauce was served with this too, and each bite melted in your mouth. The snails were smaller than traditional escargot, and had a different texture so I would encourage you to try these treats.

After we had our fill of these dishes, we went to Daniel’s favorite spot for Bun Cha, grilled pork noodle soup. This was my favorite dish of the trip, and for good reason. We sampled delicious grilled pork and beef meatballs that were served with vermicelli noodles, an amazing broth, and fresh herbs, lime, and chilies. I continued to eat well after I was full— it was that good!

Overall, I was incredibly impressed by the freshness, selection, and super reasonable pricing of Vietnamese cuisine. It’s no wonder that countless foodies and chefs consider Vietnam to be one of the best culinary destinations in the world. The best discovery I had though, was that even though I was eating more than I normally did at home, it was so fresh and healthy that I actually lost weight!

I highly recommend Vietnam for anyone looking for a great vacation, including wonderful and delicious treats and surprises!”

In this post, Liz mentions just a few of the wide array of foods that are locally available in Vietnam. What’s your favorite type of Vietnamese food?

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