Experience Vietnamese Street Food with Sophie Baker

In Vietnam, street foods maybe the best way to enjoy the cheap and delectable cuisine, either a new product in a local market or simply a warm bowl of Pho at a small food store in a narrow alley of Hanoi. For three weeks wandering around the ancient street in Vietnam, I have slowly turned into a street food lover. The magnificent food store in the street does not impress me, as I say to myself:“too many foreigners” and walk away till making a stop at a small Cao Lau vendor in a narrow alley. Under some “study”, I have a chance to taste some of the best dishes in my lifetime surrounded by the magnificent Halong Bay and the dreamy scenery in Hoi An.

Whenever you feel the sense of food hunting slowly filling in you, it is high time to wander around Vietnam, the land of street food. With a lot of names appeared on many lists for the best foods, Vietnam is the only country where you can easily find them on the street. Get ready for your unexpected trip in this country with 3 of my recommendation.

Pho

It goes without saying that no food adventure can be completed without a bowl of Pho, a must-try dish in Vietnam. For breakfast, just a fresh noodle broth adding with slices of beef can make you full till noon. Pho is also everywhere, from a cozy store at the corner of the street or a luxurious, air-conditioned restaurant. And yet that is not how the Vietnamese enjoy the best Pho, not even close.

Usually, people wake up early in the morning and drive their motorbike to a small food store/vendor. As dozen other visitors try to park their bikes on the small sidewalk, each hot bowl of Pho is brought to already seated guests. Don’t be late though since the store can easily run out of ingredient by around 9 am.

So what is the best way to know there is a great beef or chicken Pho? From the experience of the native, look for the place where has a huge number of guests. There are several characteristics making a perfect Pho:  clear and warm soup, fresh green herbs and raw vegetables to add to your soup, the noodle must be soft but tough enough and last but not least, slices of flavored beef. Try the broth first to experience the original flavors of Vietnamese Pho before adding sufficient amount of fresh herbs into your bowl.

Bun Cha

It is really a wild chance that I discover my second favorite dishes in Vietnam, Bun Cha, during an adventure in Hanoi Old Quarter. While strolling around, a local restaurant filled with local people catch our attention immediately. I cannot imagine that people can make such delicious food, which still appears in my dream, only by a small barbecue which has several fans to keep its weak flames.

We look at the menu – or rather a big board – and the only dish is Bun Cha (cost around 1$). After trading a few gestures and a smile, the owner gladly prepares the food for us. This happy old woman put the barbecue pork on the top of a plate filled with rice noodle along side herbs, raw vegetables and a bowl of broth.

It was not the chicken soup you see in Pho, but rather a special combination that may change your own idea of Asia cuisine. What’s more is when I add the hot pork, cold noodle, and herb floating in the broth, I had found the pinnacle of the dining experience. The combination of multiple ingredients such as vinegar, fish sauce, sugar and some secret ingredients to make the broth sweet, salty, sour at the balance level. The allure of the broth can even cause you to fall in love with this dish and want more even though you have been stuffed.

Banh Mi

There is one thing hard to ignore when seeking food in Vietnam: many dishes have been influenced by the French. And perhaps, as you can guess, Banh Mi will be next on the list. Enjoy by local and foreigners alike, Banh Mi is often be considered a kind of French sandwich which diners can decide their own fillings. Even though you may not like sandwich, this special food will not let you down.

Surprising, Banh Mi is made from rice flour, but not made from wheat, allowing people with coeliac disease to enjoy. This is the result of abundant rice production in the country and one favorite food feature of the Vietnamese: crispy. Take a small bit and you will hear the sound of the teeth crashing with the sandwich. 

What is offered beside the crispy sandwich? Meats (usuallly pork), Liver Pate, vegetables, pickles, cheese, chili sauce, mayonnaise are common ingredients. Other than that, there are some different modify like using barbecued pork, fried meatballs or sausages. You order like everyone’s, but try to “customize” your own Banh Mi for a better experience.

Overall, it is quite a shock for me to find out how the Vietnamese do a fantastic job in making a sandwich, and I also wonder why don’t foreigners buy more than one Banh Mi at a time. Some extra calories are still acceptable during a trip after all.

For three weeks in Vietnam, others try to seek out pictures of fresh fruits, vegetables, and foods in the luxurious restaurant or narrow alleyways. I, on the other hand, make every attempt to sit down on a plastic chair and master the art of using chopsticks

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