Vietnamese food and drink experiences – Three of the best
Running its way down the east coast of Southeast Asia’s mainland, Vietnam has a hell of a lot going for it as a destination for all types of travel lovers: stunning beaches, incredible cities and a unique and fascinating history, are all part of the country’s vast appeal. However, Vietnamese food and drink, which are unique, delicious and varied have to be right at the top of the list.
It’s a cuisine that’s spread across the world through the Vietnamese population settling in various other countries around the globe, but of course the best of the cuisine is found in the land of its origin. There are a staggering variety of Vietnamese food and drink experiences to try but three of the best, recommended by our Travelmood travel expert Orlagh, are outlined below.
Vietnamese food – Pho
Vietnamese noodle soup, known as pho, is the most well-known dish the country has produced. It’s a clear broth, consisting of boiled meat and spices, and then filled with a choice of meat or seafood, fresh vegetables and noodles. Add in spring onions or herbs, serve it in a large bowl, and you have probably the defining Vietnamese food.
It’s available up and down Vietnam, but one of the best way’s to enjoy it is to jump on a cyclo in the centre of Ho Chi Minh City – a bike that carries a passenger in a basket at its front – and ask your driver to take you to his favourite place to eat a bowl.
You’ll get to have a chat with the driver and he’ll bring you to an off-the-beaten-track spot where he likes to sup on some pho himself. Alternatively in Hue, the old imperial capital, rent a bike to cycle around the sights, and pick a roadside eatery under an awning to get some sustenance into you.
Vietnamese food – Banh Mi
Vietnam formed part of French Indochina between 1887 and 1954 and one of the legacies left by the French is a wealth of beautifully baked baguettes. The Vietnamese combined them with French ingredients pâté, jalapeno and mayonnaise, and Vietnamese ingredients coriander, cucumber and pickled carrots, along with cold cut meats, usually pork, to create one of the world’s most distinctive sandwiches.
Another way this popular Vietnamese food is served is with lashings of Laughing Cow cheese – again the French influence – along with sliced ham and tomatoes.
Like pho, you can get this Vietnamese food all over Vietnam, but the best banh mi are often bought from street vendors who fill freshly baked baguettes on the spot for you on the streets of Hanoi in the country’s north.
An authentic Vietnamese drinking experience
The Vietnamese are fond of a drink or two and make for great company over a beer.
Bars in the country range from high-end hotels serving cocktails to heaving bars where ex-pats and locals mix. A truly unique place to have a beer is on the roadside.
On sidewalks in the towns and cities, you’ll see little groupings of plastic kindergarten chairs and tables, beside a transportable street-food vending device. But instead of food, this device has a large fridge inside full of ice-cold beers and a freezer section with huge chunks of ice.
Plonk yourself down on of the tiny seats and order a beer – Bia Hanoi and 333 are known as the best brews, but Saigon is the most readily available – and wait as your server cracks open a bottle, pours it into a glass and then chisels – yes using an actual chisel – off a hunk of ice to keep your drink cool in the Tropical heat. Perhaps the best part of this experience is that a whole cross-section of the Vietnamese population stops off for a drink at one of these establishments, meaning you can strike up a conversation with anyone from an ex-pat diving instructor, a local businessman or a traveller on their way through the Banana Pancake Trail.
Food and drink are a fundamental part of Vietnamese culture but these three experiences will set you off on the right note as you begin to explore the culinary delights of Vietnam for yourself.