Tuesday, 31 May 2016

Foodie Corner: Street Food

Vern.  Hanoi, Vietnam

There are many places in the world in which food purchased from street stalls is bound to cause stomach issues, sometimes for both locals and tourists alike.   In Vietnam, however, the safe, simple and delicious dishes prepared and served by roadside vendors is one of the country’s highlights.
Vietnamese “street food” is so popular and so much a part of the culture that tour operators offer excursions focused entirely on sampling these local staples. 

As we’ve journeyed from south to north through the country, we’ve made a point of eating at street stalls almost daily.  It’s not just the food – the ambiance is part of the adventure as well.  You’ll normally sit on tiny little plastic stools at a low plastic table, fitting right in with the local crowd… with the possible exception that taller westerners either need to splay their knees or keep them up around their chin.  (A little pre-meal yoga stretching might not be a bad idea.)  It’s fun, it’s good and it’s cheap. 

“Pho”, the ubiquitous Vietnamese noodle soup, is considered by many to be the country’s national dish.  While it can be found in many upscale restaurants, street side establishments can have equally tasty varieties.  We discovered that pho in Saigon is generally different from pho in Hanoi.  We’ve been informed that the recipe for the broth is a guarded family secret, whether north or south.   Be sure to try both Pho Bo (beef) and Pho Ga (chicken). 

On a motorcycle tour of Saigon, we were introduced to Bhan Cuon, essentially a rice roll filled with ground pork, mushrooms and spices dipped in fish sauce with chilli peppers.  Delicious!

Today we tried the specialty of Hanoi:  Bun Cha.  This is served as a “some assembly required” noodle soup.  You’ll be given a bowl of broth containing vegetables and pork.  Fresh cilantro and mint are served on the side, along with a plate of soft vermicelli noodles.  Chopped garlic and chilli peppers are available to spice up your dish to your personal taste.

Any one of the above meals will cost you in the neighbourhood of 30,000 Vietnamese dong, which is about $1.50 US.   Filling your belly with tasty local cuisine for less than two bucks… it doesn’t get better than that.

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