mastercopycat

Virtual meanderings

My Vietnamese diet (in photos)

Food, food, food…

Hanoi Restaurant Entrance

Hanoi Restaurant Entrance

I made this shot near the Ethnographical museum in Hanoi. What is it that a foreigner would see here? Let’s count.
1) A goat, tied to a tree in front of the restaurant entrance
2) A logo of the restaurant, featuring a goat’s head
3) A text in Vietnamese (incomprehensible to me).

The seemingly inevitable conclusion: it was a restaurant where they served goat meat, and the poor animal was a fresh delivery destined to end up in the kitchen. Whether this assumption was correct or not, I leave it up to you to check (by typing the text in an online translation tool or sending the photo to a Vietnamese friend). As for me, I will get back to this photo later in this post.

What I ate in Vietnam is mostly a big mystery to me. Of course, if I’d been dead set on avoiding eating strange stuff, I did have a choice – eat a buffet in the hostel I was staying at.  Once you stepped out , the situation was more or less like this: Menu lists were non-existent.  If they were, they would be in Vietnamese and would have no photos of the food. If photos were present those would be too small and the foreigner could not grasp what was there. If there would be an English version of the menu, the translation would be quite vague. Etc. And the people – smiling and friendly, but speaking no English.

In a situation like this I decided it was preferable (and frankly, quite amusing) to just pick up whatever I reasoned might be good. And I were often wrong.

I do not want to sound like a serious beer drinker (because I am not), but ordering a beer with the meals was a great tip to win over any food I did not like (there is another tip that worked but you will only find what it was at the end of the post).

Bia Ha Noi

      On a side note, in case you wondered – beer brewing was introduced in Vietnam by the French. On another side note – I’ll fast forward and tell you that beer brewing in China was introduced by the German. Which provides an excellent opportunity to write a post on how unexpectedly close the connection between beer and geopolitics was in the early 20th century. But for now it suffices to say that Bia Ha Noi (featured above) had excellent taste.

And  while we are at it, I’ll tell you about a beer I did not like:

Biere Larue

Not sure who introduced Biere Larue to the poor Vietnamese people and their foreign guests (such as myself). Whoever it was, be warned – this beer is no good. I looked it up online and it seems that the Biere Larue brewery is currently owned by Haineken. Having tasted it once, I stuck to Bia Ha Noi (state-owned, by the way).

On a side note, drinking beer during daytime in Vietnam is, I think, a mistake. Much wiser is to go for the green tea with a piece of ice – sold by street vendors everywhere and guaranteed to help you handle the heat during the day.

Apart from those two, yet another drink available from the street vendors was this:

Sugar cane juice, Vietnam

       Sugar cane juice. Being sold in, as you can see, nylon bags. (Having seen soup in nylon bags sold in Thailand, this was no big news). So, to wrap it up:

1) if people on the street are drinking from a glass cup something that looks like beer, but are sitting on miniature plastic chairs, this is green tea.
2) if people on the street are walking with a nylon bag full of “beer” and sip it through a straw – this is sugar cane juice.
3) if someone is drinking beer-like liquid from a beer bottle – they are having a beer.

Simple and obvious, you’d think. But during my first rounds on the streets of Ha Noi all I “saw” was people – old and young – drinking beer, beer, beer from all kinds of containers, adding to my fascination with the Vietnamese people and their unique street-friendly lifestyle.

Having just said that, if we go back to the goat tied to the restaurant’s entrance, you might understand why I did not want to rush myself or you into conclusions, do you? Sometimes things are simply not what we assume they are (although, honestly, why else would the goat be there anyway?). And, on a final note:
4) If in Cambodia you see people on the side of the road selling plastic bottles full of “beer” – it is gasoline for the motor scooters.

Now let’s move on from the drinks to the food. As a rule, I like to research online and double-check the information I include in these blog posts. But for once, I’d stick to the exact opposite approach and keep it as close to how it was. Since I rarely knew much about what I was eating,  I’d just say whether I found it tasty or not.

Vietnam noodle soup

The most common Vietnamese noodle soup (perhaps). Not sure whether I was supposed to use any of the condiments that you see on the table. Tasted OK. French bread – tasted good.

Vietnamese open-air restaurant

Some kind of noodles with vegetables, and maybe chicken? Tasted quite good.

Something?

Don’t ask me what that is. Bought it from what looked like a fast-food place with nice photos of real food on the billboard behind the counter. What I got instead was this: some kind of base substance, and a  “flavor” topping that, I guess, symbolised the steak and vegetables on the menu item photo. Did not taste any good, either, so much so that I could not even finish it, and I truly dislike throwing food away.

Vietnamese foodGot it from a local place near the hostel, with some help from a girl at the hostel reception desk who was going for her lunch break and took me with her.  Fish was OK, rice was good. The green stuff I did not like at all. I do not remember what this red stuff was.

Restaurant food, VietnamSo far everything I’d eaten I’d gotten on the street or in open-air cheap restaurants. This was my only meal at a one-notch-fancier restaurant. Food was good.

Frozen YogurtAt 11 o’clock in the evening about the only open place near my hostel was a fancy frozen yogurt place – clearly targeting foreign tourists and well-to-do upper-middle-class Vietnamese kids.  You could mix yougurt flavors and choose toppings. It tasted good. And quite pricy.

And a final note, in case you wondered. The best way to handle strange unknown food is to eat it with good company.

Good company

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2 responses to “My Vietnamese diet (in photos)

  1. grightnow January 5, 2012 at 12:32 am

    Cant agree more, just got back from Ho chi Minh and food there are just marvelous! Sharing some more food with you
    http://grightnow.wordpress.com
    cheers

  2. Pingback: Practicing Engrish @ Hoan Kiem Lake « mastercopycat

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