• Thai streetfood

    Thai streetfood

  • Puff pastry cheese sticks

    Puff pastry cheese sticks

  • Fusion curry chicken

    Fusion curry chicken

  • Poppy seed strudel

    Poppy seed strudel

  • Vietnamese sandwich seller

    Vietnamese sandwich seller

A culinary (?) voyage through Vietnam - Part I

Street vendor in Nah Trang preparing sandwich
Street vendor in Nah Trang preparing sandwich found
on this great travelblog
Staying for a short while in Vietnam only left me wishing that we could have stayed longer, the trip was awesome and most of the food we tasted was delicious. A great thank you goes out from me to the people that received us so friendly as well as to the friends that we met on the journey

In the aftermath, I think that Vietnam is a very beautiful country on the brink of development. If I have the choice, I would love to go back to this beautiful country with more time on hands, a better preparation and then I would love to go off the beaten track as I think that this way there are so many more impressions that one can gain from a trip to this fascinating country.
But if you are like me and you don’t have the time for this, then just go with the guided and organized tours. They are a bit commercial but, again, if you want to go on your own, you got to make sure that you got enough time on hands. But I saw plenty of backpack tourists traveling on their own and I think that is the best way to discover this beautiful country without having a guide that leads you to some souvenir stand every 10 minutes of the trip :). BUT, this is a food blog and the food in this country was really great so let me just simply come back to the topic and introduce you to Vietnamese food. In one of my earlier entries I already wrote about my favorite dish  Bun Rieu, but today I want to elaborate a bit more about other bits and pieces of the Vietnamese cuisine because I just loved the food and I think it’s worth to mention it

The local cuisine is influenced by many of its neighbors such as China, Thailand and Cambodia and it uses ingredients such as fish sauce, shrimp paste and soy sauce, roots such as ginger, galangal and of course lemongrass that also can be found in many of the SEA local cosines. The Vietnamese cuisine also uses a lot of fruits and vegetables and the standard European traveler can find many “exotic” fruits such as the rambutan, jackfruits, mangosteen, lotus seeds dragon fruits...

seller carrying dragon fruit in the rain with the wetmarket in the background
Seller carrying dragon fruit in the rain with the wetmarket in the background
...and a very special fruit that is so special that I want to take the time and a few more lines about it:

Meet the Durian:

Durian is called the King of fruits in SEA, but the opinions are split on it. I know some people that love and some that hate it, but there is not a lot of space in between those extremes. The most famous attributes about the Durian are also those attributes that split the opinions about it:
  • The shape: The Durian is as big as a head, heavy and full of massive spikes. If you happen to wander around a Durian plantation during harvest season, don’t forget to wear your protective helmet

Durian on a tree, ripe and ready to fall at any moment
Durian on a tree, ripe and ready to fall at any moment

  • The smell: Everybody who has ever had an encounter with this fruit will never forget it’s smell. It’s comparable to the perturbing smell of a “stinky tofu” or a “Harzer Roller” Cheese from Germany. In some countries it is forbidden by law to carry the Durian on a ride with the public transports. The texture of the fruit is smooth and silky like if the Zohan would have given it a haircut. 
 The real Durian lover laughs the danger of getting a head injury and the smell right in the face and enjoys its doses of SEA Camembert with a smile on his face like an angel in heaven.

Young Durian fan eating delightful with the Durian hanging all over the face

Young Durian fan eating delightful with the Durian hanging all over the face
Young Durian fan eating delightful with the Durian hanging all over the face
Unique for the Vietnamese cuisine is the obligatory bowl containing a good portion of fresh herbs that comes with every meal. I have not seen that anywhere else then in Vietnam and it’s a signature for its cuisine such as the small bowls of condiment are typical for the Korean cuisine. The bowl contains fresh mint leaves, long coriander and Thai basil leaves will be served with every meal.
Street side food - fresh spring rolls Vietnamese style with a bowl of fresh herbs and spicy sauce
Street side food - fresh spring rolls Vietnamese style with a bowl of fresh herbs and spicy sauce
There might be more and other herbs added to this bowl, depending on local flavors and availability and season. Adding these fresh herbs to the food gives the food it’s unique and fresh taste that makes the Vietnamese food so unique. The fact that the VN cuisine uses just little oil but relies more on freshness and the addition of herbs to make its dishes tasty, is just another welcome difference to the majority of the Chinese cuisine for me, which (depending on which region it is coming from) tends to use an abundance of oil to cook or stir fry the dishes.

The comparison with the Chinese cuisine here is because, as a matter of fact, a great many dishes from the Vietnamese cuisine find their origin in the neighboring China; most of those come from the Guangdong province. During the centuries of contact between the two countries the Vietnamese cuisine has been great influenced by its bigger neighbor and dishes such the following foods have been integrated in the local cuisine since then:
  • The wantan, which is a kind of a dumpling in soup
  • The “mi” noodles, which are a kind of Chinese egg noodles
  • The Ban Kun which is a Cantonese speciality (called cheong fun in China) which is a rice noodle floor kind of a cannelloni, filled with different things and cooked
Banh cuon or also known as cheong fan, the Vietnamese and Chinese Cannelloni
Traveling a bit further we find another nation that had a great impact on the Vietnamese cuisine. Since the country has been occupied by the French who only left the country in the 1940’s, there was a long time of occupation during which the occupying nation managed to introduced a good number of foods into Vietnam. The most famous among those food items is of course the French baguette bread that was quickly adapted and today is an important part of the local life. You can see baguettes being sold everywhere on the street and one can easily get a baguette to go with pate, tuna fish or other toppings from vendors on every street corner.
Street vendors selling Baguettes from a basket in Hanoi
Street vendors selling Baguettes from a basket in Hanoi
Besides that there are many French style bakeries in which other French specialties such as croissants and "pain au chocolate" are sold everywhere. Besides that, snails and frogs are today an important ingredient and, next to these important influences, the French also managed to introduce coffee. Today, the typical Vietnamese milk coffee “ca phe da” is something you cannot miss, once you’re traveling there. It’s being made by brewing coffee with the help of a metal filter that is being mounted on the cup so that the coffee pours drop by drop in the cup in which a good quarter cup of sweet condensed milk has been added already.

Today, besides the influence in the local cuisine, you still can find other French footprints in the local society but they are slowly fading out. Even if you can still find plenty of old people that speak French, the youth is more likely to study Chinese or English as a second foreign language. Despite this, I was still able to see more backpack tourists from France here than in any other country in Asia that I have been before. Those backpackers must be so glad that one of the things that the French left during their occupation is was the influence into the VN cuisine. But thanks to the booming tourism, not only the French but also other influences from other nations are having their impact in culture and cuisine of modern Vietnam today.

An original Kerbap - Kebap stand in the middle of the night and sugar cane drink
An original Kerbap - Kebap stand, open for business in the middle of the night, get yourself some sugar cane drink right after this culinary delight...
End of part I, shall be continued in part II, over here


  1. Well written and looking forward to part 2 ;p... there's plenty of food and places we didn;t get a chance & time to visit and try!

  2. Yeah, too many places and even more food that we haven't tried yet. Well, we should keep that in mind when the next holiday's coming up? Hehe... Ok, gotta go back to those Schnitzel that are frying in my pan...

  3. Hahahhaa... Rumour has it we might be hitting Northern Thailand? lol... oh, don't forget to write review for the beautiful Bun Cha, the Com Tam with Pork Chop... what about the Hoi An Chicken Rice, Mi Guang, etc? lol.... the list just goes on and on....

  4. Oh boy, Thailand? I love Thai food. I got to get more memory cards ready to cope will all the good foods.
    For the other foods i will write about, pleas have some patience. Right now i am writing on my first baking masterpiece... coming up to you - soon