I have finally gotten around to writing out my thoughts from my trip to Vietnam in August 2014. I travelled with my sister and a group of other tourists of varying nationalities around Vietnam for two weeks. I started taking notes on the plane there, so please travel back in time with me and learn about the wonders of Vietnamese culture and cuisine….. *cue reminiscent harp music*
A TOURING TUMMY IN VIETNAM
A Tummy En Route:
I am currently sitting on a plane bound for Singapore to catch my connecting flight to Vietnam. I couldn’t be more excited and if I am perfectly honest, my mouth is watering for some authentic Vietnamese food. Now that I think of it, though, what is authentic Vietnamese cuisine? I guess most people have Vietnamese food pegged as sort-of-French sort-of-Thai style dishes which substitute beef for dog or anything else they could find lying around? I hope that I am not so ignorant. I know that dog, cat, rat and snake are widely available but I would hardly imagine them as staple foods. I did a bit of research and discovered that pork, shell fish, frogs and snails are far more likely to adorn the street meals one is likely to order. My sister and I have agreed that we would try avoid the established restaurants and try get our meals from the ever-famous street carts and small family run stores. We had heard that the restaurants had become extremely Westernised and offer meals which we could just as easily get at home, and we did, by no means, come to Vietnam to eat your everyday meal!
Now, the question most likely on everyone’s minds is “but will you try all that grizzly stuff?”
Honestly? I hope so. I am not going to say that I am not put off by the idea of eating Fido or a rat (being both a dog and rat owner and lover) or even something I am deathly afraid of, like snake. To be honest, I hope I get served it without knowing what ‘it’ is. Then, if I like it, and it turns out to be that day’s pavement special, then I cannot deny the fact that I like it. I am NOT saying that if I like it, I will return home and demand my local deli start serving dog, but at least I can say that I tried it? If I don’t like it, then of course I will roll my eyes and say, “Ew, yuck, no wonder it had that faint wiff of Super Woof!”
I like to think of myself as an adventurous eater, but sadly, my conscience does occasionally get the better of me. For example, there is a very famous tourist attraction in Vietnam which is advertised as a “theatrical snake show”, but really it is a live snake display which ends in the poor beast being slaughtered and served to the guests grilled, with a glass of its blood and its still beating heart on the side. This poses all sorts of animal rights dilemmas in my mind.
As for my own expectations of the Vietnamese food, I struggle to keep the image of Thai curries and tempura goods at bay, even though I do know that the neighbouring countries have extremely varied influences, resources and cultures which in turn, will shape their food styles. I guess, I am expecting lots of dry rice dishes topped with sauce and meat, you know, the sort of food designed to fill up the population. As for desserts (a very important aspect of food) I am not too sure what to expect. I have never been a fan of Eastern desserts and honestly, I don’t care how ‘refreshing’ it is, I don’t fancy putting an overly messy, congealed rainbow in my mouth. Partly, because I find it a battle of flavours which will never go well together and partly because they are far too sweet! That is saying a lot coming from someone who could practically survive on chocolate alone! Between you and me, there has to be a cause behind the brown and baron smiles you get from the locals…
I think the last thing I have to say now, on this cramped economy flight with a stomach growling for adventure (or possibly from the airplane food) is that I hope to goodness the rumours of ‘Deli Belly’ are just exaggerated tales told by sissies that turn at the mildest curry and, I hope I learn all there is about Vietnam’s history, culture, cuisine and lifestyle, whether I find it appetizing or not!
Pictures, tales, hunger pangs and chaos to follow….