Coffee wasn’t a part of their culture until the arrival of the French, but Vietnam is making up for lost time. Today, the country is the world’s third top coffee exporter, behind Brazil and Colombia, and the drink has become a integral part of the country’s lifestyle. We went to our favorite neighborhood joint, Cỏ Cafe, to learn how to make the perfect cup.
One of our favorite places in downtown Saigon is the circular pond at the intersection of Phạm Ngọc Thạch and Võ Văn Tần streets. Every afternoon, especially on the weekends, the pond becomes a popular area in which to hang out with friends, eat junk food and wait for night to fall.
Here’s our final compilation of our favorite Saigon street food. This is the kind of chow which makes us smack our lips, smack smack smack. The kind that makes us chew with our mouths wide open, so that we can smack as loud as possible! The kind which sticks in our tooth gaps, so that after our meal, we sit around with a toothpick for 30 minutes, picking and sucking our teeth… wait a second… have we gone native?
We were already feeling overwhelmed; just within the bubble of our Saigon neighborhood, there were so many dishes to try. And once we started travelling around the country, we realized that every region has its own specialties. Forced to accept that a comprehensive exploration of Vietnamese cuisine would be impossible, we decided to just relax, and consume as much as we could. We might not be able to sample every dish, but it would be a most delicious failure.
Part of the six-hour boat tour we’d taken in Can Tho had been a visit to a tourist-oriented rice paper “factory”. That was fine, but we wanted to see the real thing. About forty kilometers north of Can Tho lies Thuận Hưng, which is locally known as a rice paper village. We took the bus there, to hunt down a few of the factories.
Are you getting sick of looking at pictures of Vietnamese food, yet? Well, I hope not, because we’re not nearly done eating it. Here are six more delicious dishes… just make sure to sanitize your screen before licking it.
As ketchup is to Americans, salsa to Mexicans, and Vegemite to Australians, so is fish sauce to the Vietnamese. This condiment is never missing from the table, and there are few dishes which which they won’t drench the stuff. One of the most important regions for the production of fish sauce is Phu Quoc, where we visited a factory to see how it’s made (hint: it involves fish).
Part of our boat tour around An Binh Island was a stop at a small candy factory, where we learned how to prepare a few of Vietnam’s favorite traditional sweets.
As we knew it would, eating has become a major highlight of our time in Saigon. We’ve been sticking almost entirely to street food, and have loved just about every dish we’ve had. Here’s another selection of some of our favorites.
One of the greatest things about Saigon is its street food. There’s an endless variety, it’s ultra-cheap, and (almost always) delicious. This was the number one reason we had been excited about living in Saigon, and so far we haven’t been disappointed. We eat out for both lunch and dinner, and often breakfast. And when plates cost around a dollar, there’s no reason not to indulge… if we especially loved a particular dish, we’ll gleefully order another round. It happens more often than I’d like to admit.