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Best things I've eaten in Vietnam (so far)

Since internet cafes seem to be few and far between here, I've decided to hit you with the highlights, rather than the city by city summary I was intending. Here's the best of the things I have eaten in Vietnam so far.

Squid stuffed with pork mince on Cat Ba Island

Sounds weird, but utterly delumptious. The squid was fresh as they come, fished out of the bay across the road that morning. It was also grilled perfectly - very lightly, with slightly crispy tentacles.

The pork stuffing was spiced with turmeric and shallots, mild enough not to overpower the delicate flavour of the squid. The sweet chilli sauce on the otherhand was really intense - loads of fish sauce and sugar - and there was way too much of it, but fortunately it wasn't actually on the squid and just a touch worked well.

Stir-fried goat with lemongrass and chilli in Tam Coc

Sounds even weirder, but it was amazingly tender and served with some fantastic condiments that really set it off: herbs and leaves (freshness), slivers of fresh pineapple (sweetness and tang), tamarind dressing (sweet and sour), steamed rice and rice paper to wrap it all up in.

This was my first experience of using dry, wafer-thin rice paper to wrap up and eat a meal. Unlike summer and spring rolls the paper is so thin you don't have to cook it. It's a fantastic vehicle for all sorts of things, adding very little flavour and texture, so you really taste all the bits in the middle.

BBQ pork and tofu in the jungle, Phong Nha - Ke Bang National Park

Another fantastic rice paper roll experience served up Vietnamese style on the floor in the centre of a big mat to share.

This time the accompanying herbs and leaves were mostly picked by our guides from the jungle - doesn't get fresher than that.

We also had strands of cucumber, salty peanuts and steamed rice to wrap up the pork and tofu with and a very salty but delicious green chilli dressing, with a touch of sweetness, loads of coriander and a hefty kick of heat to dip.

Bahn Khoai in Hue

This dish is said to be unique to Hue, but actually it bears a striking resemblance to Bahn Xeo, which comes from the south.

Bahn Xeo is a crispy pancake made with mung bean paste, rice flour and turmeric, which is usually folded and stuffed with various things, but most often pork, prawn and beansprouts. It often comes with fresh herbs and pickles on the side and is generally served with either lettuce leaves or rice paper to wrap it up in.

The only difference in Hue seems to be that it is served open with the stuff on top and the pancake is slightly thicker, doughy on top and crispy underneath. All this to say that it was a fabulous variation - the lack of condiments and vehicles for eating it meant I really tasted the salty, roast pork and crispy, sweet prawns. Beansprouts and carrots brought some light relief.

Mussels on the Hai Van route

On the way to the Hai Van Pass, just outside Hue, we stopped at a little seaside restaurant called Hue Hoang. I got excited when I saw these buckets of live seafood, but the meal we received as part of the tour didn't have any, just pork stir fry and morning glory with garlic. I decided to order some and they recommended the mussels.

They were really interesting, unlike any I've had before. They had a dressing, which was sweet and sour with a hint of chilli and were topped with loads of chopped peanuts and shallots. It was a riot of flavours and textures and, amazingly, didn't overpower the mussels, which were perfectly cooked.

Bahn bao kep at Nu Eatery in Hoi An

This little eatery had one of the most interesting and modern menus I have seen in Vietnam. I was sorry that I wasn't hungrier when I dined here. These steamed milk buns stuffed with pork belly, pickled cucumber and spicy mayonnaise were as good as any I've had anywhere, and that is saying a lot, as I've eaten my fair share since David Chang of Momofuku fame made them a global sensation.

The pork was tender, the fat smooth and melt in the mouth and flavoured with a hint of five spice. The freshly pickled cucumber retained it's crunch and added a mild sweet and tangy flavour that contrasted well with the pork. Creamy mayonnaise with just a lick of spice, probably sirarcha, rounded off a perfect pitstop bite.

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Reader Comments (2)

Hello, are you still in Hoi An? If so, I highly recommend going to the morning Glory restaurant, delicious :)

March 28, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterEllie

Hi Ellie, thanks for the comment. Yes, I went to Morning Glory as well - it was great. It didn't end up making the cut for the best dishes as I've eaten A LOT but I did really enjoy it. I was also dining w a few slightly less adventurous diners so I may not have tried their best stuff. 😊

March 29, 2017 | Registered CommenterVix

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