Vietnamese food that went into my face

My 12 regular readers will back me up when I say that I rarely write about food. It’s just not my thing. Restaurant reviews, yes, but an entire post devoted to the stuff I shoveled into my soup hole on a trip, no.

And yet, I’m composing this offtype post simply because pretty much all I did in Vietnam was eat, drink super sweet coffee, walk a bit and get massages. So, it’s either post this food jamboree or try to pitch the story to American Lazy F#%$er magazine.

I apologize for the crap photos. All of this was completely out of my control because a) crap camera, b) crap lighting, and c) crap photographer. Here we go.

Phu Quoc

I arrived on Phu Quoc, an island beach destination floating off the southern tip of Vietnam, a broken man. I’d done the exact opposite of my plan to rest and recover from jet lag in Singapore, then spent three days inhaling exhaust fumes and eating floating orange dirt while in the back of a tuk-tuk, along with walking, trekking and climbing around Angkor Wat. I am not ashamed to say that the most I moved during my three days on Phu Quoc was the seven minute walk down the beach to the massage ladies. So, I’m just posting a couple dishes from the hotel restaurant, which was surprisingly good.

Crab and vermicelliCrab, egg and nearly invisible mushrooms with vermicelli. Not much else to add. It was crab-y, citrus-y and wonderful.

Seafood stir fryTerrible cellphone picture in terrible lighting, but this seafood stir fry, with shrimp, fish and squid, was about as good as one might expect when the seafood was netted a few hours earlier. Also, look! I’m drinking a beer! Insanity!


I was all over the place here, from the most basic street food served from a woman next to a grill fashioned out of a dust bin, to the night market and proper restaurants. I ate 12 meals in 2.5 days. For you.

Stiry fried beef and onion with orange riceStir fried beef and onions on orange rice, slung out of a cart manned by someone’s auntie. Not the most exciting dish, but typical of what you find on the street and super inexpensive.

SnailsBoiled snails served plain with chilli sauce. Basic and very brine-y.

Bun Mam“Bun mam.” This was amazing. Shrimp, fish and squid, served in a fish sauce broth with thick noodles. The thing that looks like an unflushed turd is a mini-eggplant. One of the best things I ate in Saigon, despite the eggplant.

Hoi An

I found two dishes I liked here in particular and kind of found myself in a rut.

Cao Lau“Cao lau.” A Hoi An specialty. Pork, greens and thick, brown noodles similar to Japanese soba noodles. This is served all over Hoi An and varies wildly. I had a back alley, single light bulb meal (hence unphotographable) that was sprinkled with nuts.

Bahn mi, Hoi AnThis, my friends, is banh mi nirvana. Glorious, wretched indulgence. Fans of Anthony Bourdain’s old show No Reservations may recognize this handheld, edible orgasm as it was prominently featured during his second Vietnam show. Let’s see, there’s pâté paste, two or three kinds of pork, strips of solid pâté, tomatoes, cucumbers, chilli sauce, mystery sauce, other unidentifiable stuff, a green onion and a fried egg! Holy mother of Buddha, it was ethereal. I ate four of these in about 24 hours.


Deep fried fish soupDeep fried, breaded fish soup, found at a back alley stall with kindergarten tables and chairs and scooters whizzing by inches from our elbows. Again, nothing extravagant, just the everyday stuff you find littered on every street and down otherwise uninviting alleys.

Bun cha, Hanoi“Bun cha.” This is a ridiculously super-sized portion of bun cha, a Hanoi signature dish. Grilled pork, noodles, herbs and a fish sauce broth all combined in a bowl to one’s taste. There’s also a side of pork egg rolls.

Fried baby jackfruit with shrimp, pork and rice pancakesA salad of fried baby jackfruit with shrimp, pork and rice pancakes. Best thing I ate in Hanoi.

Ram it cake with shrimp“Ram it” cake with shrimp inside. This was super sticky and this particular place went a little too light on the shrimp. But, pretty!

Ethnic minorities' sausage“Ethnic minorities’ sausage.” This was one of those things that tasted far better than it looked. At a glance, it looked like all the crap that even the dog wouldn’t eat after slaughtering the pig, but it was excellent. Also pictured, a ceramic thimble of powerful apple rice wine. I had a tiny carafe with dinner and could barely walk back to the hotel after. It must have had about 40% alcohol content, so nothing remotely resembling wine. Evil misnomer.

Egg coffee, HanoiEgg coffee. Super sweet and frothy. Hanoi is known for this stuff and several other coffee variants, including…

Yogurt coffeeYogurt coffee, which did not taste like coffee and had to be eaten with a spoon.

Coconut milk coffeeAnd finally, coconut milk coffee. This was great. Like an indulgent, mini-cappuccino.

Someday, I suppose I should return to Vietnam and actually do some stuff, but in terms of cultural immersion, I think I nailed it.