...get back to eating in HCMC.

Trip Start Mar 05, 2012
Trip End Ongoing

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Where I stayed
Giang Son Guesthouse Ho Chi Minh City
Read my review - 5/5 stars
What I did
Some of the city, lots of the food

Flag of Vietnam  ,
Friday, June 8, 2012

Indonesia has some great food, as long as you eat locally. Most of it is prepared early in the morning and sits out all day - takes a little getting used to, but otherwise full of flavor and variety. Nevertheless, it can be hard to find when the small places are replaced with 'backpacker friendly' restaurants with overpriced, (generally) poor quality food.

Enter Vietnam, a welcome return to fresh ingredients, natural flavors, quick service (usually), and cheap cheap prices.

Pho (pronounced the same as the "fu" in fudge) was the first target on the extensive list of must-try Vietnamese dishes. We failed. It was made from chicken broth and served with tough, rubbery chicken that has been cut in a strange way (i.e. it takes a lot of practice to learn how to eat it effectively and efficiently). The next attempt was a major success. Beef Pho (Pho Ba): barely cooked beef is served over rice noodles in a beef broth (usually blended with fish sauce) with green onions and garlic. On the side is fresh mint, Thai basil, coriander (cilantro) and bean sprouts, pre-cut limes, and sliced chilies, all to be added at your discretion to the savory broth. Chili sauce and sweet soy are added to a dipping bowl for your meat (or added to the soup). Freshness dominates the dish while, as you can imagine, a myriad of flavors dance on your tongue.

Banh Mi was the next one. Essentially a Vietnamese sandwich, a fresh baguette is stuffed with a variety or one single kind of meat (choices include but are not limited to: beef, BBQ pork, seafood, chicken, pate, and mystery meat - don't ask cause I don't know. I'm not sure anyone else does). Then a salad of pickled cabbage is added along with chili sauce, or soy sauce, or mayo, or something else, or a mix of those. Finally fresh herbs (same as in the Pho) are added. It's hard to describe the flavor...but it's delicious.

We spent almost a week in HCMC, which you don't really need to do, unless you are in the market for a camera and a laptop. After a lot of hunting and research, I managed to acquire both, and we did do some sightseeing.

More importantly, we did a cooking class. It was expensive, but we both love to cook so the expense was justified. Rather than explaining the whole cooking class, I am just going to include the recipes and directions, as provided by the cooking class (Vietnam Cookery: http://vietnamcookery.com/). I should mention though, Cody's portable gas burner caught on fire in the middle of cooking something...anyway, the recipes:

 Ingredients:- 100g – 150g banana flower- 100g pork tenderloin- 100g shrimps- onion (slice)- 10g rau ram (replaced by sweet basil)- A big chilli (sliced)- 1-2 teaspoons of fried sesame seeds- teaspoon of sesame oil- 1-2 teaspoons of fried shallot- 2 tablespoons of dipping fish sauce- 1 ea chilli flower


- 1 tablespoon of sugar- 1 tablespoon of lemon juice- 1 tablespoon of white vinegar- A pinch of pepper- teaspoon of salt-> Mix all of them until sugar is dissolved completely


Pork tenderloin: Boil over medium heat about 8 minutes. Remove from heat; soak it in fresh water until cool enough to handle (5 – 10 minutes). Thinly slice it.- Shrimps: Boil over high heat with fresh water and a little white vinegar or wine until opaque about 3 – 5 minutes. Remove from heat and rinse quickly them under running water. Then shell them.


1. Marinate boiled shrimps and pork with 1 tablespoon of marinated sauce and 1 tablespoon of dipping fish sauce. Let it stand about 1 – 3 minutes.2. Marinate banana flower, fried shallot, white onion, rau ram or mint, chillies and teaspoon of sesami oil with the rest of marinated sauce. Then add marinated shrimps and pork and 1 and half tablespoon of dipping fish sauce. Toss them together until well combined. Let it stand abour 1 – 3 minutes.3. Transfer to a serving plate, sprinkle sesami seeds for garnish. Then put a chilli flower on the top of the salad. To be served with "nuoc mam cham" dipping fish sauce and shrimpcake. 

Ingredients:- 200g rice flour- 50 g corn starch- 50g pork bacon (cooked and sliced)- 50g shrimps, peeled- 100g  green bean, cooked- cup of fresh water- 2 cups of coconut milk- teaspoon salt- 1 teaspoon of turmeric powder- 2 tablespoons of spring onion, minced- 100g bean sprout- A white onion ( sliced and cooked)- Cooking oil- A chicken egg


- Bean sprout: wash then drain.- Flour preparation for crepes: Whisk together the rice flour, corn starch, coconut  milk, egg, salt, cup of fresh water and a pinch of turmeric powder until they are well combined. Strain the batter and add minced spring onion. Leave it to stand for 10 minutes.


1. Heat cooking oil in a pan. Then, wait it hot and take oil out in a bowl. Pour 1 ladle of flour preparation. Swirl it around quickly over high heat (starting from the center of the pan and swirling so that the batter moves outward to have round and thin shape). Then add bean sprouts, pork bacon, shrimp, white onion and green bean one side. Put the lid on, lower the heat for 1-2 minutes. Take the lid off, pour the cooking oil from bowl to a pan, just one side. Then, keep cooking until the pancake turns into golden brown and crispy. Fold the pancake up and take oil out in bowl. Remove from the heat and transfer it onto a plate.2. Served with herbs, lettuce, and dipping fish sauce.


Ingredients:- 150- 200 gr chicken meat.- 2 tablespoons chopped lemongrass.- 1-2 teaspoons chopped chilli.- 1 teaspoon chopped garlic.- teaspoon black pepper- 1 tablespoon fish sauce- 1 teasppon chicken powder- 2-3 teaspoons sugar- 2 teaspoons curry powder.- 2 teaspoons annatto oil.- 1 tablespoon cooking oil.- Boiled water


- Chicken meat : chop into piece. Marinate with 1 tablespoon of lemongrass, chili, 1 teaspoon of garlic, fish sauce, pepper, sugar, chicken powder, 1 teaspoon of curry powdern and annatto oil. Leave them absorb from 15-20 minutes.- Annatto oil : Heat the oil until boil, add annatto seeds and stir around over low heat until the cooking oil turn to dark red colour. Can replace by curry powder.


- Heat the pan, add cooking oil, add garlic, chopped lemongrass, chilli and curry powder to stir until fragrant.- Add the chicken meat into the pan and keep stiring until they're all shrink.- Add the water in to cover the chicken meat. Season again to taste and cook over medium heat until the sauce gets thicken.
* Serve with steamed rice and lecttuce, cucumber or tomato.


We also had rice cooked in coconut water, which needs no explanation and a dessert that wasn't great. So anyone who would like to try some Vietnamese cooking at home, go nuts. I don't know what annato oil is, it's used mainly for color so you can live without it or sub in paprika and a little oil. Instead of banana blossom/flower, you can use shredded cabbage, shredded radish, or anything else of a similar texture.




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