Rambutan

Hello everyone!

Sorry about the absence – I’ve had a packed week here exploring, making new friends, getting a job (!), getting lost (and found, and lost again) and trying so many new things I hardly know which way is up. I’ll be more regular about posting now that I’ve adjusted somewhat, I promise!

And, of course, many of those new things were eaten, because I particularly love food. Most were even enjoyed, and all but one was kept down. So, as I listen to the f-ing roosters this morning, I will take you on a mini food tour of what I’ve eaten this week.

Street Food

My favorite thing about Ho Chi Minh City so far (or Saigon, as the locals seem to call it – it’s confusing) is the street food. Hands down. It’s fresh, healthy, and oh-my-god tasty. Most vendors will specialize in only one dish, and many will only prepare it one way.

You can’t even tell they’re half gone!

Banh Mi – 15,000 VND/ $0.72 USD Each

Vietnamese culture seems to have but one sandwich, but it’s unbelievable. I could live on just banh mi. These two are from a place down the street called Merry Christmas. One is pork, and one is chicken. They are in a bag because I wanted to hide the fact that I couldn’t wait to get home to eat half of each.

If you’re unfamiliar with banh mi, it is a light and airy french baguette, smeared with liver pate and homemade mayo, topped with cilantro, jalepenos, daikon, cucumber, carrots, and a drizzle of soy sauce. The bread is hollowed out first, everything is layered in, and then you choose your meat.

They’re also ridiculously easy to make at home – but be sure to get the right bread, as this post notes.

One of my goals for today is to find a market and get the ingredients to make these bad boys in my hotel room!

I have eaten these every day. Gotta put a stop to that…
OR DO I?!

Bahn Bao – 15,000 VND/ $0.72 USD Each

Many Chicagoans are familiar with Wow Bao, a chain in the loop area that sells delicious bun-like things. These are a whole ‘nother level.

Essentially, they’re a sweet dough wrapped around a savory filling, and then steamed. My favorite so far has been a kind of sausage (I don’t ask) with whole, small hard boiled eggs mixed in. I know one of the ones I had this week was duck, but they seem to be primarily pork, and they are delicious. Here’s a recipe if you’re adventurous.

All the ones I’ve seen have been the size of a softball.

Good appetizer, bad main dish – too FRESH.
Goi Cuon with Peanut Sauce – 10,000 VND/ $.50  Each
These translate to salad rolls, and they’re SO FRESH. Full of shrimp, basil, lemongrass, lettuce, cilantro, vermicelli noodles, and chives, the name is perfectly descriptive. The ones I bought came with a cup of spicy/sweet peanut sauce, although many will be served with fermented fish sauce (haven’t tried that yet).
They were good, but I was hoping for more of a shrimp taste. The greens certainly cleared my palette, though!
Breakfast and Dinner at my Hotel

Breakfast is substantial here.

This was a rack of some kind of barbecued rib on top of rice, a daikon/carrot mixture, vermicelli noodles that seemed to be fried, a kind of egg loaf of some sort, and a delicate sauce (fish sauce? no idea. My method with sauces and rice is pretty much “Pour it on!!” Hasn’t failed me yet.)

It was quite good. My hotel proprietress treats me very well.

Most breakfasts here have been variations on this – rice, a couple veggies, noodles, an egg in some form, and a protein.

The one exception was also my favorite – baguettes with fried eggs and soy sauce. MMMMMMM.

All of my meals have also come with iced tea and vietnamese iced coffee (delectable!).


Dinner is even more substantial!

This is one meal I had. Dinner varies considerably from day to day, but always includes a salad, a meat, a soup, rice and veggies, and fruit for dessert.

This one was particularly good. Cucumber/tomato salad and a Beef and Watercress soup complemented the main dish of rice, sauteed veggies, pork belly, and fried eggs (whole, hard-boiled pan fried eggs! It was NUTS! and DELICIOUS!). Also, PORK BELLY. This was the best supper I’ve had so far – I loved it all.

Again, no idea what the sauce was, besides awesome.

For dessert, crazy red fruit. More on that in a minute.

Crazy Fruits

 These are Rambutan.

 They’re about the size of a ping pong ball. Here’s how to eat them.

I quite like them, after you peel them open they have the texture of peeled grapes, or perhaps human eyeballs. I wouldn’t know about the eyeballs personally, but that’s what they remind me of. They have a thick skin and are sweet, with a pit.

I have no idea what this is. I thought it might be cam sanh, a kind of green orange grown here, but the wikipedia page looks like the skin of those are much thicker and bumpier.

Whatever it is, it tastes exactly like an orange. Which I enjoy. So that’s that.

And that’s all I’ve got for now! Upcoming posts include how I live in an alley, my new job, and my adventure getting lost in District 8!