Monday, 30 June 2008

Street Food - Part 1

Doh !!! I had completely forgotten to write about the wondrous street food we have encountered on our travels so far. These have mostly been fantastic, though with everything you always get some dodgy street food, that could leave you in the toilet for the best part of a day or two. Touch wood this will not happen to us, it hasn't so far. But we have had some bad street food. Rule of thumb, if a stall is busy, then 99 tiimes out of a hundred it will be good and the food is fresh. 
One of the best street stalls we encountered early one was in Phnom Penh in Cambodia. Just a little stall with a girl deep frying various bits and bobs. She had a few low seats around two equally low plastic tables. I noticed the constant crowd of people always there from the balcony outside of our hotel room. So one day we walked behind the hotel, and decided to have a closer look. She had what looked like an array of sausages and meats, most were recognisable. 
We sat down, and pointed to a few bits and bobs. Quite a lot of different type of sausages, bit of smoked tofu, some spiced chicken wings. These were then deep fried. We were given different dipping sauces for the different bits we had. The sauces, some were hot, some were sour, but all worked quite well with the different bits we had. A salad was provided also which I ate. We were quite happy with what she had cooked for us, and it was quite a bit, as we repeated some of the sausages again, with some different ones. We noticed an animal, which I thought was some form of bird, but actually tuned out to be a frog. Why not we say. Have to say it was damn nice, little bloody bones though. One nearly got tuck in the back of my throat. After getting whacked on the back by Lina, who seemed to enjoy it, the bone was dislodged. 
All this for a few dollars, excellent. This would have gone fantastic with a bottle of cold beer. But hey ho. Until the next update ........ 

Monday, 23 June 2008

Hanoi Hannah

I was expecting good things from Hanoi. It all however stared very bad. I really have an aversion to taxi drivers, and the guy who took us to our hotel,decided to ride around town for a bit to extract as much money from us as possible. I had heard that Hanoi has this reputation, which is a shame as the rest of Vietnam is fantastic.
We stayed at a hotel in the Old Quarter, which is great and atmospheric, apart from the massive amount of moto's, taxis and cyclos around. Making life a little dangerous at rush hour. 
Food is everywhere, people from Hanoi have a montage of foods to choose from. It is easy to find a good Pho shop, as I always say if it's busy then its good. Had some fantastic Pho Bo and Pho Ga. We had Pho everyday for breakfast, really does set you up for a busy day of sight seeing. I wonder if Uncle Ho had Pho everyday. 
We also got to have for lunch one day, Bun Cha. Barbecued pork, served in fish sauce and complemented with noodles and salad leaves. This really blew me away. I smelt the pork being cooked from a couple of streets away. Bizarre thing was the wind was blowing in the opposite direction. Somehow my nose homed in on it. Seated on small plastic chairs only fit for children in England. Biting into that delicious pork was pure heaven. I am a sucka for anything bar-b-q'd, as my obsession with it back in England can tell. Although I call myself an amateur compared to the folks at ... They are really obsessed. The whole combination of pork, fish sauce, salad leaves and noodles is a real mind blower. Why we only had this once, is beyond me, but time and other foods to seek out kept us away from this little street corner. 
A lot of the food in restaurants in the Old Quarter are really designed for tourists. So the food has been dumbed down, to one place where it really had no taste at all. How can anyone make duck with 5 spice powder taste of nothing is beyond me, but they succeeded. 
We didn't really have to search high and low for fantastic food, it just entailed a slightly longer walk than normal. We revisited Quan Ag Ngan, the same place where we had eaten in Saigon. Exactly the same great food, same layout, just as packed. I just love the way they cook either chicken, pork or shrimps in lemongrass and chilli. It has a real edgy bite to it. Lina opted this time, as she tried to have in Saigon, was the steamed mudfish. It comes with rice paper and salad leaves for you to roll your own. It was a good meal for 2 or even 3. But we did see some guy having it to himself. So greedy, but respect is due. The fish was so delicate, that anything else but steaming it would have killed the taste. Also no chilli dip was served, just leaves. Really fantastic. We did start t panic, as we always do not take large amounts of money with us, so we were panicking a little, until we got the bill as to wether we had enough money to pay for it. The fish was per kilo, and it was a big fish, but it came in just under a kilo. Phew. That will teach Lina to be so greedy. 
I had walked past Quan Com Pho, it did not look anything special, but something attracted me to it. So had a look inside. Full of local workers munching on some great looking food. The owner invited us in to eat, but as we had just had Pho, was not up to more food just yet. But I remembered the spot where it was, and we returned a day or so later for lunch. So glad we did. It would have been a crime to miss it. We never had that much, we just fancied some beers and something to eat whilst we were drowning our thirst. So we ordered some grilled squid in a honey sauce, and some clams in lemongrass and chilli. That combo again. To be honest we could of eaten everything on the menu. The squid had a real sweet taste to it, and it was a nice contrast to the citrsuy, chilli tang to it. Divine is the word we both kept saying afterwards. 
I had wanted to do a cooking class in Hanoi, but time and sight seeing kept me away. It would have been at Highway 4, if I managed to get my arse in gear in time. We did however eat there n our last night in Hanoi. The menu is a lot different from the normal places we had eaten at in Vietnam. Very French influenced. As you climb the stairs to the roof tp terrace, you can view all the activity in the kitchen. I  like places that show off the kitchen, it says to me, that we are claen and we do not mess around with your food. 
As we had eaten lunch, we decided on just the man course. Which to be honest, would have done a small dinner party rather than just the two of us. We had stir fried chayote with garlic and chilli, and a dish of pork leg simmered in some local wine (which I have forgotten what it was). It was melt in your mouth stuff. The fat was creamy and unxious, the sauce was thick and sticky and clung to the pork. This is my kinda food. Instead of rice to go with, they suggested bread to mop up those juices. Fabulous recommendation. Half way through I had to take a break and rest for a while before I made the final assault. We left a little bit of fat, didn't want to be see as really greedy gits. Even though we are. 
All in all Hanoi has some really good food, it's just unfortunate that a lot of people who got there, never get to eat this..... 

Pho - Is it just a Noodle Soup ?

Pho, is with out doubt the national dish of Vietnam. It is a bowl of white noodles served in a clear beef stock. In Hanoi, it seemed to have taken on obsessional status. They seem to have it for breakfast, lunch and dinner. I am sure there are people who eat it 3 times a day, everyday. It comes in many different variants, the most popular is Pho Bo, or Beef Pho. thin cuts of beef, like brisket, flank or steak. Although Pho Ga, Chicken Pho is pretty good also. You can make it with anything really, intestines and other offal are popular. 

The stock is made in the usual way of simmering beef bones, with roasted veg and spices for several hours till you have a stock to die for. This is really the backbone of a good Pho. Without a good stock it would be just a beef noodle soup, as you get in some Chinese restaurants. The noodles people use are always fresh white ones. No self respecting Pho seller would use anything else. 

The noodles are put in the bowl first, then the stock is added, and finally before it is served a garnish is added. This seems to differ from shop to shop, maker to maker. This is what sets some apart from others. Mostly spring onions, coriander leaves, basil, bean sprouts are used. We had one today off a lady who sprinkled crushed peanuts on top. Yummy. Depending on the shop you will also get served a dish of other herbs to add at your will, like mint, and a few I have never seen before. You always get a bowl of lime wedges, chilli sauce, chilli slices and fish sauce to add as well. I am in favour of a little more heat to my Pho, but only after I have tasted a bit already. I like to see how good their stock is before I pep it up a bit. Phở is pronounced with a falling-rising tone in Vietnamese, as if asking a question in English. It is therefore pronounced as FUH? But I try my best to say it properly, I think I am generally understood though. Especially when asking for Pho in a Pho shop. Kinda obvious what I want. 

Pho originated in Northern Vietnam, and only spread to the rest of Vietnam in the mid 1950's, after the division of the country. The Northerners who did not want to be under communist rule headed South and took Pho with them. Noone is sure how it came about, maybe from the French and their stock making skills, or it was created out of the scraps that the people could afford. Similar to all good peasant dishes. Their are also those who say it was came from China, but the Vietnamese, I am sure would kill anyone who said it was that. They still hate the Chinese. Not surprising after 1,000 years of rule. 

Some of the best Pho I have had here in Vietnam, has actually came from a chain. Pho 24. It's a clean, trendy place, but lacks atmosphere of your smaller family run business. Other good ones have been at Pho 2000 in Saigon. In Hanoi, the best Pho is where the crowds are, and these places are small family run. They do not look much, you sit on small plastic chairs at small tables. You have to wipe the chopstix and spoon before using them. So if I see a shop with a lot of local people, then 99 times out of a 100 it has to be good Pho. and until now, this has never failed me. 

Pho connesueurs, will say that the best Pho is from the north, and the southern style from Saigon, is somewhat sweeter. Pho Hue style contains bits of offal, like steamed blood. Yum, yum.  This what Lina was eating in Saigon, when that chilli tried to kill me, but as it was Pho, I forgave it. 

To say wether Ramen noodles are better than Pho is a question I am avoiding. Lets just say I am addicted to both, and lets leave it at that shall we. 

Friday, 20 June 2008

Hoi An - Culinary Delights

The food in Hoi An is some of the best we've tasted in Vietnam. Some of the restaurants we ate in were quite basic looking however. Reminded me a lot of Malaysia and Singapore, where great food comes from the most unusual places. One place we ate at, Cafe Restaurant 94, was either falling apart, or a master team of designers had been in there and made the place look on the brink of collapse. The food was fantastic though. 
Hoi An is known for a few specialities, which according to myth one of them are made by one family and the recipe is a closely guarded secret. 
It's a pretty town, which just adds to the touristic value of the place. It has a nice waterfront area, where you can sit and relax over a cold beer of an evening, and watch the rush hour boat traffic go by. 
The most surprising thing is that the quality of food for such a touristic place,  is very high. Even a few market stalls were selling good tasting food. This is always a good sign of any place that you are in foodie heaven. 
As I said Hoi An is well known for a few things. The most famous is Cao Lau. which is doughy flat noodles mixed with croutons, bean sprouts, greens, topped with pork slices. Crispy rice paper is crumbled on top just before serving. According to legend Cao Lau can only be made with water drawn from Ba Le Well. This well, a tourist attraction in its own right. It is supposed to date from Cham times. If the water for your Cao Lau is not drawn there, then it ain't Cao Lau. You can see old people drawing water from there in the mornings. A sign that a feast is going to happen in their house that day. 
We had it several times. It is served in quite small bowls, which is a pleasure actually, as too much of a good thing can be .............. The different flavours combined with the different textures make it a real pleasure to eat. Such delicate flavours. 
The other most famous dish that Hoi An offers is the White Rose. Shrimp encased in rice paper and steamed. The look of those shrimps coming through the translucent rice paper is really beautiful. You can taste the shrimp, the rice paper and the topping they use, all at the same time. The combination of flavours all work very well together. 
I had heard of Cafe De Amis owned by the famous Mr Nguyen Manh Kim. His restaurant is set out like his home. Really bizarre ornaments there. You take a seat and are given a drinks menu. You are then asked if you want either the meat, seafood or vegetarian set menu. It costs 70,000 dong. There are 7 dishes on each menu. You could ask what you are going to get, but I think that sometimes its nicer and more interesting to see what the chef is going to give you. We ordered one seafood and one meat menu. It was a never ending stream of food that came to our table. All the dishes were expertly cooked and tasted divine. The only dish neither of us were overly keen on was the stir-fried noodles. It reminded me of too many drunken visits to Chinese takeaways and ordering chow mein as it was quick to cook and easy to eat. I try to avoid stir-fried noodles as often as I can now. 
We took a moto to the beach one day. lovely wide and open beach. Lots of restaurants offering seafood line the beach with the normal touts trying to drag you in. We wandered down taking in the cool breeze and getting our feet wet in the sea. We stopped at one place, nothing different from this one than all the others, in fact they were all the same. 
The unfortunate thing that day, was that we never had that much money with us, as it was kinda a spur of the moment thing to do. So we counted our money and looked at everything on the menu. So we ordered two of the biggest coconuts we had ever seen. One would have done a family of four for a week. We also ordered 6 huge prawns, which came with a salt, chilli and lime dipping sauce. I have really got into that taste of salt and lime juice to dip your seafood in. Yum yum. 
The prawns were simply grilled over charcoal to perfection. We demolished them as quickly as it took to cook them. For some reason seafood always tastes better to me, when you have sand between your toes. Oh I wish we had more money with us, cos when we went to pay they were cooking a lobster and some clams for someone else. It looked delish. 
Sometimes the best thing to do with seafood is just to cook it simply. No fancy sauces or butters or anything else. To taste the meat in its purest form is a pure delight. That was a good afternoon. 
The funniest thing we saw was on the train to Hue. At a stop a woman got on the train with a bag of dried shrimp to sell. Someone ordered some, and as if from nowhere out appeared a charcoal burner and she started to cook the shrimp, much to the train guards annoyance, who was screaming and shouting at her to get off the train as she was gonna burn it down. Smelt fantastic. 
If there is one place I would have loved to spent more time was Hoi An. It reminds me a lot of Bologna, where there is great food on every corner. But would have to join a gym and run my normal 5km a day just to keep my belly to a respectable size. 

Saturday, 14 June 2008

Red Bridge Cooking School in Hoi An

Many, many months ago when I used to work, and when I used to take the tube  everyday. I read the Metro. A free paper that used to keep me occupied during my 15 minute Journey. Most of the time it was pretty mundane stuff, but this one day they had a report on a cooking school in Hoi An, called the Red Bridge. It was quite a good report, and as we had just decided to quit work and goto South East Asia, I kept the article just in case we ended up in Vietnam.
As we have travelled North from Saigon, I have been meeting people who have been to the school. All reports were good. So as we arrived in Hoi An, I decided to do the class. I knew it was nothing to taxing, but just a mornings fun. Amazingly I even managed to persuade Lina to come with me. 
It runs everyday, with from what I can gather with about 18 people everyday. Nice little earner. You are taken around the central market and shown lots of fruit, veg, salads, fish, meat and normal everyday things that are used in a Vietnamese kitchen. All quite informative with lots of jokes from our market guide. It's amazing how much of Vietnamese food has a dual purpose. Like some leaves are good for arthritis, and some good for back pain. Two things I suffer from. Maybe I should move here. 
The market tour ends in a trip to a kitchen appliance stall, where we were shown the instruments to make flowers out of a carrots. Quite a hard sell, but in true Vietnamese fashion its all good fun. Quite a few people brought these implements, Lina included. I can really imagine her making petals from slices of carrot with every dinner we have from now on. Well it beats turning carrots as I was forced to do at Leiths. Failed miserably at that. 
We then had a leisurely 25 minute cruise downstream in their boat to the cooking school, which also turns out to be more of a resort than just a school. There is a restaurant and a swimming pool there, but as it is so far out of town, I can not see too many people making their way out there to dine. 
We were given a quick tour of their small herb garden. Lots of wonderful smells there. It was quite intoxicating. 
The area where we were to have our class was right on the water front. They had already set up the work stations for us, and chairs were lined up for us to watch the demonstrations. We each received a recipe sheet of everything we were going to cook, plus a few extras like dipping sauces etc. 
Our teacher for the class was the chef at the restaurant there. His jokes were well practised, and went very smoothly. He'd obviously been using them for quite a while. Some were funnier than others. 
We were first shown how to make a seafood salad, which was to be served in a cut out pineapple. Unfortunately we did not get to male this, but we did get to eat it afterwards and it was great. 
We made a quick aubergine and tomato sauce simmered in a clay pot. We never got to finish this and I am sure it was thrown away as the one we ate later was quite different.
Next we were shown how to make fresh rice paper. Quite a long process, with soaking the rice over night. Thankfully the rice had been soaked and blended. They are actually quite easy to make, all you need is a large pan 1/2 full of simmering water. A cloth tied tightly over the top and a larger lid. You take a ladle full of the liquid, pour it on the cloth and move it around from the middle to the outside. Pop the lid on, let it steam for one minute. Then prise it off with a thin piece of bamboo. This took me two attempts to get it off as the first one folded in on its self and stuck fast. The second was much better. Everyone made a decent attempt at it and we all got to roll our own salad rolls with an already prepared ingredients. They were delicious. Still not overly keen on the peanut dipping sauce as for me it doesn't taste too peanutty. But the chilli sauce. Delish.
After scoffing our salad rolls we were shown how to make Hoi An pancakes and a bit of fruit decoration. The pancakes were nice but a little bit greasy, as you use quite a lot of oil. But rolled in rice paper they were very good. My attempts of making a fan out of the cucumber and a rose from the tomato were, well not so fruitful. The picture shows how they should of looked. Not going to claim that one. 
Class finished with we sat down in the restaurant to eat all what we cooked. The aubergine in a clay pot was quite different from the one we started to cook earlier. This one had a few more ingredients in like garlic. I wonder what happened to ours. The seafood salad in pineapple was really delicious. We also had a steamed fish in a sweet and sour sauce, which we wrapped with salad in rice paper. Really delicate flavours. All washed down with a glass of Australian Pinot Grigot, it was a fun morning. Everyone had a good time. It was a different way of spending a morning, and nothing to taxing on the cooking front. 
Lina has said she wants to do all the cooking courses with me now. Finally I can get her to cook for me.... 
Next course Hanoi.

Bad Service or Over Service !!!

When does service become over service and when does that all become bad service. When you visit Aspara in Danang. For some reason al the staff had the longest faces, and were not very happy, either by being there or just in general, we were not sure. From the minute we walked in through the gates, we were getting funny looks off the staff. This I normally take as they either do not like foreigners as we do not speak their language, or we are not dressed to their standards. Tonite however, it must have been the former as we were looking pretty smart. 
I had heard about this place and heard only good reviews about the food, so we wanted to give it a try. It prides itself on it's Champa roots, so all the dishes, mainly seafood, are Champa based. There is even a small Champa Temple in the garden as you walk in. All very atmospheric. 
We were seated and given some menu's and immediately asked what we wanted to drink and order before we had even a chance to open the menu's. I guess they were just keen. The menu is vast, so this took us some time to go through, much to the annoyance of the waiters and waitresses, who kept wanting to take our order. We ordered a couple of drinks, just to keep them happy. We then scanned through the menu again, whilst we waited for our drinks. We decided on some salad rolls and some pork wrapped in shrimp paste and grilled for starters, and a Hot Pot with Fish Tien Sa Style. (Could not find out what Tien Sa was, or is, only that it was not spicy). 
The atmosphere made by the staff was over bearing. Our waitress who had a face like she was chewing a bee, she insisted on making our pork, shrimp rolls for us, we could have done it  ourselves, but hers were better, and I have never seen anyone roll something before with chopstix. Impressive. As we were eating, she would wander over and rearrange our table, just to make everything look perfect. This really got on my nerves, as she put everything just out of range. So I had to move my drink and dipping sauces closer. Grrrrr ...
Then came our hotpot, which she obviously didn't trust us to do it properly ourselves, so she did it for us behind our table. No matter what protests we made, we were ignored. Surprising she didn't eat it for us also. 
I have to say though, the food was really really good, just a shame that the over service was too much and really let the place down. Needless to say we didn't tip anything, which I think they were kinda surprised at, as their faces when they saw this were quite shocked.
A tip for them. Smile.

Saturday, 7 June 2008

I Got To Cook !!!

We were lazing on the beach in Nha Trang, soaking up a few rays, making our pasty white skin look a little bit more healthy. When I overheard a conversation between two couples. One couple had been here before, and was telling the other about a local restaurant called Lac Canh. He was describing it as a local institution. A real gem of a place, mainly visited by locals. This intrigued me. He described the food there and how it was cooked, which sent my taste buds into overdrive. 
Later I enquired in our hotel about Lac Canh, and they raved about it. Saying most people go their at least once a month with the whole family. What more of a reason did I need. Dinner was set. 
We strolled to Lac Canh, which was at the other end of the beach, it was a pleasant walk. As we drew nearer to it, we could smell the meat being cooked. My pace quickened somewhat. When we arrived, it seemed as if the whole place was on fire. The smoke made it hard to see. We were shown to our seats and given a menu. We were promptly visited by a beer girl, this time from San Miguel. We ordered a large bottle. Best to order one at a time here, as it gets warm quickly, and I want to get out of the habit of drinking beer with ice. Around us were tables full of Vietnamese families, enjoying themselves. Laughing, joking with eachother and eating loads. 
The menu is short and sweet. A small section on beef, pork, chicken, fish of varying types, a salad or two and a drinks section. What more do you need. 
To begin with we ordered some beef, which was marinated in an in house concoction. Which I gathered consisted of chilli, garlic, rice vinegar and lime juice. We also ordered a plate of shrimps, a salad and some baguettes. 
A charcoal bar-b-q arrived on our table, the coals were red hot, glowing like the sun itself. On top was a grate for us to put our food on to grill. 
The beef arrived first, so with chopstix I placed a few pieces on the grate. The smell was divine, as it dripped onto the coals, smoke would drift up. It was heaven. 
At Leiths, I was always taught, that when you cook a steak, to know when it's done, it's all in the touch. So with chopstix in hand, I prodded the beef slices to see when they were done. Not sure if my teacher had this in mind when she taught me, but it worked. The beef came off perfect. Cooked, but still juicy. 
Popped a bit in a piece of baguette with some salad and munched away. Delish. Taste was divine, a little bit of heat from the marinade, some taste from the flames, but it was so moist. Makes my mouth water just thinking about it. 
We cooked a few more pieces of beef, before we went for the shrimps. I had never cooked seafood on a bar-b-q before, well once before, when I got drunk and dropped them on the floor. So, this time I was a little bit more sober. As the heat from the coals was still quite high, they cooked pretty fast, turning them every so often, moving them around the grill as not to burn them to much. Peeling red hot shrimps with chopstix is a difficult job, but Lina is a natural at it. I may start hiring her out. They were delish, not as good as the ones we had n Bangkok, but pretty close to it. They were still juicy, but the taste of an open grill made them better. 
To be honest we ate the rest of the prawns and beef pretty fast. Easy to do when food taste this good. Now being a greedy git, I couldn't resist ordering some more. Shouldn't have, but I did. So I ordered some slices of pork belly marinated in the same in house sauce. These were a little more tricker to cook, as the fat kept dripping on the coals and flames would shoot up through the grates and lick the pork slices. So I had to be on my toes and keep moving them around the grate. They tasted divine also, the crispiness of the pork fat and the juiciness of the meat and their marinade was to die for that night. All washed down with several bottles of San Miguel beer, it was a fun night out. Plus I got to do a little cooking also. All this for about 5 pounds. I was in heaven.
Even though it was late, we decided to walk back as we were quite full. But with a full stomach and a happy heart, no walk is to long.

The Easy Riders

This is not so much about great food, but more about sharing food with good people on a good day. It's about the moment, the place, the time. 

We were in Dalat, a small hill station in the Central Highlands. It's a nice quiet town with loads of old French colonial buildings. The respite from the heat of the plains below, makes it a welcoming place. It's about 1500 metres above sea level, so a wider assortment of fruit n veg can be grown here, as we saw in the central market. Which probably made it more attractive to the French. It really made me wish that we had a kitchen, so I could buy a few ingredients and cook a little. 

Many years ago, a few locals got together and decided to become tour guides with a difference. They would do tours on their motorbikes of the local area and beyond if you wanted. They called themselves The Easy Riders. Obviously they had just been watching the said film. So, many years later there are now about 80 of them, touring the local area and taking people as far away as Hanoi. 

The one day tour we did, took us to a silk worm farm and factory, coffee & tea plantations, flower farms, and some local sights like the elephant waterfalls. I could not see the elephant. All with full explanations from either Son or Mr Ho.

It's really amazing how the land around Dalat, reminded us of the area around where we have our land outside Medellin. The scenery was identical. Pine trees as far as the eye could see. That hint of pine in the air took me right back to our land. Even the temperature and the heat of the sun took me back there. This made us both feel very excited for our future in Colombia.

After a hard morning of sight seeing we stopped at a small place, overlooking a fish pond and miles of fields. It was so peaceful. Son had phoned ahead to get a set menu ready for us when we arrived. 

The table was covered with small plates of food. Sesame pork, crispy fish, stir fried vegetables, chicken, noodles, spring rolls, soup and rice. It was a feast. We all shared the food. Taking a bit off a plate at a time and eating it, then going back for more off a different plate. 

We all chatted whilst we ate, telling a few stories and jokes. Some more funnier than others. 

It was a great day and the food just made it better. Sometimes the food does not have to be perfect to be great. It's all about the time, the place, the company. This was a perfect meal on a perfect day. It's one day I will never forget. 

If any of you go to Dalat, do the Easy Rider tour, and I hope you will enjoy as much as we did. 

Sunday, 1 June 2008

Saigon, Saigon

I had always had high expectations of Vietnam, especially its food. I suppose this has come about from so many people I know coming here and raving about it so much. 

I have passed through Bangkok so many times over the years, and it is quite baffling that it has taken me so long to come to Vietnam. But as they say, good things come to those who wait. 

We entered Vietnam from Cambodia. So Saigon or Ho Chi Minh City was our first stop. It is a really busy city, lots of life, great vibes. Shame there are 5,000,000 moto's ploughing the roads at high speeds. Makes crossing the road an interesting past time.

After a delayed check in to our hotel, and my first taste of Vietnamese Coffee and several bananas, we ventured onto the streets of Saigon. 

After seeing a lot of places catering for tourists, doing western food we were in need of something filling, but not too heavy. 

We wandered down a small alleyway and came across a small restaurant with an open kitchen on one side of the alley and the tables on the other side. Now if a restaurant is brave enough to let you stand there and watch your food being cooked, then it can't be all bad. 

So we took a table and ordered 2 bottles of Bia Saigon. Much needed refreshment. 

We ordered some fresh Salad Rolls, Lotus Root Salad and Pork with Lemongrass and chilli (which I have eaten now several times and is fast becoming a personal favourite.) 

When we bit into the Salad Rolls, the first thing we tasted were the fresh herbs. This is how I expected them to be, and we were not let down. 

The Lotus Root Salad was similar to Green Papaya Salad, but without the heat. of its Thai cousin. Really really good. 

The Pork and Lemongrass & Chilli, as I said before is fast becoming a favourite of mine. Seem to be having it everywhere. It's the combination of minced lemongrass and chilli that drives my taste buds mad. Simply Delicious. 

Walking around the markets, you can see the amazing fresh produce, this for me is what makes Vietnam such an exciting culinary destination. I for one and going to eat my way through it.