My whole life, I've always wanted to visit Viet Nam. My parents are both Vietnamese, but I was born in Seattle. It felt like the final step to adulthood was to visit the country that both my parents were raised in.
After I graduated from college and before I got married, I thought it was the perfect time. This past May, my family, fiance and I flew that long 18 hour flight to Ho Chi Minh, Viet Nam. I could not recommend a more perfect time to visit Viet Nam. The weather was perfect, and there was not a lot of tourist (tourism season is June through August).
We booked a tour with Saigon Tourist to explore the main cities of Viet Nam. We traveled from Ho Chi Minh to Ha Noi and all the cities in between. I can't even begin to tell you everything that we loved about Viet Nam. We found ourselves in luxurious beach resorts, shady alleys, kayaking in Ha Long Bay, walking from busy street to busy street, haggling with the locals and exploring all the different districts of the town. However, one of the things I loved the most about Viet Nam was the food.
All of us have unanimously agreed that the Lunch Lady in Ho Chi Minh (Saigon) was hands down the highlight of our small culinary existence.
She has been featured on Anthony Bourdain's show but was first introduced to the world at Gastronomy. She is better than everybody has raved about. Although she charges 20 cents more for tourists than locals, I would've paid so much more for her bowl of soup. She makes a different soup every day, and we came every day that we could.
Tuesday is her Banh Canh soup (pictured on top). It is my personal favorite and probably the best thing I've ever eaten in the world. The noodles taste so different than any Vietnamese noodles I've ever had here in America. It's similar to Udon, but nothing beats the handmade texture that I have only found here at her store.
Friday seems to be the tourists' favorite. Her bun bo hue is definitely top notched. Bun bo hue is a flavorful, spicy beef broth enhanced with lemongrass and chiles. It definitely has a kick.
Wednesday is her Purple Chicken soup. Purple chicken is loosely translated, but it is chicken whose meat looks darker. The chicken is more expensive than other chickens and is said to have medicinal properties. It was a very good soup with Chinese noodles.
Each day brought a new soup with an entirely new flavor. I would've bet money that all dishes were made by a different chef had she not made her soup right there in the middle of the street.
Then, there was the night market in Phu Quoc:
The night market is not only local to Phu Quoc. Head to any touristy beach city in Viet Nam and you'll find dozens of vendors selling fresh seafood and fried food for under five dollars. My favorite was the dozen mussels for $3 and the fried bananas for $0.50. I kept coming back to eat those again and again and for the price, I could've sampled the whole menu for under what I would've paid for one entree in the United States.
I'll post pictures of the scenery we saw in Viet Nam next time, but wow, the food alone is worth a trip.