Super strong and super sweet – Vietnamese coffee (ca phe) is famous around the world for a reason!
Iced in the hot weather of southern Vietnam there really is nothing better. Vietnamese coffee is made from Robusta which is grown in Vietnam, it has a super high caffeine content so beware of drinking too much!
The coffee is made using a little drip filter which drips over a layer of condensed milk (sua) or served black, it will be served with a glass of ice (da) and a delicious cup of iced green tea (tra da pronounced chada). The sticky sweet condensed milk gives this iced coffee a truly unique syrupy taste and the coffee a thick texture that is utterly mouth-watering.
On top of the glorious taste of the actual coffee, my other favourite thing about this drink is the coffee culture. It is a way of life to slowly sip your ca phe sua da on the side of the road with accompanying tra da, playing cards, chatting, reading or even just enjoying your own company in the morning sun. (Well shade if you’re Vietnamese but sun if you’re English and seeing the sun is still a novelty).
If you’re not a coffee lover, you are in luck in Vietnam, you have PLENTY of other soft drink options, among my favourites are the sharp and tangy passionfruit juice and the sweet, thick avocado smoothie (commonly mistranslated to butter smoothie – very confusing – and yes I ordered a butter smoothie in order to find that out).
But by far the best drink is…
The mangos in Vietnam are so deliciously sweet, aromatic and juicy that blending it up with ice can only make for an amazing summer refresher! I’m pretty sure, however, that these delightful mango smoothies are also blended with condensed milk which would make them not so good were you to be dieting, so if you were looking for something a little healthier, keep reading…
Fruit is sold everywhere in Vietnam, there are fruit shops on every corner, juices and smoothie carts everywhere and it is cut up and sold by women on streets and on beaches, you can’t get away from fruit!
Which is definitely a good thing if you love food like me.
Mangoes (as previously mentioned) deserve another mention because they are just. that. good. I have ruined many a perfectly good white tee due to juicy yellow mango juices but I don’t care because they are just. so. good.
Sour mango is also sold – it’s like un ripe mango – which is served with salt to dip the pieces of mango in. Although I found it odd at first, I fast became obsessed the more I ate it. The salt brings out some of the sweetness in this unripe fruit, giving a sweet and sour sensation – no wonder it’s such a popular snack! I definitely recommend giving this a try if you see it around.
Another clothing ruiner is the red dragon fruit, juicy and delicious but an incredible shade of fuchsia which really will stain everything in its path.
I must also mention my discovery of the lychee family, I have always loved a lychee, I really don’t know how I was eating lychees at a young age in the middle of Somerset where they are definitely not native, but that’s for my mother to know and me to find out. My discovery really was in the different lychee-esque fruits, my favourite being the longan! These are like the lychees less flashy cousin, they have hard brown outer shells that you peel off and eat the centre! Called “dragons eye” in Vietnamese, these are fantastically sweet and juicy, they can be found in bunches all around Vietnam – delicious.
Sweetsop is also known as the custard apple or the sugar apple because it has a naturally sweet flavour, a delicious fruit which is also great in a smoothie!
The last fruit I want to mention (because I could keep going all day) is the cam sanh, the king mandarin, the orange to defeat all oranges. The cam sanh is sold juiced at coffee carts all over Vietnam and trust me it will be the best orange juice you will ever taste.
The only odd thing about the cam sanh is that it is not orange at all, it is a very vibrant shade of green.
Bo kho is a rich and decadent beef stew, which, like many authentic Vietnamese dishes, is served with fresh herbs, limes and chillies, pickled garlic and sauces. This is what makes the dish. Although the stew itself is absolutely delicious, the fun, character and freshness of Vietnamese cuisine comes from how it is served, adding herbs and sauces will enhance your meal tenfold, so don’t be afraid to throw loads of herbs in there and splash in that fish sauce!
The meat in bo kho is slow cooked for a tender texture and the flavours are those of a comforting home-cooked meal.
This dish is served with either bread (banh mi bo kho) or noodles, both make for a fantastic feast.
Bun cha is served as broth with grilled pork pieces, pork meatballs and veg, it has noodles on the side as well as the usual fresh herbs, chillies, limes, pickled garlic and sauces.
My favourite kind of bun cha is spicy with a lot of pickled garlic, this is my go to Vietnamese dish.
Nem means spring rolls, spring rolls are delicious in Vietnam I highly recommend ordering spring rolls wherever you can to complement a meal.
Bun nem is the same as bun cha but instead of pork and meatballs, your broth will arrive with cut up pieces of fried spring rolls and let me tell you,
Another famous Vietnamese food – banh mi!
Banh mi is essentially just a baguette sandwich but it is soooo goooood…
You can fill your banh mi with a variety of things; fried eggs, pate, cold cuts of meat, salad, fish sauce, chillies, coriander, sardines! The possibilities are endless.
Banh mi is made with baguettes because they originate from the days of French colonisation, this is the same reason as to why they are coated in pate… delicious.
Banh mi can easily be made at home! All you need is a baguette, and whatever fillings you prefer! I would recommend pate, ham or sausage, fresh slices of spicy chilli, pickled carrots, fresh cucumber, fresh coriander, maybe some mayo…
The world is your oyster.
This depends where in Vietnam you are travelling but there are loots of seaside cities which mean loots of fresh, cheap and delicious seafood!
Looking out into the sea at night, you can see green fluorescent lights bobbing up and down, these come from squid fishing boats attracting fresh squid to sell at the market the next day.
Fish markets are one of my favourite things in Vietnam, walking round the markets you can see a huge variety of fish and shellfish, which you can pick out for yourself and they will be cooked on a grill for you then and there!
So fresh, so yummy.
The fish I was most interested in at the markets was always squid. The squid would lay over ice as you would see anywhere in England, but they would still be changing colours, it is such a beautiful thing to watch, it looks truly alien.
Another thing that’s great about fish markets is the whole fishes. Throw these on a grill wrapped in foil, enjoy a Saigon beer (bia), and your fish will be ready! You can then flake the flesh off the fish and enjoy an incredible fresh meal.
Arguably the most famous Vietnamese food, Pho consists of noodles, broth and fresh herbs, chillies, limes and whatever sauces you fancy throwing in there..
Pho comes in many different shapes and sizes, chicken (ga), beef (bo) or veggie! Your pho will be served with fresh herbs to rip up and put it, as well as fish sauce, chilli sauce and all sorts of other sauces to slosh in there to make your broth extra tasty.
It’s a hearty bowl of food often eaten for breakfast in Vietnam, the herbs make this dish so fresh and the sauces give a customisable flavour to every bowl of pho and it’s amazing.
You can get authentic pho if you search it out in England or America if you’re looking to give it a try without the air miles.
Sugarcane juice & coconuts
Literally sugar canes that are juiced, you would expect this drink to be sickly sweet, but it is surprisingly refreshing, especially when served over ice and with a little citrus juice squeezed in for extra measure.
I would also like to mention that sugarcane juice is very good with a little shot of rum, I am sure this is not how it is supposed to be drunk so don’t be like me. I’m just saying. Rum is made from sugar canes, sugarcane juice is made from sugarcanes, this equals a match made in boozy heaven.
Coconuts are another fresh juice which are abundant in Vietnam (and many other countries), coconut water on a hot day is a life saver, and drinking it straight from the coconut is even better! This is the best natural hydration, for me, I love it, but I know a lot of people don’t love the flavour. I find it sweet and satisfying as well as super hydrating!
If you have any questions or comments don’t hesitate to contact me
Speak soon, GB