Tag Archives: travel

Vietnam Trip Food Highlights

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Food is always a major part of any vacation for us, and Vietnam was no exception!  As we predicted, the best food was on the street or in food stalls. Although only a few of the restaurants that we tried were above average, sometimes we just needed to escape the street.

What really surprised me was that the meals that we had in our hotels (breakfast buffets seem to be included everywhere, and we ate all meals on the boat in Halong Bay) were excellent.  I can’t remember the last time I’ve been pleasantly surprised by food at a hotel in the U.S.

Some highlights:

We went to this skewer food stall in Hanoi three of the five nights we were there!  You fill a basket with the skewers that you want to try, then they grill them and bring them to your “table” (i.e., plastic foot stool surrounded by mini-stools).  Our favorite was thinly sliced beef wrapped around a bundle of enoki mushrooms. They also grill baguettes and douse them in honey as an accompaniment. This place was great because it didn’t require having to interpret a menu.  I think that it was on Hang Bong near Hang Manh in the Old Quarter.

Bun cha in Hanoi.

Banh cuon in Hanoi – Rice crepes stuffed with pork and dried shrimp, then tossed with crispy fried shallots. Delicious!

Garlic-showered short ribs at New Day Restaurant in Hanoi.

Mapo tofu at New Day Restaurant in Hanoi.  The fresh tofu was creamy and amazing.

Geoduck on the boat in Halong Bay.

Grilled prawns from Hoa Su in Can Tho. This restaurant is made up of a series of bungalows over the Mekong River, connected by wooden walkways. Paco tried to order snake, but you had to order an entire snake (the smallest were half a kilo). These prawns were a delicious substitute.

Speaking of Can Tho, here’s a picture of the main street. Look at all of the little food carts lining the sidewalk!  We tried fried beef balls, fried tofu and okra, beef wrapped in grape leaves, banh mi, summer rolls, and sugarcane juice. They also served this delicious chicken and rice dish. . .we had a drumstick but they also served the biggest chickens’ feet that I have ever seen, and chicken heads for the more adventurous.

Combo pho from Pho 24 in Saigon, the only place we came across that served it with tripe, tendon, etc.

Congee was a popular breakfast buffet option. My favorite combination involves salty egg, thousand-year-old egg (preserved duck egg), dried anchovies, and crispy shallots.

Tapioca flour dumplings at Xu in Saigon.

Is there anywhere that you would vacation just for for the food?

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Vietnam Vacation Recap

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It’s good to be home!  We had a great vacation, but there is nothing like a long trip to make you appreciate all the comforts of home.

Vietnam is a beautiful country, and we were able to visit some amazing places:

Hanoi – Bustling, culturally and historically rich, with amazing food!

Halong Bay – Paco and I are not boat people.  We both get seasick, and I was really skeptical about how the food and accommodations would be on a boat. (I swear I am not that picky, but the idea of spending three days on an unsafe/uncomfortable/unsanitary boat in a foreign country really freaks me out!)  However, our hotel in Hanoi recommended Paradise Cruises, and we were so glad that they did. The food, service, and rooms were all lovely, and we wouldn’t have been able to have the same experience staying somewhere on shore.

Can Tho (in the Mekong Delta) – I really wanted to see the floating markets in the Mekong Delta, so we flew down to Can Tho.  Can Tho is a small, approachable city, and it had an awesome selection of street food!  Our hotel had a very relaxing atmosphere and a lovely pool, so we really enjoyed the “break” between Hanoi and Saigon. The markets that we visited were busy with wholesalers selling their produce to vendors, and surprisingly untouristy. Can Tho was definitely one of the trip’s highlights.

Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) – Saigon seems to get a bad rap from travelers, who generally prefer Hanoi for its history and charm.  Maybe we were just tired of Hanoi’s crowded streets and lack of sidewalks, but we really liked Saigon. There are sidewalks!  The city is more modern than Hanoi which makes it less unique, but I happen to like the big, Asian cities I’ve visited (Hong Kong, Singapore, Bangkok), and modern features are a plus for me.

I’m suffering from jet lag-induced insomnia, so I am going to try to catch some zzz’s before the sun rises. . .I have a separate post planned for the delicious food we encountered!

Pre-vacation purchase – TOMS shoes

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A trip to Hong Kong in 2011 for my cousin’s wedding taught me something — people in large, Asian cities do not wear sandals. No matter how all-occasion appropriate they seem in Southern California (and all of California, weather permitting), they are just not appropriate for walking around a congested, dirty, Asian city, no matter how hot it is.  I bought a pair of cheap, Hong Kong flats to wear while I was there, but they were not particularly comfortable.  We leave for Vietnam this week, and I refuse to make the same mistake again!

In L.A., I live in flip-flops and boots for day-to-day wear, and wear tennis shoes for working out.  None of these seem appropriate for traipsing around Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, where it’s going to be 90 degrees and often wet. I just bought a pair of TOMS, and my hope is that these no-socks-required slip-on walking shoes will solve all of my travel problems!

I’ve never really jumped on the TOMS bandwagon (much like the Uggs bandwagon, I’m such a fool), but after taking a look at their website, they’ve convinced me!  For anyone not familiar with their campaign, they donate one pair of shoes to a child in need for each pair purchased. What really gets me, though, is that the founder was inspired by a trip to Argentina in 2006!  Paco and I lived in Buenos Aires, briefly, in 2006, and volunteered at a battered women’s shelter. Many of the children were shoeless, and Paco’s dad generously donated funds so that we could buy them all shoes. The TOMS cause is much closer to my heart than I would have suspected.

If they can get me through this trip without slipping (both of my ankles are currently injured), coming into practically barefoot contact with a rodent (happened in Kowloon), or contaminating my foot with the treacherous surroundings of the dreaded Asian squat toilet (don’t get me started), I will be a satisfied customer!

Apple walnut muffins

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We took the dogs camping at Leo Carillo State Park this weekend, and for breakfast I made a batch of apple muffins (in advance, not at the camp site). We finally finished off the huge back of apples that my dad brought us!  In addition to eating them plain, I made an apple crisp recently.

For the muffins, I used the recipe from Joy of Cooking.  I was really impressed with their portioning!  I multiplied the recipe amounts by 1.5, and it made exactly 18 muffins.  We ate them the next morning after sitting in a freezing car overnight, and they were still moist.

Apple Walnut Muffins
Adapted from Joy of Cooking (2006 version), makes 18 muffins

2 1/4 c flour
3 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp salt
2 1/4 tsp cinnamon
3 eggs
1 1/8 c sugar
2 1/4 c diced peeled apples, with their juice
1 stick butter (8 T), melted
3/4 c chopped walnuts

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F and line a muffin pan with paper liners. Combine the dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon) in medium-sized bowl.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the eggs and sugar. Add the apples, stir in, and allow to stand for 10 minutes. This is what makes the muffins flavorful and juicy!

Add the butter and walnuts to the eggs, sugar, and apples. Stir to combine. Slowly add the dry ingredients to the wet ones, and stir gently to combine. The batter will be thick and somewhat lumpy.

Spoon batter into the muffin tins, so that each cup is about 2/3 full. Bake for 15 minutes.

Happy birthday to me!

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It’s my 29th birthday, and I just got back from an awesome 4-day trip to Washington, D.C. Four of my friends from college/San Francisco now live there–Cher, Alexi, Kathryn, and Elliotte–and our other good friend Kari came down from New York, so it was quite the reunion! It was so fun to see everyone, and I have to say that Alexi deserves some sort of medal for hanging out with girls the entire time with zero complaints.

Kathryn and I were roommates while studying abroad in Santiago, Chile, where all of the foreign exchange students drank liters of draft beer (litros de schop) like it was our (our) job. Here we are nine years later partaking in some of the same!  All that is missing is some fried empanadas and Big Pan.