Food and Fun in Vietnam

Food and Fun in Vietnam

Happy New Year!

We hope you had a wonderful holiday. Ours was great! We just returned from visiting family across the world in Vietnam. We had an unforgettable experience and had a ton of fun learning about how people grow, store, cook, and enjoy their food.

My family in Saigon has an amazing backyard where they grow coconuts, mangos, jackfruit, and much more. On our first day there, my uncle cut down coconuts and we enjoyed fresh coconut water. So awesome.

Uncle cutting coconut Coconuts on the ground
Hanging fruit Cut fruit

Also, all the meals we had (even out) consisted of mostly whole foods, including meat, fish, rice, rice noodles, veggies, and fruit. We ate so much the entire trip and still felt great.

Table full of food Plate of beef and onions

Typically, we had pho, a popular beef and rice noodle soup, or com tam, broken rice, veggies, and grilled pork for breakfast. Afterward, we would go to a local coffee shop and get iced green tea and Vietnamese slow-drip coffee. This coffee is usually sweetened with condensed milk, but we often enjoyed it just black over ice. The coffee alone had a uniquely creamy texture. Lunch and dinner were typically another rice and meat dish accompanied by vegetable soup. For snacks, we enjoyed fresh fruit. Yum!

Bowl of pho Plate of com tam

Most meals out were purchased from roadside restaurants and we commonly ate on little plastic tables on the street. These places were similar to our fast food places because the food was partially prepared and we were served quickly, but the food quality seemed much better. Each roadside restaurant specialized in one type of dish and we were only able to make a few specific requests.

Sitting at little tables Vietnamese black coffee

Trying the various fruits was one of my favorite parts of the trip. Like I mentioned earlier, some fruit was from my family’s backyard. Other fruits were purchased at the market or from street vendors. The street vendors walk the city with various pre-cut fruits on ice. We just told them what we wanted and they cut it into smaller pieces and packaged it to go. Some of the fruits I recognized and some were new to me. I tried to get names of all of them but was unable to find an English translation for some.

Fruit vendor cutting fruit Holding lychee fruit
Holding dragonfruit Cut dragonfruit

The markets are a food safety nightmare. All raw meat, pre-cooked meals, and raw vegetables are gathered and prepared daily. The items sit out at room temperature for the majority of the day. Some vendors have ice but it is not common. Locals buy what they need, cook it, and eat it. Most families don’t have refrigerators (or only have mini-fridges) so they are not able to keep temperature sensitive foods for long.

Fresh vegetables on the ground Uncovered fresh vegetables
Covered fresh vegetables Baskets of eggs, garlic, and beans
Meat market Meat market

We observed small family gardens grown in raised beds. From what we saw, the main produce grown includes squash, herbs, leafy greens, and fruits. Almost all free space was used to grow edible plants, and we saw very little space dedicated to decorative plants. The people’s commitment to growing food in every available space meant that healthy whole foods could be found nearly everywhere.

Raised beds and bamboo trellis Inside the secret garden
Greens growing in styrofoam containers Secret garden

During our travels around northern Vietnam (Mong Cai), we saw large farms with banana trees, lime trees, rice fields, and pastured cattle. Our definition of pastured and free range is strict compared to what we observed in Vietnam. We saw chickens and cows freely walking through small villages!

Lime tree farm Rice field along highway
Chickens eating rice Chicken eating a coconut
Field of growing vegetables Cows in a small village

We traveled far north to the border between Vietnam and China. There, we shopped at the Mong Cai market where Chinese citizens cross over to Vietnam for the morning to sell all kinds of goods. My little sister got two knock-off Michael Kors and Prada purses. She loves them! The markets are fun but a little stressful. Luckily, my dad and his wife were around to help us bargain prices.

While in northern Vietnam, we took a day cruise at Ha Long Bay. It was so beautiful and relaxing. During the cruise, we stopped at a floating fishing dock where live seafood is stored until sold.

Floating fishing dock Seafood in baskets

We hope you found Vietnam as beautiful and interesting as we did!

The view at Ha Long Bay
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