Monday, March 1, 2010

Fe Fi Pho Fum

Saigon (or Ho Chi Minh City as government officials refer to it) is a frenetic modern city which maintains its pre-war reputation as a capitalist-and debaucherous-hub. Huge office buildings, bank headquarters, shopping malls, night clubs, and gourmet restaurants line many streets, and Saigon more closely resembles Bangkok or Hong Kong than Hanoi. Saigon does share food, language, and street crossing etiquette with Hanoi, except that in Saigon you are crossing 11-lane highways teeming with motorbikes, trucks, and lots of cars. Saigon is full of culinary delicacies (for example, snails, frogs, weasel-dropping coffee, and French restuarants); here are some of the things we have been eating throughout the country:

Tea with Jelly: This is just like normal tea, except for the large blobs of "jelly" floating around in it. Amazingly, the blobs can be sucked through straws and regain their shape once in your mouth. Ali really likes this stuff.

Papaya Oatmeal Boat: When we're not in the mood for either eggs and toast or beef noodle soup for breakfast, we make these papaya oatmeal boats. Our trusty pot, purchased all the way back in Nepal, has been banged around a lot, but is still purifying our water and cooking our oats.

Pho: Beef noodle soup. We eat it every day, usually with basil, lemongrass, lime, chilis and, Ali's favorite, sprouted mung beans. Apparently, Bill Clinton likes pho. When he visited Saigon in the 90s (the first U.S. president to visit Vietnam since the war), he ate at a now famous place called Pho 2000.

Rambutan: Not to be confused with lychee, which are also small, pink and prickly, we purchase these things by the kilo, usually from old ladies with bamboo baskets. They taste sort of like grapes, but you often end up with wood shavings in your mouth as the pits disintegrate easily.

Spring Rolls: Ali fries the first of several batches of spring rolls during her cooking class in Hanoi. She brought them home to Jeremy for lunch. They tasted good.

Shrimp Stuffed Glutinous Rice Balls with Duck Liver: Went out on a limb with this one...

We are departing tomorrow for Phu Quoc Island where we will hopefully stay in a small bungalow on the beach.

1 comment:

Cindy Pincus said...

ummm...i would like to join you on a small bungalow on the beach. and that's such a great idea to take a cooking class! that one i definitely want to hear about, like how did you find one and who was teaching it.

also, if you could fax me some jelly tea i would like to try these jelly blobs very much please thankyou.