Banh Da Ca (Fish Noodle Soup)
This was the first, and one of the best, bites we had in Vietnam. Clear, full-bodied fish broth with two types of noodles—chewy, coffee-colored banh da and delicate white rice sticks—steamed river fish, fried river fish, fried fish roe, banana flowers, tomatoes and handfuls of fresh herbs.
Vietnamese Iced Coffee
The darkest, richest, strongest, and by far the best coffee I've ever had. Iced versions are available with sweetened condensed milk, thick frozen yogurt, or sweet black sticky rice. All amazing.
Eel Salad with Cellophane Noodles
After being stir-fried in a searing-hot wok, the eel is tossed with springy cellophane noodles, bean sprouts, mint, and fish sauce, then topped with fried shallots and chili paste. Smoky with wok char yet delicate. Brilliant.
Clean, beefy broth + handfuls of rice noodles + tender shreds of beef + lime + cilantro + chili sauce (on the side) = you want to eat this breakfast.
Fried Dough for Pho
Crisp and airy but with satisfying chew, especially after it soaks up some broth. World's best crouton?
Sugar Cane Juice
Carts fitted with hand-cranked sugar cane presses are all over the streets of Hanoi. The refreshing, fruity-sweet juice is poured into plastic to-go bags and punctured with a straw.
As rich and creamy as any classic French version, with a slightly more bitter caramel that I preferred.
Steaming the Banh Cuon Wrapper
After the thin rice flour batter is poured over the drum, it steams briefly before being ever-so-gently pulled free with a chopstick.
Banh Cuon with Eggs
Pork, wood ear mushrooms, and fried shallots appeared to be the most common fillings, but some batches got an egg dropped in the middle, too.
Banh Cuon with Pork-Cinnamon Sausage
The classic Hanoi preparation: a soft, delicately chewy steamed roll filled with minced pork and mushrooms, topped with crunchy fried shallots, and served with springy, slightly sweet slabs of cinnamon-y pork sausage.
One of the many fresh shellfish options at local Hanoi markets.
Red Dragon Fruit
In the States, you're more likely to see dragon fruit in Vitamin Water than at a market. In Hanoi, they're everywhere.
Hanoi Fried Spring Rolls
Crisp, flaky dough wrapped around ground pork, crabmeat, cellophane noodles, and wood ear mushrooms. A bowl of sweet-tangy-salty nuoc cham is always in tow.
Nha Trang's Banh Mi Lady
Tu, our awesome food guide in Vietnam (check out his blog Vietnamese God), said that this wonderful lady has been making some of the best banh mi in Nha Trang (his hometown) since he was a kid.
Seafood Banh Xeo
In coastal Nha Trang, banh xeo are made with hyper-fresh shellfish like shrimp and squid. The eggy rice flour batter is crisped in an oil-slicked, ripping hot cast iron pan.
Banh Xeo with Quail Eggs
An alternative to traditional banh xeo, these mini versions are perfect for cradling quail eggs.
Ice Cream in Nha Trang
Like any coastal city, Nha Trang is big on ice cream. Here, a scoop each of homemade mango, strawberry, coconut, and chocolate are crammed into a hollowed-out coconut, and served with fresh coconut water.
Poultry Stall at a Local Market
Fish Cake Soup with Noodles
One of at least half a dozen noodle different soups we had in Vietnam. This one is a little sweet and spicy and loaded up with fried springy, sausage-like fish cake slabs and chewy yellow wheat noodles.
Oysters in Nha Trang
Biggest, creamiest oysters I've ever had.
Grilled Tiger Prawns
At a seafood restaurant about an hour outside of downtown Nha Trang. One of the gracious staffers crouches over a charcoal fire as she grills the colossal shrimp.
Incredible Seafood Lunch in Nha Trang
From left to right: grilled tiger prawns, stir-fried crab with tamarind sauce, steamed squid with cilantro (salty vinegar and mayo on the side for dipping).
Seafood Rice Porridge
After tiger prawns, crabs, squid, a whole fish, and oysters, I didn't think I could stomach another bite—until I had a bite of this fantastic rice porridge with shrimp and squid. One of my favorite dishes of the whole trip.