A whirlwind tour of Da Nang's incredible Vietnamese street food left me with all sorts of cravings, but one dish wouldn't get out of my head: mi quang. Part soup, part salad, it's rich with chicken broth and rice noodles, freshened up with crunchy vegetables, and topped with everything from chicken to shrimp to snakehead fish. I had to learn how to make it.
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Da Nang, perhaps best known by travelers for its beach resorts, is Vietnam's fifth largest city, and its feet stand in two worlds. Look up and your eyes fill with views of glistening skyscrapers, their sides adorned with garish neon. But the streets are full of flimsy aluminum tables and cheap plastic chairs, seating for the city's greatest asset: its street food.
Vietnamese cuisine is world-famous, but few visitors to the Southeast Asian country think about what they'll be sipping on the streets of Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City. That's a mistake: the country's drinks are as delicious and diverse as its cuisine.
Last weekend, the Vietnam's first-ever McDonald's opened in Saigon. We talked to Hanoi-based blogger and street food expert Mark Lowerson to find out what Mickey D's move means for the future of Vietnamese food culture.
From a highly mythologized noodle soup to what might be the best banh mi in all of Vietnam (I said it), Central Vietnam has a cuisine all its own. Here's a look at 14 great dishes from the region.
An edible tour of Hanoi's unique streetside offerings, from frozen yogurt to chicken in a can.
My put-an-egg-on-it philosophy applies to most dishes. Got leftovers? Reheat; put an egg on it. Got a salad or sandwich or pretty much anything else? Put an egg on it, please! But coffee? Put...an egg on it? Egg coffee, or cà phê trứng in Vietnam, is a special drink you'll find at select coffeehouses in Hanoi. If you like tiramisu, you'll probably like egg coffee immensely.
Need some still-alive crabs? Fresh coconut? Silk worms to sauté later with lime leaf? You can find all that (and a bag of baby shrimp) at Cho Chau Long, a wet market in Hanoi.
What's the first Vietnamese food that pops to mind for you? Phở? Bánh mì? Spring rolls? All of these are quintessential dishes to be sure—and you've already knocked off three of the 20 in this list—but we've only just begun.
What makes Vietnamese food special? After an eating tour with Intrepid Travel, it's the fresh herbs and stinky fish sauce that I cannot un-smell. These fragrant elements play an important role in just about every dish in the Vietnamese cuisine canon.
Vietnam was the second leg of our trip (see the first leg featuring Hong Kong, Chengdu, and Shanghai here). The food, the hospitality, the landscape, and the sheer energy of the two cities we visited—Hanoi (the north) and Nha Trang (southeast coast)—blew me away. From red dragon to banh cuon with pork-cinnamon sausage, check out the best things I ate.
The dragon fruit is somewhere between a kiwifruit and a watermelon in texture, but with a much more subtle flavor than either. Faintly sweet with a floral aroma, they're very refreshing and one of the best ways to finish a meal or cleanse your palate between bites of rich foods. (Dragonfruit and pork belly = a great combo.) Take a look at how they grow on a farm in Vietnam.
Baguettes and pâté for bánh mì aren't the only thing French colonists left behind in Vietnam: The Europeans are to thank for that delicious glass of the famously sweet, dark coffee.
Finding good food in Hanoi is a reasonably simple experience: just stop at any one of the hundreds of portable burners that dot the house-fronts and street-sides, pull up a battered plastic seat, and point at what you want. Your choice is pretty easy: most places serve only a single specialty.
A 51¢ (10,000 VND) breakfast banh mi consists of grilled pork, fried egg, sautéed onions, cucumbers, pickled carrots & radish, and cilantro. A spread of pate with a squirt of sweet chili sauce and soy sauce season everything inside. Pork is grilled next to the cart and eggs are fried to order. The fresh ingredients are all assembled in a light crusty Vietnamese baguette right in front of your eyes.
Phở đuôi bò. [Photographs: Tam Ngo] Since we'll be stuck in dark drizzle for months to come, let's talk about phở, a perfect food for chasing away the doldrums of winter. Phở bò is a Vietnamese beef noodle soup;...
Editor's note: A few months ago, Daniel O'Sullivan contributed a review on Kraze Burger in South Korea while teaching English there. Now he's traveling around Asia for the next two months and documenting the goodies on his blog Street Foodie....
As Pinkberry, Red Mango and a thousand imitators battle it out for yogurt supremacy, the Vietnamese have been quietly making their own addictively sharp (but non-frozen) yogurt snack, da ua, or sua chua, for decades. Diane from White on Rice Couple shows us how it's done. The secret ingredient? Sweetened condensed milk. The star player in dulce de leche mellows the tang and gives the yogurt a silky, gently set consistency. Sprinkled with in-season pomegranate seeds, as Diane serves hers, it makes an unusual alternative to the pomegranate yogurts now making the soft-serve rounds....
Photograph from noodlepie on Flickr As part of a continuing campaign to make Hanoi "green, clean, and beautiful," the local Vietnamese government implemented a partial ban on street vending, effective July 1. But what is downtown Hanoi without the street food? According to blogger Graham Holliday of noodlepie, "you take the food off the street and you just have street." A potentially more sanitary, but way less delicious, very sad street. Next to frenetic motorbike taxis, hawking pho and fruits gives Hanoi its heartbeat. Vending is also an important part of many Vietnamese livelihoods, but as Hanoi becomes increasingly built-up and developed, supermarkets will displace the traditional markets and street vendors as the city hopes to embrace a spic and...