I love seafood, and I don’t get to eat it enough. As soon as the holiday season starts, I beg people to eat crab with me. They’ll say no, and I spend the next few months wearing down their resolve until they go with me.
I love seafood, and if I could eat it all the time, I probably would.
What’s the problem then? I’m picky. I grew up eating fantastic seafood, and a trip to Safeway or Trader Joe’s isn’t inspiring enough to get me to want to eat. So when my co-workers heard me talk about how much I love snails, they decided to create an impromptu lunch trip to some out-of-the-way restaurant (and I use that word lightly, I was squatting on stools, scooping food into my mouth) to eat some seafood. We had snails grilled with chili peppers and limes. We had them salted and peppered. In a broth and with vegetables, We had octopus, we had a fish I didn’t recognize, and we had mussels.
I hate mussels.
I ate the mussels.
The flavors were perfect and straightforward.
Now I feel like I want to do it all over again! So I will. I do. Tonight I’ve headed out again for my next adventure in street food. This time I don’t only want to eat good food, I want to know what I’m eating, where it came from and why it’s so popular. I want to get a fundamental understanding of the street food scene, and my guide, Barbara from Saigon Street Eats, is the perfect person to take me on this adventure. I’m a big fan of joining tours to make new friends. It’s essential when you travel solo to be able to connect with people. My fun lunch with my co-workers made me curious about the dishes I’m seeing, and my hunger for knowledge means I’ve got to seek out a kindred spirit in this beautiful chaos we call Sai Gon.
I don’t know what kind of luck follows me on my adventures, but my trip with Barbara and Vu was terrific. Impressive in flavors, in the company, and just overall experience. I ate my way through the seafood trail and had some crazy and fun dishes. We started out at a tiny restaurant.
Honestly, I can’t even call it that. The chefs were cooking the food on a grill, in the rain, on the sidewalk, and near a gutter. I sat on chairs so small I was sure there were made for 3-year-olds, and I was always worried that some motorbike was going to swoop up next to me. In a word, it was ‘perfect.’
I drank Sai Gon beer (which is so light I think I can drink most guys under the table) and ate scallops in a garlic, butter, chili sauce; mussels in a peanut, green onion oil that was fried and had a conch shell. Yes, those things from the ocean that you put up to your ear to hear sounds from. I ate the inside of that. Even the part that I was sure was a penis. I ate it all. And I liked it.
The next stop was to eat grilled shrimp (The next stop was to eat grilled shrimp (I got to pick mine out), snails, and clams in a salty broth. We also had crackers with sesame seeds in them, and honestly, I thought it couldn’t get any better than this.
After even more beer and a couple of scratching games, we decided to hit our final spot, which was a place with a better bathroom. I went from nasty to alright; I got a toilet seat! You know, when I’m happy that I don’t have to squat, things are ridiculous. So the fancy pants street food place served us crab hotpot. OH YES…mutha%$#!@ hotpot with a crab in it.
Before that, though, we got a giant oyster, and it was cut up for me, and I partook in the wasabi challenge. I passed, barely, but I seriously thought I might kill over and die at that moment. After that, I got a chance to cool my mouth by eating some winter melon in a rice patty crab broth with some saltwater blue crab. DELICIOUS, my friends, delicious.
I finished my night with a Sapporo beer and then was dropped off after I hugged Barbara and bowed to Vu. While in the car, Barbara suggested that I go with her to eat some French food next week. I said I was free, and she smiled.
I nodded. I’m ready to do this again, but this time, it wouldn’t be a tour. It would be two friends enjoying a meal together. Perfect.