The Best of the Best

As I prepare to head back, I thought about what my last post in Vietnam should be. Clearly, there were just too many cool things to do here, and I couldn’t cover them all. However, there were a few things that stood out in my mind as truly magical. Most of it had to do with food, and in all seriousness, when I return, I’ll have to go on a diet! Still, some things were SO good; I just had to share them.

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Soda Chanh

This is a popular Vietnamese drink made with sugar, water, limes, and salt. It’s the perfect drink for a hot day (upon which they are many), and when you add some alcohol, it’s even better! It’s super easy to make, and I’ve been spoiled way too many times by our Barista, who will make it for me at the drop of a hat.

  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 cups water
  • 1/2 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
  • Ice cubes
  • 6 cups sparkling water or club soda
  • pinch of salt
  • optional: mint leaves for garnish

In a tall glass, pour in powdered sugar. If you are using mint leaves, muddle them with powdered sugar for a few seconds. Layer the glass with lime juice and simple syrup. Add ice cubes until filled to 3/4 of the glass. When you are ready to drink it, slowly pour seltzer water over the ice cubes. Stir with a spoon or straw. Decorate glass with a sprig of mint and wedge of lime.

It’s better than store-bought limeade, and you control the amount of sugar you put inside, so if you want it a bit healthier, just use less sugar.

French Onion Soup by Le Bouchon de Saigon

The trick here, which I was happy to learn (the Chef is the winner from Iron Chef Vietnam) from the Chef himself, is the cheese. How cool is it to have the Chef check on you at dinner?? This soup is made with Emmental cheese. In America, it’s branded as “Swiss” cheese, but it’s not exactly the same. The American variety is usually of lesser quality, often flavored to mimic the authentic taste of Emmental. The soup is fantastic, with lots of pieces of crouton that are soaked by this light and delicious onion flavor. More importantly, is that the cheese on top is plentiful. Spoonfuls of crispy and gooey cheese with every mouthful.

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On my last night here, I went to dinner with the CEO and Director of Marketing and had a dish that was an authentic taste of Hanoi. This dish cannot be replicated outside of Vietnam, and even getting it in Saigon is not that easy. Luckily, we went to a place that specializes in it. As in, that is the only thing on its menu! Cha Ca La Vong serves only one dish, Cha Ca. It’s a freshwater fish that’s fun, simple, and delicious to eat. It’s seasoned with galanga (a member of the ginger family) and garlic, colored with turmeric to a warm golden hue, and grilled over charcoal for a smoky note. Then it is fried up with handfuls of fresh dill on a tabletop stove and served over thin rice noodles, shredded lettuce, chopped peanuts, and shrimp paste if you’re going for an authentic experience or fish sauce (for the scaredy cats). You can make this at home, but it won’t be precisely the same as certain vegetables and spices are not exported outside of Vietnam. Still, this healthy dish is a lot of fun to eat in a group and SOOO yummy!

  • 2 lb 4 oz mulloway fillets or barramundi fillets
  •  8 spring onions
  •  4 garlic cloves
  •  1 tablespoon ground turmeric
  •  2 teaspoons hot curry powder
  •  2 tablespoons plain yogurt
  •  4 fl oz fish sauce
  •  3 tablespoons sugar
  •  3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  •  1 bunch dill
  •  9 fl oz fish stock
  •  1 lemon

Side dishes:

  •  4 oz rice vermicelli
  •  10 bean sprouts
  •  1 bunch perilla leaves
  •  1 bunch green mint
  •  1 cup fish sauce or for the brave….shrimp paste
  •  1 tablespoon crushed roasted peanuts
  •  1 tablespoon fried shallots
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I also had a pretty cool drink! Beetle juice, literally! A martini with the gland juice of the Lethocerus indicus or better known as a giant water bug. Even the bartender wouldn’t drink it, and she watched to see if I would. 

AND I DID! 

It smelled sort of like vanilla and tasted…like well…nothing. It had no taste whatsoever. It was like drinking a cool glass of water…that really made you drunk. It was fun watching the other patrons become so interested in the drink. Are you curious to see what the final product looked like? Wait no longer!

The last thing I had that really stuck out in my mind was the sheer variety of available seafood. FRESH and delicious seafood for pennies. I could eat like a king on $10. I liked snails before, and I hated mussels, but here I learned to love them! Below is a gallery of some of the yummiest seafood I’ve eaten in Vietnam!

Vietnam was a memorable and exciting trip, and it had all the adventure, drama, and challenges I expected and hoped for. I feel fortunate to have experienced it in such an authentic way, thanks to the warm hospitality of my coworkers! If they ever come to San Francisco, I’ve got to show them the best of the best!