Asia Travel Log #3: Food

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Take a trip with me for a moment back a few years (okay, quite a few if you were in my play group) and recall if you will, your favorite snack or meal. For many it was probably A GOOD OLD PB & J SANDWICH, right?  Mine too. Chunky peanut butter and Welch’s Grape Jelly. Now contrast that against a place where there are not even any supermarkets (or those annoying plastic car-carts American moms squire their little darlings around in).

The Vietnamese eat fresh! As I said there are no supermarkets. REFRIGERATION IS A LUXURY OFTEN CONSISTING OF A RAPIDLY MELTING ICE BLOCK, the water from which somebody will constantly splash over their fish catch in hopes of conserving it until they can sell it. Several people are fully employed in the planting, harvesting and getting to market or the end user, a wide variety of fresh fruit, vegetables, fish and meat. This selection includes many things we have never even seen and most would certainly never eat.

A market we visited in Hoi An, south of Da Nang must have had ten different type of eggs. Some white, some brown, others speckled, and both big and small. There is delicacy consisting of an egg in the embryo form and I am told the most delicious is in the stage just before the feathers are formed. Yikes! Okay, so imagine a young child brought up in Asia turning up their nose at a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. I don’t know, somehow it doesn’t wash but I guess that’s just my cultural bias at work. 

What we really did love was going to the night market where in addition to hundreds and hundreds of merchants selling anything and everything, food vendors set up from scratch beginning every afternoon, complete kitchens, prep areas, tables for seating and even bars serving beer, wine or liquor to compliment whatever you are eating. Everything is brought in fresh (in one particuluar instance live frogs strung one on top of another chuckin’ and jivin’ oblivious to their fate), fish in tanks to be cooked to order on outside grills and a ton of different noodle dishes and salads. This market we favored and went to several times in Saigon made a point in print to assure us that all fruit and vegetables were washed with purified water. Same for ice in the beverages. We also had a virtual floor show of activity going on in the street that fronted our table often providing our evening’s entertainment.

Bottom line, you can get almost any kine food in Vietnam or Cambodia -at least in the cities, from the aforementioned street fare (some good some not), right on up to fine dining. It just takes a little adventurism with a dash of common sense to have a great eating experience in Asia and we did!

Aloha, “Mikie”

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