Mankind has known of the connecting nature of food for millennia. For thousands of years we have held lavish banquets in honour of our victories, and feasts marking the most important dates on our calendars. Food connects us to one another, and in doing so it connects us to moments of love, passion and joy. It could even be said that food is love made manifest.
If last year’s market entry of Starbucks can be viewed as a prototype, then by the time you read this piece there will have been extraordinary queues outside McDonald’s. Using the Drive-Thru model to enter the Vietnamese market, images of motorbike logjams trailing back down Saigon’s Dien Bien Phu come to mind.
In Saigon, eating com tam is an obsession. The dish — bitty rice and barbecued pork with untold variations — can be found everywhere. Yet, this is a dish with such character that no place does it quite like the next.
So, time to leave the comfort zone and meet the many faces of this uniquely Saigonese stomach-filler.
When the beer house Vuvuzela opened up in April with its Hooters-style uniform for the female staff, it sparked a change in the city’s drinking culture. With a growing urge for professional workers to forge a scene of their own, a scene that falls somewhere in between top-end bars and street-side quan nhau, they spotted their opportunity.
Enjoying Vietnamese food while avoiding meat can be a challenge. Especially in the meat-loving north where admitting you’re vegetarian often spurs a similar response to announcing you’ve caught a deadly disease: a mixture of pity and confusion as to how this could have happened. The following is a list of street food and small restaurants where a vegetarian can somewhat integrate one’s self into the wonderful culture and atmosphere that is Vietnamese food.
When the clock ticks over to the wrong side of midnight, the culinary options in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City begin to dwindle. But don’t worry about starving: the dark city alleys hide a plethora of choices for the hungry night owl, whether you’re craving a warm plate of banh cuon, creamy vodka penne or a banh mi stuffed with chili-egg goodness. We dug up all our favourite late-night haunts.
Vietnam has well over 100 street food dishes, most of them dreamt up locally, with a smattering coming from overseas. But which of these dishes are quintessentially Vietnamese? And which dishes are the true originals?