Monday, August 20, 2012

The Education of Moi (Part 1)

First of all... Eid Mubarak... Muslims all over the world... have finally completed their 30 days of fasting.. although in the case of North Waziristan... they did 29 and went ahead and celebrated Eid a day early... guess they had to show they were leading the charge

But regardless tis the time for merriment and mirth and celebration... and Eid is usually met with great feasts...and for the Pakistani community in Ho Chi Minh ... it was no less... lunch was at 1:00 and we all returned to our homes semi comatose by 4 pm... most of us crashed before a few decided to crash at our place later that evening for leftovers.. after all...if you're going to stuff your face .. might as well make a party of it.. and we returned to comatose state till midnight... food food glorious food!! and yes all diets fly out the window

But despite the gluttony and tipping scales... I had a blast.. was nice to meet everyone and chill and have a good laugh... and then food coma... again... speaking of food a blogger friend of mine who I met at a bloggers meet invited me to be a guinea pig for a new business she and her husband are starting up..If you are on is the link for their page...Saigon Street Eats They take tourists or expats or whoever is interested on a trail of food through Saigon.. and OH MY GOD... absolutely amazing...Barbara and her husband Vu do this together.. and with her fabulous sense of humour and easy way of giving out information and Vu's shy smile and gentle charm...they make a fantastic team!

First stop Barbara picked me up on her motorbike. To be honest, I was a bit afraid to get out in traffic on the bike but thought it was time I was initiated in the ways of Vietnam

... and despite my trepidation.. once ur actually out on the road on the bike ... its all actually pretty organized... chaos.. yes...but organized chaos...

First stop breakfast. We met up with Vu and James... remember  him from the bloggers meet I spoke about earlier? his blog by the way is Fly Icarus Fly... and I was introduced to Pho. Now I have had Pho once at a fancy restaurant but nothing like the feast that was set before me this morning. First order of business was to order the Vietames coffee which is a delicous blend of STRONG coffee, condensed milk and ice and then of course the Pho with is standard breakfast fare. BUT you must know how to handle  your herbs

Barbara and Vu were fantastic.. I looked totally lost when a big basket of leaves was places alongside my bowl of soup and they taught me how to separate the leaves and which to put a lot of in the bowl.. how to make sure the meat is dunked down so it continues cooking in the hot broth and the leaves are pushed down so they start to wilt and add flavour.. common mistake most foreigners make when having their Pho is not putting in enough herbs... so be sure to not be stingy with them...

Next we left the bikes outside the restaurant and walked through the local market where were given a rundown of what everything was. Now I finally feel a lot more confident about what I can and cannot order if I want to be adventurous on my own... The French influence is very visible at all the bakeries and you can see that proudly displayed.. not sure how they tasted but the bakers here seem to LOVE their cream cakes and take pride in their decorating skills

This street walked down in what is the "real" Ho Chi Minh and not the bubble land of expats where I currently reside... one could find interesting stores for all kinds of things..

Dried shredded pork, chicken, beef, prawns... whatever they could shred and can buy... apparently makes a great addition to soups and things ... something I would like to explore once I learn some decent Vietnamese recipes..

A little further down and one discovers shops where one can buy goodies for the alter... Buddhism  is the majority religion in Vietnam...but as I discovered there are there religious beliefs and the ones their customs dictate.. much like Pakistan I guess... In Vietnam one also buys deities to pray to their ancestors.. so an altar like the one above could be used where a photograph of the dear departed is placed along with offerings of food and incense

Or one could use one of these figurines to represent the deity of Wealth, luck happiness etc...

Once we turned a corner we started coming across more food... I am definitely going to want to go back there to try some of the stuff but Barbara explained what the meaning was of the signs on the carts so even I see one of these elsewhere I should be able to navigate my way to ordering food for myself :)

A Great cheap meal can had at one of these...the one above is broken rice with a serving of Chicken /Pork or beef whatever you prefer along with a serving of fruit so that's COM TAM explained... admittedly its hard to not come across pork but there are spots where it is possible... :)

One could always opt for eggs if one is really hard pressed.... and the simplest solution is point at a dish and it will be served to you.. what we have below is two different fish dishes... one with pork and one without..

And if you happen to be a vegetarian ..have no fear...there is something for you too... look for signs that say Com CHAY and that should do the job... having said that... in vegetarian fare they have certain items that are made to look like meat.. but why that would be done is a mystery to me... assuming of course vegetarians would want to have nothing to do with meat... but COM CHAY is vegetarian so that's what you will be looking out for

Now we can't talk about street food and not even touch upon dessert... Vietnamese desserts are very different from desserts as we know it and certainly very different from sub continental tastes... but they do exist... desserts made from lentils, passion fruits, peanuts.. all there and of course... another leftover from the French ... a creme caramel flan amongst other things

This tour was packed with not only food but other wonderful sights and sounds always interspersed with great nuggets of information.. I have decided to divide my blog into a series to tell you about all the things I learned about today. The next part in this series I shall try and post tomorrow for you... right now I am off to sleep dreaming of Vietnamese deliciousness, motorbike adventures and a city made all the more exciting and accessible to me thanks to Barbara and Vu. 


LadyE said...

Love Pho, and this sounds like a great tour. I know Barbara and Vu, and would expect nothing but the best from them.

Ayeshah Alam Khan said...

Well I have only just gotten to know Barbara and Vu and I can see why you would have nothing but glowing comments about them.. once I finish my series on their Pho Trail I hope to do one on their Snail trail

Maha Khan said...

Wow can you get pho in Surrey? Hmm I have to be adventurous and try Vietnamese food