Right now, I am on the tail end of a short 1.5 week vacation in Vietnam…thanks to a great $500 airfare deal I found on Kayak.com, I took the opportunity to spend quality time with family that live in Can Tho, Vietnam.
This November 2017 trip is my 7th time visiting Vietnam & each time I feel more comfortable calling this country my home in Asia. During the initial visits, I would plan to travel to various vacation towns (i.e. Nha Trang, Da Lat, Phu Quoc, etc) within Vietnam, but this time was a solo trip. When I arrived, my mother was already waiting at the airport. We spent the first two nights in Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City), then went straight to Can Tho city where my family lives.
While Can Tho does have a metropolitan area, my family lives in the outskirts of town where it is more countryside living. The roads leading to my mother’s home does not have access for cars to drive through, rather, only motorbikes are allowed on the roads or by boat in the delta. When I arrived at home, the family was already planning the meals for the upcoming days. It was quite a culinary adventure since I arrived in Vietnam – the food is amazing either in Saigon or Can Tho, plus the prices are so drastically cheaper.
Here is a summary [in pictures] of the Vietnam vacation:
Travel time was nearly 24 hours with a connecting flight in Narita, Japan. I was eating airplane food the entire transit time, for which I caught a stomach ache from the last flight leg. Luckily, the sickness was short term and I was ready to eat real food ASAP!
In Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City)
I arrived at Tan Son Nhat airport around 10pm Friday night, by 11pm we were already at a restaurant. Being in hunger, I ordered Pho Bo (Beef Noodle soup) and Cha Gio (fried egg rolls) for myself. Mother got the Pho Ga (Chicken Noodle soup). The weather was in the 80’s and humid while at the restaurant, we were eating hot soup from the streets. Hot soup, hot weather, no big deal…welcome to Vietnam (Price $180K VND = $8.15 USD)
In the United States, hotel stays seldom include breakfast. In Vietnam, many hotels will include a breakfast buffet in the room charge. Mother and I stayed at a nice 3-star hotel which cost $55 per night. Decent room with standard amenities, but the breakfast buffet is the attraction. Pictured below is Bun Bo Hue (spicy beef noodle soup), Chao ca (fish rice porridge), and banh beo (steamed savory rice cake with minced pork).
When you visit Vietnam, you must experience eating from a street food vendor. A tradition for me from the past few visits is visiting the Bot Chien (pan-fried rice cakes with egg) vendor near Ben Thanh market. The vendor opens at night since there is a night market on the same street. It is a small family operation, they have stools and tables to dine and they are pleasant to start a conversation with. (Price $25,000 VND = $1.13 USD)
Leaving Saigon and heading to Can Tho, we stopped by a rest stop that specialized in Com Suon (rice with grilled pork). We ordered the dish and literally within 2 minutes our hot dishes were in front of us! Steamed rice, pickled vegetables, & grilled sweet pork all on one plate. (Price $38K VND = $1.70 USD)
Can Tho City
With my family living in the countryside, nearly every food item is fresh! The family typically buys groceries every 1-2 days because they grow many of the vegetables and they live on the Mekong Delta.
Because the Mekong Delta is right in front of the house, boats carrying a variety of foods dock in front of the house throughout the day! It is quite convenient for everyone in the neighborhood, as the produce is very fresh and there is no driving to the grocery store.
Another aspect of living in the countryside is the slow food movement. I like to drink coffee, so every morning I wake up and help with chores. This includes boiling water to make coffee! While the family does have ability to use a stove or electric kettle, they appreciate taking their time to make quality food and drinks.
During one of the lunches, my aunts made a favorite dish of mine – Banh Xeo (savory rice crepe filled with root vegetables, pork, & shrimp). If there was one dish that makes me feel happy, this is it!
On the weekdays, my aunts make typical lunches for the family. Usually, lunch will consist of 2 protein dishes, a soup, and many fresh vegetables (all eaten family style). On this occasion, there is fried fish and chicken, canh chua ca (tamarind tomato fish soup), and green veggies.
With Vietnamese food, there is an abundance to choose from – fresh to fried. If visiting Vietnam is on your bucket list, just embrace the culture and see what it is like. The food is amazing and the people are even better.