By Jakub Dian, Teacher in Bien Hoa
Is Vietnamese food in Vietnam similar to what you get in Vietnamese restaurants at home?
Unfortunately, it is not; Vietnamese food here tastes different, way better, thanks to local ingredients, which are hard to get in Europe or are expensive because, in most cases, they have to be
What has been the best thing you have eaten since arriving?
I love all meals I have tried here so far, but I have a number of My absolute favourite is Phở. The world-famous noodle soup known as phở is a staple of my diet in Bien Hoa. I eat it 2-3 times a week. It is slightly different from the variety you will find abroad, but taste it for yourself and see what you think. I completely love it. I usually have it with a green drink called Rau má. This delicious green juice is made from the leaves and stems of the Pennywort plant, a herb indigenous to Asia. Pennywort Juice is loaded with vitamins and minerals: B, K, calcium, zinc, and magnesium. From an Asian medicine perspective, Pennywort has cooling properties helping the body to balance the heat. Another dish I love is Bún thịt nướng. This noodle-based dish is a meal I could never tire of. It is a colourful mix of rice noodles, grilled sliced meat, a fried egg roll cut into pieces, shredded veggies, mint, a sweet and sour sauce, and chilli paste. Bún thịt nướng exemplifies everything amazing about Vietnamese food, with each bite encompassing a full range of flavours and textures. Next on my list is Cơm tấm. I was surprised to learn that Saigonese cuisine (same cuisine as in Bien Hoa) is less rice-based than, say, Japanese or Chinese food. “Cơm tấm” literally means ‘broken rice,’ referring to the fact that it’s a bit more dry than other types of rice, so the individual grains do not really stick together.
What has been your worst food experience since arriving?
I haven’t had any bad experiences when it comes to The only negative thing that occurs occasionally is bad service – getting the wrong order or waiting too long for your order.
What has shocked you most about food in Vietnam?
What has shocked me is how affordable, quick and delicious the food here is. When it comes to the cost of eating out, Vietnam is hard to beat. Meals from street carts are ridiculously cheap, and even the high-end international restaurants are a bargain compared to their counterparts in more developed countries.
Do you usually eat out, get delivery or cook for yourself in the evenings?
We eat out all the time, except for Sometimes we order food using the Grab app. But we do not cook at all.
What’s your favorite thing about Vietnamese food in general?
My favourite thing about food here is that street food is an integral part of life. Locals and expats alike find the best vendors around their homes and workplaces, becoming valued regular It is always nice to wave hello to the local noodle lady or coffee shop owner (even if you happen to be passing by without ordering anything). I really enjoy this aspect of eating locally in Vietnam.
What’s your least favorite thing about Vietnamese food in general?
As I previously mentioned, I love all the food here. Sometimes I am not happy with dining etiquette. Eating in Vietnam is quite informal. Many Vietnamese restaurants offer minimal, efficient service and tables are first come, first served. Many of the very local restaurants look dirty compared to restaurants in the West, but that does not mean the food is as well. Most simple Vietnamese restaurants feature simple décors like stainless steel tables and plastic chairs. At the more expensive international re- staurants, service and etiquette are largely similar to what one would expect anywhere else in the world. However, even at these types of restaurants, tipping is generally not expected. Tipping at Vietnamese restaurants is almost unheard of
What one Vietnamese dish would you recommend to anyone visiting for the first time?
It would definitely be Phở – my all-time favourite.