This week I am challenging myself to eat only Vietnamese food for every meal. I am posting daily, detailing my food intake and also occasionally providing you with recipes so you can have a go at some of these simple dishes yourselves. It’s not going to be easy for me; it’s taking me out of my comfort zone as I’ve become used to mainly eating western style food but I’m ready to take this journey over the next 7 days and hopefully inspire some of you to try one of the world’s healthiest cuisines, along the way.
Day One – Breakfast/Lunch (Brunch?) – 11am
Today I finished my working day at 9:30am. Before I’d put any food past my lips I’d taught around 70 3 year olds the words nose, ears, eyes and mouth. All that jumping around and running in circles is hungry work. As soon as I was home I knew what I needed; an easy Banh Mi.
I can probably count on one hand how many times I’ve had a Banh Mi while I’ve been in Vietnam. The phrase Banh Mi describes a fluffy thin crusted baguette and I’ve never really been a fan. That was until my friend, Kris Zimmer, the author of ZUPAdream, persuaded me to try it with a fried egg.
I’d never noticed this food stall before but it was opposite the convenience store where I’d just bought some batteries. The stall had all of the Banh Mi options available. Generally speaking, there are many different fillings you can choose from such as pate, grilled chicken, sardines, pork meatballs, tofu and laughing cow cheese. You can have it full of meat or as vegetarian as you like.
I asked the lady for Heo va Op La, which I hoped she’d understand as pork and fried egg. Her husband prepared the egg as she ripped open the small baguette and placed a bed of sliced pork inside where the egg would later come to rest. Long slices of cucumber, cilantro and pickled carrots were then added. She yelled at me, smiling, ‘chili?!’ and I gave her a thumbs up as I snapped one last cheeky picture. Finally, she dropped in some fresh chillies and a squeeze of chili sauce, wrapped the Banh Mi in paper and pulled an elastic band around it to hold it all together.
It was filling and full of so many strong yet complimentary flavours. It got a bit messy, especially as I ate it practically lying down on my sofa. I was hungry again 4 or 5 hours later so I ate a small bag of crackers to tide me over till dinner. Before you say anything, it’s not cheating when the bag that contains the crackers has Vietnamese writing on it, OK!
Dinner – 7:30pm
Gareth and I provide speaking practice to one of our neighbour’s sons every Monday so we decided we’d eat after we’d finished helping him. This meant dinner was going to be after 7pm. I hadn’t eaten since my Banh Mi at 11am so I needed to eat something filling.
We crossed our bustling road to check out a new place that had opened up about three weeks ago. We ordered a Mi Vit Tiem each, which is a yellow noodle soup with roasted duck and Chinese broccoli.
A dark broth made using shitake mushrooms, this soup also contained prunes, which enhanced the sweetness. The duck thigh was balanced on top of the yellow noodles, so I fished mine out of the bowl and placed it on a separate plate. I added extra chili to the broth and mixed the soup and noodles together with my spoon and chopsticks. After 8 hours since I’d eaten anything of substance I couldn’t wait anymore so I bit a mouthful of duck off the bone. It was perfectly seasoned and just juicy enough. I then pulled the meat off the bone and into the bowl.
Alongside the soup, a small dish was brought over called Du Du Chua. Thin slices of papaya pickled overnight in a little vinegar and chilies. I like to put the papaya slices into the soup or eat them straight from the plate. It’s a refreshing taste that feels as though it is cleansing the palate, so eating a slice between slurps of noodles and pieces of duck really heightens the flavours.
Although I have only eaten these two dishes today, I am so satisfied. Two simple tasty meals in one day. Now to decided what I’ll be scoffing tomorrow.