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.
We didn’t have much of a break between our morning classes and afternoon classes today so Gareth and I quickly decided that we’d return to the eatery where we’d had Mi Quang a couple of days ago. Gareth could have his fix and I would be able to try another of their noodle soups.
This time it was a Bun Cha Ca for me. A light sweet and sour soup; the broth is made using the freshest tomatoes, pineapple, bamboo and herbs. The soup contains fish sausage and grilled fish, while the thin white vermicelli noodles absorb all of the flavours. It is perfect with half a tablespoon of shrimp paste or a tomato and chili chutney that some establishments offer as a condiment. I’d eaten this a couple of times before but this bowl was by far the best I’d had.
If you find yourself in Vietnam at some point in your life, and you get cravings for a particular kind of soup, then seek out eateries that specialise in one or two types of dishes, that way you’ll be eating something close to perfection.
For the last 7 months, every time we’d ridden past this particular night market with about 10 food stalls squished together we’d both agreed that we would have to go their and try a few things. With this week’s challenge in mind, it would be the best excuse to go tonight.
They say offal isn’t awful, erm, let’s agree to disagree. Chao Long, or Innards Porridge, was this evening’s fare. I’ll give the Vietnamese their due, they really do use the whole animal, nothing goes to waste and that is extremely admirable. But, and this is a big but, eating pig intestines is just not natural.
The basis for Chao Long is softened rice in a thick peppery broth. In the broth are slices of liver and cylindrical chunks of intestines and other charming pieces of entrails.
Along with the Chao Long came a small plate of crouton-like dried bread which, when dropped into the porridge, soaked up the broth and brought texture to the dish.
Gareth hates only three things in this world; rice pudding, animal organs and egg custard. Luckily, there was no egg custard in sight, unfortunately this bowl encompassed the two other thorns in Gareth’s side. He tried his best but in the end, went on the hunt for something less carnal to fill his gargling tummy.
He came back, having ordered a meaty dish and holding a tiny plate of grilled pork with roasted peanuts and dried onion, a sensible dish after the last few dinners we’ve had. The pork was from a dish called Bun Thit Nuong which would usually be served with cold rice vermicelli noodles and dressed in a fish sauce. It is also occasionally served with grilled prawns or pickled carrots. Alas, a plate of pork as big as a child’s fist won’t really feed a 6ft 3 man.
Soon after, a white takeaway box was placed on our table by one of the food stall holders. Inside contained dark red meat smothered in a deep brown BBQ sauce. One bite of this red meat and we were 100% certain we were chewing on something that had never passed our lips before. The texture felt soft yet crunchy and the slices were small and half moon shaped. The first thing we thought was maybe we were eating ear.
Instead of second guessing, we asked our Chao Long guy to write down the name. Ruot Vit. A quick Google at home and we were eating fried duck intestines. The BBQ sauce was great, reminded us of Burger King.