Back in England, Bún chả was one of my favourite dishes as you always got a lot for your money. I like a few different elements in my meal and this typically consists of rice noodles, herbs, meat and a slightly sweet dipping sauce. Sometimes even spring rolls if you’re lucky! It wasn’t until I got to Hoi An where I started to see more places selling it in various guises and the freshness of the ingredients made London variations pale in comparison. Most street-food setups will only specialise in one dish, so you need to choose carefully when dining in a group. A particular highlight was being mesmerised by some ladies in Hué chatting and systematically making dishes outside the market, a sort of makeshift conveyor belt system. We sat on little stalls and joined them all for the grand price of £1!
One of the main reasons I wished I could ride a motorbike, was the freedom and the fact you could stop off at random places by the roadside for food. These were mostly little independent set ups outside homes where families would cook all day for whoever wanted to eat. After befriending some backpackers with bikes in Dalat, we decided to stop at the first place we saw during a storm and try some Bun Xiao. Not that we knew exactly what we were eating at the time, this was the day I discovered that anything could be made into a spring roll and we learnt how to wrap the deep fried omelette-like creation in rice paper, before dipping into the obligatory sauce. I lost count as to how many of these I ate and little did we know that we’d also be eating something similar for dinner thanks to a recommendation from the hostel owner. That’s a lot of rolling!
As a culmination of five weeks of solid eating, I decided to do a cookery course on my last full day in Hanoi, in the hopes that I could recreate some of my favourite dishes at home. Of course I hadn’t cooked for a while, so when faced with a giant knife for chopping and frying onions on the highest heat, I retreated somewhat. Still, it was nice to understand a bit about how these meals are prepared and all of the different components. The stock for Pho alone contains chilli, cinnamon, cardamom, star anise, ginger and shallots, a combination that I never would have imagined. Due to a communication mishap, I ended up with three main meals to myself and no one to help me eat them. It was the most surreal situation of my life sitting at the front of the restaurant (yes, I was that person) with enough food for a small family but I don’t regret it one bit and wish I could be transported back in time!
Are you a fan of Vietnamese food? I pretty much stuck to a South-East Asian diet whilst I was away, apart from perhaps three servings of chips and one Turkish meal (random I know). I’ve been back to my London haunts since and even though it’s not quite the same, I feel inspired to explore the menus more (I’ve learnt the most essential words for rice, chicken and spring rolls in the hopes I can translate) until I can escape there again.