Best of Vietnam { Scene II }


Best Go-To Dish

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Cơm Sườn. You'll sniff that unmistakable aroma from down the block. No better way to begin the day than a hardwood-grilled pork chop slathered with scallion oil alongside a crispy fried egg. Indisputable. Conversation over...yet let me add: Cơm Sườn is generally finger-licking all over the city although The three ladies {and their Mama} on Cách Mạng Tháng Tám {~60 meters up from the Ba Tháng Hai traffic circle} have been serving rib chops from the sidewalk for over 32 years. Through a tireless dedication to their pork-char profession, this foursome can easily melt the heart and buckle the knees of any piglet devotee.

Honorable Mention: Only one Go-To, child.



Best Kho Dish

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Thịt Kho Nước Dừa. It's all gravy when it comes to kho style cooking yet one version consistently found itself atop my crave list. Imagine chunks of pork belly. Then envision coconut juice. Then combine those thoughts. If it's not enough that you're treated to slow simmered, silky, savory and slightly saccharine all at the same time- the finished accompanying sauce is a mixture of rendered pork fat and caramelized coconut sugar. Adding this to your diet = instant quality of life boost.

Honorable Mention: Cá Basa Kho



Best Bánh Mì

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The Bánh Mì Ngon stand in Cam Ranh. There isn't really much more to say. Your jaw will drop after experiencing the perfect ratio of fresh ingredients [pickled carrot and radish, shaved scallions, roast pork, meatballs, expertly carved 1/6" cucumber slices] drizzled with that mystery pork-fat sauce inside of a crispy toasted torpedo-sharp baguette. I attempted to snatch the recipe for the sauce on my last visit. We got a no-go on that attempt. No hard feelings, it's probably worth the ticket out.

Honorable Mention: Bánh Mì Phương {Hội An}



Most Intense Sucrose-Fueled Rush

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Cà Phê Sữa Đá. I didn't clearly realize how lucky I was to have this type of coffee on hand until I left for China and other east Asian destination where fresh coffee might as well be spelled: F-r-e- N-E-S-C-A-F-E! In Việt Nam they have something superb going on when it comes to percolation. Sure the flavor is kicked up a bit with the addition of one {or three} dollops of condensed milk- but even the black coffee by itself {Cà Phê Đá} is complex and bold. Fault-finders may turn their nose up and fuss about the inferior quality of Vietnamese beans. To that I say: Take a seat on this here turquoise stool {Double stack if you're a westerner, the shiznit cracks. I know. So do they. Stay safe.}, kick back and sip your complementary trà đá {iced tea} while thinking fuzzy, pre-caffeinated thoughts of sweet insignificance. Also! Be sure to hail down that morning sticky-rice vendor before she hops away. If she smiles, which she will- be sure to tip another couple thousand. Meanwhile your coffee is patiently percolating and splashes upon that creamy lake of condensed milk with methodical drip* drips*. Homogenize the two by way of baby-spoon, dump over hand-cut ice, slurp silently and witness the bedlam that ensues when 5 million motorbikes are forced to share the same city. Rise and shine Sài Gòn! Then, only then tell me if you've ever enjoyed a cup of coffee more! Stand tall Cà Phê Việt Nam.

Honorable Mention: Chè { đặc biệt là chè bột lọc với nước cốt dừa }



Best Neighborhood Dive




Phở Nam {Southern Style Phở}. This dude slicing up gnarly day-old looking meat is awesome. On my final visit to his house/restaurant he comped my bowl and poured me a hefty glass of his homemade apricot liquor- at 7 a.m. no less. Real genuine homey-style. His broth wasn't too shabby either. In fact it dominated the scene, kicking ass and taking no prisoners. No doubt the rock sugar and star anise played a part, but there was also an unctuous mouth-coating quality brought about by the shavings of mỡ {Fat!} he spooned in my bowl, only after asking permission of course!! Mornings till around 9.

Honorable Mention: The corner lady in Chợ Lớn { corner of Hồng Bàng & Phạm Đình Hổ }



Best Northern Dish

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Bún Chả Hà Nội. I'd never been too dazzled by Northern style cuisine. I'm aware it might be more 'classic' in a sense but to me it lacks the fire, sweetness, intensity and creativity of Central & Southern meals. Anybody else feel me on this one? Even Phở in the north is a bit barren with it's lack of herbs. That being said, a spectacular spread of Bún Chả can get me to take back any and every negative comment I've ever said about Northern eats in the time it takes to say đói bụng quá trời luôn, sắp chết rồi! {I'm hungry!!}. Bronzed bowls of nước mắm with crunchy green papaya, grilled pork strips and sausage await their spooning atop fresh rice noodles {Bún} dressed with vibrant purple and green perilla leaves {tía tô} and shredded water spinach {rau muống}. While you're at it snatch up a savory crab-stuffed crispy roll (Nem Cua Biển) and sweet-potato shrimp fritter {Bánh Tôm Tây Hồ}. It's all there for the taking. The only question is how to protect your territory against potential chop-stick wielding, back-stabbing, meatball-snatching intruders!

Ready. Steady. Scarf.


Honorable Mention: Bánh Cuốn





Stay crème de la crème.

6 comments:

Ravenous Couple said...

A great collection to savor all the flavors of Vietnam!

e d b m said...

Great blog/photos. Came here through the nice couple right above my comment. I really love Vietnam... both Chinese and Vietnamese food can stimulate every part of the palate.

Mai said...

Love the list, but I disagree on the last prize: banh cuon is the king!

Tammy said...

Wow, what a saliva-inducing post! Doesn't seem fair to be reading it this damn far from Vietnam and/or a decent Vietnamese restaurant. I do wish I'd had the name of that honorable mention banh mi while I was still in Hoi An...

Me-Linh said...

Way to make me miss home!
(I haven't tried the thit kho in years as I'm vegetarian. I feel like the black sheep in my family)

Katie @ saltpig canteen said...

We'll be heading out there next year, can't wait to taste a true Bahn Mi!

~LinkWithin

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