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Viet Nom!

Kirsty RossAug 02, 2019 Placement highlights
Iona Hill is currently on placement at the Oxford University Clinical Research Facility (OUCRU) in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

Favourite foods in Vietnam

When someone asks me my favourite thing about Vietnam so far, up there with the amazing places to visit and fascinating culture will always be the food!

Vietnam was definitely a crazy place to live for me compared to the familiarity of Glasgow. Even some of the simplest tasks like food shopping are a challenge. Food shopping requires a week long tactical plan of visiting various markets, stores and western food shops to get all my supplies. I quickly realised what foods don’t last long here (even if left in the fridge) and I also learned the hard way not to leave food out - as no matter how well you think you wrapped it up the bugs will still get to it! On top of this, there is the challenge of limited cooking equipment. Answer me this, what exciting meals can you make using a microwave, a hot plate and one pan? Especially when you do not even have a knife! This was partly rectified by a stop off at the bustling Ben Thanh Market for cooking utensils, but it is not surprising a simpler and cheaper solution was to eat-out every day…

Living in the busy streets of District 1 (the backpacker district), I am never too far from amazing street food. Unsurprisingly, I quickly got a taste for Vietnamese cuisine. One of my favourites soon became pho – a beef noodle soup. Here the locals eat pho for breakfast, but I stick to having it after midday! Secondly, Banh mi (I am guessing a left over from French colonisation) this is the Vietnamese answer to a sandwich. In baguette bread, banh mi is made up of a variety of grilled meats, pate, vegetables, coriander and chili, all topped with Vietnamese sauces. At street food vendors, they make banh mi for you fresh often for £1 or less! Finally, my absolute favourite is banh xeo. This is a crispy pancake traditionally filled with pork and shrimp then a mixture of vegetables (often beansprouts and mushrooms). To eat this you take a large leaf, fill with pancake and other herbs then wrap up into a roll and eat! This soon became a staple of my diet in Ho Chi Minh City.

Even with my enthusiasm for Vietnamese food, I am still taken by surprise at some of the dishes here and I am not sure I can get on board with everything. An example occurred the other day in the office when someone brought in cake. It was mostly gone so I thought I should grab a slice while there was some left. I took a nice big mouthful and quickly wished I hadn’t. What I thought was a sponge cake with butter cream icing topped with fruit was actually a sweet sponge cake topped with spreadable cheese, salted egg yolk and pork floss…

Overall, most of the food in Vietnam is amazing and every day I get to try new things, most of which I love. The key is, remember to keep an open mind and that anything is possible when it comes to food here - if it looks like meat on a cake it probably is meat on a cake!

Cảm ơn bạn!

Some of my favourites dishes: Egg coffee, spicy pho, banh xeo, banh trang nuong (Vietnamese pizza - made on rice paper on a BBQ), banh mi, and sooooo much tropical fruit

Some of the offending items: Savoury pork cake, chicken feet, cobra alcohol, weird supermarket finds and grilled frog (although this was actually surprisingly tasty)!