Vietnamese food is fresh, flavourful, and a culinary delight. All of Asia – for that matter – is a paradise for street foodies. Snacking is a much-loved pastime, unofficially, of course. The preparation of street foods can be high art. The way one talks in Canada about the weather, one talks in Asia about the food. The customary greeting in Mandarin is: “Ni chi bao le ma?” – “Have you eaten to fullness?”
I am a vegetarian. I am not much of a deep-fry lover, and you don’t catch me at a fast food joint back home. But once on the road, I can’t be trusted. I don’t have to be hungry to poke around in food markets or hang out at street food stalls. I immerse myself in the delicious flavors they have to offer, and I am fascinated by how little tools are needed to prepare some of the most exotic foods the region has to offer. It’s a feast for the senses.
If one thinks of the absence of running freshwater, it’s probably not the most hygienic way to prepare food. But then again, do we know how food is prepared in Restaurants? At least at food stalls, I can watch the preparation. If there are dirty dishes, an unclean workspace, an overall ‘dirty feel’ or ingredients I don’t trust, I have a choice: eat it or leave it.
I love Vietnamese food. I have a weakness for fast food Vietnamese style and a soft spot for the little mouthfuls of the savory surprises; the sweet, the salty, and the sour. It’s probably a good thing that I can’t read the menu or I would have missed out on some of the best mysterious fixings I ever had.
For me, travel is as much about the location as it is about the food. I love the jolt I get from exotic foods. It makes my journeys flavourful. Food and culture are almost always tied together. If I abstained from street food, I would cut myself off from the local culture. Even if I don’t speak the language, food lets me find the link to communicate without many words.
A casual snack here, a quick eat there, and I am in heaven. Even the drabbest place becomes interesting if there is great street food. I am always amazed on how good even common everyday food tastes. And, it is very affordable and suits any pocket.
Pho – the famous noodle soup, low in fat and calories – is not only eaten at breakfast, it’s prepared anytime of the day and always tastes different – from cook to cook and village to village.
Fortunately, I never got sick from these food stall adventures. Maybe it has something to do with the killing of germs by sizzling, frying, steaming and boiling the food? Or maybe something with me having two stomachs and no heart?
Travelling is as much about culture and history as it is about food. The temptations of culinary riches and seductive treats that tickle our taste buds range from the most exquisite delicacies to the most unusual flavors. Some of the weirdest offerings don’t always spark an appetite in even the most adventurous of travel foodies.