Comphocomphocomphocompho

We’ve been in Vietnam for…holy crap…three weeks already. Even though we haven’t been moving, you can bet we’ve been eating. Here’s what:

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First meal: tofu and tomato stirfry, boiled vegetables to dip in salt, and in the background, the worst chicken the other Shakies had ever tried. There’s a long list of things the Vietnamese don’t bother to do with their chicken, including: removing the skin, divide it into body parts (it’s all just hacked into random pieces), season it, or warm it up. Not to be cruel, but…we were tired of the food here after the first meal.

Oh,and also, some rice (“com,” pronounced “gum”).

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Day 2: Pho. It’s omnipresent and uh…somewhat overrated. A nice, mellow blend of spices, including some anise, and a dash or two of lime, but still, it’s 90% mushy noodles. Not entirely unpleasant, but rarely satisfying. Usually the vegetarian version is just noodles in broth, so I was happy to have tofu and greens in this one. A bargain at 20k ($1) per bowl.

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You know something is up when I get excited about a simple tomato and cabbage stirfy that doesn’t even have soy sauce in it. The other dishes on the table were: steamed greens and tomatoesntofu.

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What we asked for: “Rice and vegetables, please. No meat, but eggs are OK.”

What we got: cold rice, steamed greans, a six-egg omelet, six fried eggs…and another six-egg omelet.

Mingyu spent the whole night groaning, giving himself a stomach massage, and throwing up. His stomach hurt so bad that the next morning he did a little Oriental Medicine on himself: he tied strings nice and tight around his thumbs right between the knuckles until they got all red and swollen, pricked himself with a needle just at the base of his thumbnail, and extruded some “black blood” that looked pretty normal to me. He claimed he felt better, but…

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100m up that day’s mountain, he threw in the towel. Maybe my and Chris’ skepticism overpowered whatever real or imagined effect his bloodletting was supposed to have.

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He caught a truck up to the top in 45 minutes. The remaining 900m climb took us over two hours (a pretty good pace, actually), so by the time we got to the top, Mingyu had fully recovered and the other Shakies and I were just about dead.

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That night’s goodies: slices of taro with some sort of pate’ in the middle, battered and fried. Perfect beer sides.

 

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Our first spring rolls! Unfortunately, I’d rather not eat the meat and the Koreans have trouble with cilantro.

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Now I know:

Pho = flat rice noodle.

Bun = thin, round rice noodle

My = ramen.

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This is what happens when I find glutinous rice donuts at 10/$1.

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Homemade meal courtesy of Pooh and cousin: sausage paddies, greans, organ and taro soup. Thanks!

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“Xoi,” a cyclist’s dream food. Sticky rice (cooked with certain veggies that dye it red or yellow), peanuts, fried onions, some spices, and pulled pork (or not). All wrapped up leaves. Portable, fast, filling, trash-free, and frickin’ delicious.

 

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“Pho Xao” (fried Pho) with no seasoning except for a few slices of chive. Come on, Vietnam, I know you can do better than this!

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Dinner with “Dat” and family: Pork and taro, chicken, steamed bamboo, bamboo pickles, pumpkin soup (awesome), and liquor.

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And breakfast the following morning: ramen with an egg. Rather than opening the little supplementary sauce bag and dutifully squeezing every last drop into the broth, Mrs. Dat just snipped it and dropped it in. I guess beggars can’t be choosers, but…hrm.

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“Du” in Korean, “Dou” in Chinese, “Tua” in Thai, “Dau” in Vietnamese: BEANS!

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Bar food, exhibit A: Fried Rice.

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Bar Food, Exhibit 2: Ginormous Pappadum.

Method of consumption: use your fists to smash it into edible chip-sized pieces!

We never learned the name for this thing, so every time we ordered it we just pounded our fists on the table and pretended to be crushing something. YEAH!

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On the way home from the Bar Food: grilled corn and sugarcane.

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Sandwiches for breakfast.

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Fried ramen, spring rolls, tofuntomatoes, pork. Not pictured: rice and steamed greens.

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Best Pho yet! Why? Because it comes with sides of eggs, greens, and peanuts. (Not pictured: Pho.)

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Our Couchsurfing host Diep (between me and Minsung) introduced us to something new: Vietnamese hotpot, “Lau.”

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Way more flavorful than Pho broth! And full of mushrooms and tofu skin. Way to go Diep!

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He also introduced us to another wonderful bar food: corn kernels, battered and fried. Who knows how they manage it?

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Train station food: baguettes with veggies and eggs.

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Hanoi is actually packed with interesting restaurants, from coffee shops to KFCs to pasta buffets to fine French dining, but I think this is my favorite: a lady and her sisters show up on a street corner across from our hotel and set up a buffet with a rotating menu. $1 for a plate of rice and 4 veg sides. This one included cauliflower, how wondrous!

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Aaaand let’s round things out (no pun intended) with splendid veggie spring rolls from The Loving Hut.

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Actually, there’s been a last-minute entry: a vegan feast prepared for us by our new friend Sim. Potato pancakes, the best fried tofu (thanks to the garlic crisps on top) we’ve had in Vietnam, stirfried veggies, and tomato soup with bean sprouts and a hint of pineapple.

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All cooked on a single gas burner (and a pair of rice cookers) in a 10×10 dorm room that two girls share. Insanity!

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Eight people eatin’ vegan. If you cook for them, they will come.

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