In a region of the world where the question “How are your bowel movements today?” has replaced “Good Morning Sunshine” as the first question of the day, food is naturally one of the most important aspects of living in South East Asia. One of the most noticeable changes from Cambodia to Vietnam was the transformation in the food. Fresh to Cambodia we scoffed at our allotted hour and a half lunch break (all still accustomed to the grab and go lifestyle of the states) . . . we imagined how productive we would be within that break. Oh the places we’ll go! Oh the Things we’ll see! Cambodia was our oyster and that lunch break provided us the opportunity to seize the day!
And then we had our first meal out.
We quickly learned that dining in Cambodia meant adjusting to the slow leisurely “I don’t give a ****” attitude that was ever present in Phnom Penh. An hour and a half was usually just enough time to fit in a simple meal of soup for lunch (dare you order on the more ambitious and complicated side you are pushing two hours) and often “ordering” was more an expression of a desired meal rather than a personal decision as you were often given something different altogether (at which you shrugged your shoulders and ate it anyway). And after an hour and half wait in an non airconditioned hut in the heat of the day . . . the food in general lacked flavor, nutrients and substance.
So imagine our surprise upon entering Saigon when we were suddenly presented with quick service, fresh herbs, and the pleasant surprise of FLAVOR! However, life can throw you some unexpected delicacies at unsuspecting times . . . experiencing AMAZING food on a completely unplanned trip to the Mekong Delta countryside was not on my Vietnamese cuisine checklist. Therefore, I am dedicating this post to describing these wonders in detail (maybe it will serve as a little motivation for all you magnificent and beautiful people in the states to get your behinds on a plane and come visit me).
Food Article A:
Fabulous Fruit Feast: For those who know me, you know that fruit is my obsession, my
deepest addiction and love. Constant exposure to the fresh watermelon, coconut, mango and pineapple galore of Vietnam is enough to send me to the moon. But tasting the BEST of these? Holey moley I’m in heaven. Hidden away on one of the islands of the Mekong lies (in my honest and experienced opinion) the best . . . pineapple and dragonfruit (delicious fruit that has a pink peel and is white with black seeds on the inside. Well done Mekong, well done.
Food Article B: Honey Tea
With honey bees abounding on these Mekong Islands, buzzing away in front of your eyes, you come to terms with the meaning of “fresh” honey. Bottled in front of you, this honey is served straight (and in abundance) with pollen, a fresh squeeze of tangerine and hot water. We sought this out the entire weekend!
Food Article C: Fresh Ginger!
As an ode to the title of this blog, I think it’s only serendipitous that I found the source of the world’s best and freshest ginger on one of my spontaneous adventures. While I was naturally having abdominal problems on this little excursion, I jumped with joy when I found some crystallized ginger being sold on one of the Mekong Islands. Had I known that this was no ordinary ginger indeed, but rather the BEST, I would have no doubt bought a suitcase’s worth. Sadly, I had no such idea and only had one small package of this ginger ecstasy – but the memory will live on forever. And give me another reason to go back (again come visit and I will take you to the source!).
Food Article D: Elephant Ear Fish (steamed in coconut juice with fresh herbs, vegetables and chili dipping sauce caught fresh and killed as we walked in the door).