On Food

If I were you, this is the post that would probably make me most jealous: the food here in SE Asia is delicious. Especially in Cambodia we’ve had the most wonderful dishes although the cuisines are all rather similar in this region. (Thai food in particular seems to have wormed its way onto every menu – it’s hard to find a place where they do not serve green papaya salad. Not that we’re complaining…)
With a few dishes we’ve had trouble figuring out how to eat them ‘like a local’ since the Vietnamese in particular are very fond of bringing you the ingredients and then you have to assemble them into tasty bites yourself. Usually that doesn’t involve too much fiddling but when you’re presented with the following, what do you do?!

Northern style Vietnamese spring rolls

Well, you could simply eat the spring rolls, then the noodles and stare at the greens until they wilt. Or, for exponential deliciousness, you put a piece of spring roll into a leaf of lettuce, garnish it with some noodles and herbs, wrap it up tight and dip it into the vinegar/chili sauce. Your taste buds might well explode from all that goodness.

Speaking of sauces, here in Vietnam each dish usually comes with its own sauce for dipping. In most cases, this addition makes all the difference. Unfortunately it’s not always obvious which sauce goes with what dish. Yesterday at lunch, for example, we ordered four different types of springs rolls and of course they were accompanied by four different types of sauce. The waiter pointed to the sauces and dishes that belonged together and we arranged our plates so that we’d remember what goes with what. Then the fifth dish arrived (yeah, so we’re pigging out) and the waiter moved our plates! NOOO!!! Now we have no idea anymore what goes with what and since three of the sauces are of a transparent, identical color only distinguished by the slices of veggies floating inside, it’s impossible to recall the connections. Oh well, so we committed the ultimate faux pas and simply dipped things into whatever sauce dish we felt like. A whole new taste experience. 😉

Fresh spring rolls with pork and prawns

Steamed rice crepes filled with minced pork, crab and seafood Nem

Of course we’ve also had countless bowls of pho (Vietnamese noodle soup, eaten at any meal from morning till night) and here the trick is to go cheap. As in, the cheaper the place, the better the pho. Restaurant pho (it’s pronounced something like fur but without the r) is usually too bland and boring. We had the best bowl of noodle soup so far at the night market in Luang Prabang, Laos. It was spicy, full of noodles, veggies and meat and cost us less than the large bottle of beer we shared with it.

One of these little suckers is plenty for a whole bowl. Unless your name is Guido. Then you might want to throw in two or three.

Street food is all about customization. Each person on the table might order the same dish but thanks to a staggering array of condiments, anyone can tweak it exactly to their liking. The usual suspects found on any street side eatery are fish sauce and chilies (either as powder, paste or liquid). Then, depending on what you ordered, you might also receive limes, sugar, herbs and specially mixed sauces.

Fish sauce, chili sauce, shrimp paste, artificial lime juice and a mysterious grey powder that neither one of us was brave enough to try.

Barbecue is also a favourite meal. Usually it’s bits and pieces of cow, pork, fish or seafood but sometimes you come across a special place like this one in Phnom Penh:

Yep, that's a whole cow.

We ordered the ‘Special BBQ Beef’ at this place because it sounded a bit more fancy than the ‘BBQ Cow’ but I’m pretty sure it was exactly the same dish, just a bit pricier for the fancy name. It was tasty in any case.

If you’re ever fed up with regular restaurant food and just want a snack, there’s hope too. Pringles have their own Asian flavours:

Both 'Seaweed' and 'Grilled Shrimp' are an acquired taste when it comes to chips but look at the pretty colors!

More photos in the gallery

5 Responses to “On Food”

  1. Martha says:

    Super jealous! And now, super hungry as well…

  2. Vicky says:

    i want all those spring rolls straight away. guido is making us chinese duck tonight but for sure it will not compare to what you guys are getting… super super jealous… you know that we might all come along straight away now…

  3. Mina says:

    I’ve got no words! I want some food! Nano want to try the Pringles

  4. Kuru says:

    And I thought I had a good spring roll the other night with Tarek and Dani and Co. !
    Remember to write that book I told you about.

  5. giulia says:

    yo quiero!

Leave a Reply