Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

Adventure Eating

5 Comments 15 July 2009

This fish was alive not more than 5 minutes prior!

This fish was alive not more than 5 minutes prior!

After 8 months here I finally found some Vietnamese friends who have taken me on as their ‘foreign friend project’. Meaning – they are helping me to see and experience the Vietnamese culture from a local perspective. It’s easy to experience the touristy side of Saigon, however I have found it hard to really integrate into the daily life here. I’ve desperately wanted to integrate in and talk to the locals, eat crazy street food, understand some of the cultural oddities that I encounter every day; but that’s hard to do when you don’t know the language. You don’t need to know Vietnamese to be able to simply get around, but you do need to know it to have and understand real day to day cultural experiences.

Lee and Tuyet - my hosts and translators!

Lee and Tuyet - my hosts and translators!

That’s where my friends Lee and Tuyet come in. By chance I met them at a coffee café. There was a power cut in my neighborhood and it forced me out to a coffee shop. Lee, an American Vietnam Vet, and Tuyet, his wife from Dalat Vietnam are a lovely couple; I can’t stress this enough. Tuyet lost her sight when she was 7 years old. That alone fascinated me as I find Saigon a terribly difficult city to navigate with sight – I can’t imagine how she does it!

Ever since the day we met and exchanged pleasantries and phone numbers, they’ve been on a mission to show me the amazing food of Vietnam. They started this adventure by taking me to a local market and showing me how to cook up a Vietnamese seafood feast. They also introduced me to durian – the king of fruits.

This week, we went out to a night market on a rainy night and I tried more things that I never would have dreamed of being edible!

Inspecting the little snail shell (notice my drinks too!)

Inspecting the little snail shell (notice my drinks too!)

First we had yummy clams followed by baby snails in a coconut sauce. The coconut sauce was amazing; unexpectedly sweet. I was surprised though that the snails came out in their little homes – their shells. Tuyet demonstrated how I was to get the snails out of their home – by sucking…hard! Sure enough – with some effort – out they came and they tasted pretty good!

A while ago I introduced Tuyet to the concept of beer mixed with tomato juice – so she repaid the favor and introduced me to beer mixed with Coke. I was skeptical – but it actually tasted good – kind of like a refreshing ice tea. Since they already put ice in beer served in Saigon, it didn’t seem that odd to then simply add Coke too.
sucking the snail out of it's happy little home

sucking the snail out of it's happy little home

Finally – after our fresh grilled fish – yum – we walked to a smoothie place. I let them order for me and they decided upon a durian/avocado smoothie. Hmmm – these are two things that I would never order in a smoothie alone – let alone mixed together! But I was game to try it. We sat out at a little table on the sidewalk and they brought us 3 smoothies – the durian smell was suddenly present in front of me; not very appetizing. I made a big sigh and though…ok – you gotta try it. I’ve decided that I’m one of those rare people that doesn’t have a strong reaction to durian. Most people love it or hate it…I don’t love or hate it. I find it to be a strange taste, but nothing that gives me the gag reflex. Then again durian burps aren’t very fun.

I survived the night and was stuffed afterwards! I look forward to our next adventure!

Tuyet and Lee dig into desert - durian/avocado smoothie!

Tuyet and Lee dig into desert - durian/avocado smoothie!

If you want to read more food posts – wander on over to Wanderfood Wednesdays at Wanderlust and Lipstick blog – they post food related stories on Wednesdays – yum!

Your Comments

5 Comments so far

  1. Anil says:

    Beer and coke? Would never have thought of that, I’ll have to give it a try.

  2. Sherry Ott says:

    @Anil – I used to drink beer and tomato juice, so I figured that it couldn’t be that different! The beer/coke wasn’t too bad. However, I don’t know that I’d go to a bar in NYC and order it!

  3. Ba says:

    I’ve had both the avocado and durian smoothies but never have tried the cobination. Wonder what it would taste like.

  4. Andy T says:

    It’s great to see some people are not afraid to try weird things! I am taking my wife, who is Hispanic, to Vietnam in November and hope to introduce her to my culture! :)

  5. Love this post! We just got back from 2.5 weeks in Vietnam a couple days ago — got sucked into your blog reading about your motorbike adventures, then stumbled onto this post. We were also introduced to eating at the night market (by expat friends, who’ve lived in HCMC for 8 years), and I’m pretty sure we ate at the exact same stall — we also had the snails in coconut milk, and the amazing grilled snapper. We ate semi-adventurously on our short trip, but it would not have even occurred to me to order the snails, and I loved them, too. I haven’t done a blog post on this part of the trip yet, and I didn’t manage to get very good photos, so I’m glad to have somewhere to refer people to. Thanks for the great post.

    I was also interested in your comment about what it might be like to be blind in Saigon, as I wondered similar things while we were walking around.

    Looking forward to catching up and reading more.


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Sherry traveling the world

I'm Sherry, a corporate cube dweller turned nomadic traveler. I travel to off-the-beaten-path destinations to bring you unique travel experiences and photography. But it's not just about travel, it's also about life experiences of a middle age wanderer.
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