Traveling around Vietnam for the second time was a welcoming party for my tummy, because both my husband and I LOVE Pho, Vietnamese spring rolls and most foods we’ve ever shoveled down our mouths in this country. For us, eating is as much of a part of traveling to foreign lands as is sight seeing or taking photos. Well, eating is required to survive, right?! But that doesn’t stop hoards of other tourists (like Koreans) from bringing their native food (primarily Kimchi) or visiting mostly Korean restaurants. By the way, having been to a Korean place once in Philadelphia, USA – NOT THAT GOOD! Save your $15 that you’d over pay and get yourself 3 Subway sandwiches instead.
Back to Vietnam, while traveling from Phu Quoc island (in the Southwest) all the way up to Hanoi in about 2 weeks, we were bound to run into some interesting, or should I say outright WEIRD foods/drinks. While, I’m typically a cautious eater (especially when it comes to spicy food), somewhere deep inside lies the adventurous attitude of Andrew Zimmern and I finally unleashed it!
In no particular order, I bring you my top 5 strangely weird Vietnamese foods:
1.Chicken egg embryos at Phu Quoc
The locals around us were eating them and all I could do was wonder of its taste. I mustered up the courage to ask the vendor for one, as the curious onlookers peaked around my shoulders. It was dark, veiny (I thought it moved, but that was just the liquid it was sloshing in). Crack the top, pour out the liquid and dig in. Tastes like chicken with a slight liver texture. Overall, I’d eat it again!
2. After eating an egg embryo, it makes you wonder what other ways do the Vietnamese utilize eggs in. Did you know that back in the 1950s a Vietnamese man created a special type of drink, which replaced the popular milk and was served with an egg instead? How would you like to have your morning eggs and coffee in one cup?! Well, there are lots of places in Hoi An (such as the Roastery) and in Hanoi (Giang Cafe), where you can try Egg Coffee.
It is sweet, frothy, tiny and amazingly tasty! Give it a go!
3. Speaking of coffee, what else can we put into coffee to make it more appealing/unique to the masses? Last year in Ho Chi Minh City (check out my post here), we came across an ice cream parlor that was using the same ingredient in their ice cream, but I didn’t like my Mexican flavored ice cream due to its spiciness (yup, spicy ice cream – yuk!) A year later, we’re in Hoi An, Vietnam, walking around the old style buildings and shops and come across this:
At only $1.27 and at curious state of mind, my hubby and I couldn’t just walk past. Having tried Nitro beer, I expected a frothy and full bodied beverage, which it was, but combined with a cold brew coffee, it just tasted super bitter. I hate bitter flavor and have weaned myself off coffee, unless of course its a milky Cafe Latte or Egg Coffee even. Nitro Cold Brew Coffee was not a beverage I’d consume twice, but that price is hard to beat when I think of Korea’s 4, 5 or 6 dollar cups of coffee. Apparently, somewhere in the fancy district of Gangnam (yes, that Gangnam) a coffee can cost as much as $15-20. Let’s not cheers to that!
4. Another surprise we came across in Vietnam was the beverage that is so near and dear to my husband’s heart – Craft Beer. Not just any beer, but CRAFT Beer. After doing some research, we’ve learned that a very well admired brewery out of Ho Chi Minh City called Pasteur Street Brewing Company. With a very handy Pasteur Street Finder, you can locate the pub and even the brews of your choice in a Vietnamese City you’re in or traveling to. We’ve had their Jasmine IPA, Coconut Stout, Spice Island Saison and Passion Fruit Wheat in various locations in Hoi An and Hanoi and were happy as can be to be drinking super tasty brews while on vacation. The best part (for a budget traveler of course) is the fact that you can drink very inexpensively in Vietnam and if you hunt down those Happy Hours, a glass of Pasteur Street deliciousness could run you as little as $2 (because buy 1 get one free is the way the life should be).
5. Another strange surprise we stumbled upon in Vietnam was Local Beer, which was priced at just .21 cents. Now, we’re travelers on a budget, but a beer at 21 cents is some downright sorcery. We had to investigate! Known as Bia Hoi (or local beer), these beers are delivered to various restaurants/bars by local brewers in plastic containers such as this one.
Numerous attempts at finding out the recipe or meeting the actual brewer were thwarted by the restaurant staff for various reasons (recent government crackdown on these possibly untaxed beverages or just a desire to stay under the radar). While the presentation is not ideal, in Hoi An Bia Hoi that we had were always fresh, crisp and on point. Hanoi’s sample quality varied, but what can you expect at just 21 cents a beer. If you would you like to read a deeper analysis of Vietnamese Beers from a brewers perspective, then read this.
What is the cheapest beer you’ve ever consumed? Was it any good?
As you can see, traveling and consuming in Vietnam is cheap, exciting and you’re bound to run into some surprising ingredients or delicacies. Don’t be a wimp, try everything you come across and hopefully you’ll live to tell the story. Just kidding!