We have returned from Vietnam and I don't think the Mayor and I will ever be the same. It is a country of wild contradictions -- such as amazing fresh food and yet not much sanitation. We spent the better part of two weeks exploring the country from bottom to top and I could create a whole other blog just to write about all of our experiences. But, Noodle Pie has that covered -- and let me just say right here that so much of our foodie heaven in Saigon was experienced because of Pieman's fine blog.
The Mayor and I loved to walk through the marketplaces. Believe me, there are things that I wish I never would have seen -- things that will haunt my dreams like that little spooky boy from The Grudge. As we would walk through the narrow little aisles jammed with people and produce and animal carcasses, I once turned to The Mayor and said, "Boy, this could turn one off food for life." Oh, if only that were really true! I almost always recovered. Anthony Bourdain says that one should recognize that meat was once living, and you should honor and respect that. Okay, I get it. But jeez -- do I have to know this much?
But, oh the revelations! In 90 degree heat with equal humidity, there is nothing quite as refreshing as fresh-pressed sugar cane juice mixed with fresh-squeezed lemon juice shaken with crushed ice until frothy. We sat on two tiny stools and gulped two of these babies down each. The Mayor also had a can of the original Thai Red Bull, which is so much more tasty than the US version. When the proprietress told us the cost was 50,000 dong, The Mayor yelped, "WHAT?!" I laughed as I explained to him that it was about three dollars for five drinks and to fork over the money.
One of the best meals we had in Saigon was a tipoff from Noodle Pie for the best sandwich on the street: the Banh mi thit nuong. Can I just say -- oh.my.god. This was unbelieveably good. It was like the door opened in my black and white world to reveal technicolor beyond. Life changing. Really.
Banh mi thit nuong is made with charcoal-grilled pork patties that are cooked right in front of you, and then stuffed into a gorgeous, crusty french bread roll, then covered with pickled carrots and radishes, crispy cucumber, onion, fresh cilantro and smothered in hot sauce. All that is then neatly wrapped in someone's old accounting journal or utility bill. I think I could go so far as to say this might be the best sandwich anywhere. As much as I love In-n-Out, if there was a banh mi thit nuong stand on a nearby Venice Beach corner, I might give up my Double Double with grilled onions... forever.
Again, we sat on impossibly small kiddie stools while an unending stream of motorscooters whizzed by, and I can't think of a better way to spend a hot, humid evening than sitting there with by beloved Mayor while stuffing our faces full of piggy goodness.