October 22, 2009

Vietnam: First Impressions

I have to say that before setting off on our trip, Vietnam was the place that I wanted to visit most – mainly due to the fact I use to regularly head to Old Street in London to sample the good, cheap Vietnamese food on offer, and couldn’t wait to taste the real deal. Vietnam is also where we will be based the longest during our trip, as my boyfriend and I are also teaching English at the University of Vietnam, Hanoi, for the next couple of months.

Coming from Thailand, we didn’t think that the food could get much cheaper, but we are now currently dining out for around £2-2.50 a go for both of us (although if this seems cheaper than you were expecting, we are paying student prices).

Unfortunately however, we have so far found that the quality of the food in and around the university cafés and restaurants seems to be reflected by the price. Some cheap eats are by no means bad, but at the same time have nothing on the menu that particularly stands out. While the noodles vary in the soups, most stir-fry’s encompass only instant noodles (think Bachelor’s Super Noodles), and all the rice we have tried so far has probably notched a 4 out of 10, with one particularly bad incident involving parts of a burnt wok and chicken bones!

It is also slightly off-putting that the majority of café food is pre-cooked and left out in the heat throughout the day, which just means I have constant health and safety alarm bells ringing in my head! We have tried hitting this hurdle head-on on a couple of occasions, but have only been disappointed with the blandness and quality of the food; it is very noticeable that, comparatively, the seasoning in Vietnamese dishes has been nowhere near as flavoursome as in Thailand. This seems to make for a satisfying but mediocre experience for the majority of our meals.

However, if Rick Stein’s recent TV programme: ‘Asian Food Odyssey’ is anything to go by, I know we’re in store for some great eats, and can’t wait to get to the fresh seafood on our upcoming trip to Halong Bay, as well as dip into a couple of his restaurant recommendations, so watch this space….

Extra note:

I’ve come to realise that while I like to think of myself as a bit of a foodie, it’s perfectly normal to miss a few home comforts, especially when you’re away for a long period of time. If you find yourself in the same boat, I’d highly recommend a trip to KFC which can be found everywhere in Hanoi (although surprisingly there are no MacDonald’s or Burger King’s on offer!) – it hits the spot every time. Failing that, head to one of the bigger supermarkets for some raspberry jam or peanut butter J

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