Sunday, February 26, 2012

Dinner Diary - Vietnamese Train Surprise

So i'm sitting on a train somewhere between Hanoi and Da Nang when a train company employee passes by my hard sleeper hawking some stuff. Having seen a couple of other vietnamese people go for it, i thought why not. Inside the white casing which was nicely wrapped in a leaf, was a mince pork filling with a quails egg, Quite tasty. The unfortunate thing, is i have no clue what it is, but it was "cheap-ish" for train food coming in at 30000 Dong.

Friday, February 24, 2012

I Took a Picture [Central Vietnam Edition]

Hoi An, Vietnam, 3 Exposure HDR

Dinner Diary - Coconut Cake

Who loves Sugar ... i love sugar. As a result i was over the moon when i discovered this one. It's essentially sweetened grated coconut inside a bread like bun, deep-fried. Totally awesome, however a tad expensive, weighing in 10000 Dong (US$0.50) each.

Dinner Diary - Banh Xeo

Today's dish was Banh Xeo. This dish consists of three parts, a deep fried Pancake/omelette with bean sprouts, pork, and spring onions, a salad of lettece and mint and some other mysterious vegetable, and Rice paper. The sauce in the bottom right of the image above is fish sauce is a couple stray mint leafs. The glass used to contain Ca phe sua da (lit. coffee milk cold)

The lady at the restaurant (yeah, i didn't eat on the street, i was surprised too), informed me that the proper way to eat the dish was to tear off a piece of the pancake, add some salad, and roll it in the rice paper, and then dip it in the fish sauce (see below).

"They see me rolling"
Ready to go, not before dipping in fish sauce of course
 Once we've rolled up, we dip it in the fish sauce and enjoy. The portion size is surprising big, and the end result is a filling meal. In many ways it reminded me of my favourite dish so far in Asia, Roti Canai. The price however is astronomical in comparison, with Bahn Xeo costing 25000 Dong (US$1.25/£0.75), while the infamous Roti Canai could be had for as little as £0.20. However either way you cut it, it's good.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Dinner Diary - Vietnamese Market surprise

Yet another trip to a market, and yet more food that i have no clue about. This dish was contained  rice, tofu, shrimp, chicken, beansprouts, green beans, loads of fish sauce and other assorted veggies.

I think this was a slightly more "natural" dish, where it has no real name, but is just an assortment of good food thrown together on a plate.

Total cost 30 000 Dong (US$1.50/GB£1.00) including some vietnamese tea.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Dinner Diary - Pho Thịt lợn

Pho is possibly the most popular vietnamese dish abroad. Strangely the first time i had Pho was in Honolulu, Hawaii. I had this particular dish in Da Lat, it features some pork sausage and perhaps the lightest beef i've ever seen, however there is an extremely large possibility that this is pork.

This lovely dish set me back around 40000 Dong (US$2/ £1.20), along with the ever present ca pha sua da, which is Vietnamese ice coffee with milk. 

Friday, February 17, 2012

Dinner Diary - Meat Ball soup

One of the things i never appreciated about Vietnam is that it's really big. It also has a big population (over 90 Million). Because of the country's size there is a fairly big variation in the climate of certain regions. 

This was especially true in the town of Da Lat, located 2000m above sea level. As a result of the attitude the town is much cooler than most of Southern Vietnam, with temperatures hovering around the mid to low 20's in the shade.

In my experience, cooler climates usually equal awesome stews and soups, and Da Lat didn't disappoint. This lovely dish consisted of Noodles in a tomato-ish both, with a giant (bigger than my fist) meatball, as instructed by my vietnamese speaking travellers i threw in some cabbage and soy sauce to make the dish a little more interesting. Chilli's/ chilli sauce is also advised, however it was cold and i wanted to wolf it down.

If memory serves it set me back 20 000 Dong, which at time of writing was just under single US dollar.

Good Soup

Dinner Diary - Banh Mi

One of the fascinating things about travel for me is learning about how history has influenced the food of a particular county. The french colonisation of "Indo-China" has resulted in Cambodia and Vietnam being quite good at making bread. Something that is extremely unique in south-east asia. Generally the bread is awful, 5 months in i think i get to say that.

As i highlighted in a previous post, Cambodia has it's "Cambodian sandwich", Well not to be out done, Vietnam has it's own, the Banh Mi. From my limited understanding of Vietnamese, Bahn mi translates directly to "bread".  If you approach one of the vendors and just ask for a "Banh Mi" you'll be given a baguette. However if you ask for Banh Mi Ga, that is "Bread with chicken" then the fun starts. Ideally you should ask for everything ... i don't know how you say that in Vietnamese, however a circular motion near the various meats usually does the trick.

Banh Mi 'Everything'

Inside the everything option is usually beef, chicken, sweet chilli sauce, soy sauce, carrots, cabbage and more. They are quite easy to find in the south of Vietnam, (Ho Chi Min, Da Lat, Nha Trang etc), and can cost anywhere from 10 000(US$0.50c) to 25000(US$1.25) Dong.

Banh Mi Op La

But wait, there's more. Banh Mi Op la is another variation. What's the difference, simple it's egg inside the Banh mi. Usually these are fried "Sunny side up", and with the yoke still fluid so that you can enjoy some yellow goodness.

Friday, February 03, 2012

Acquiring a Chinese visa in Cambodia

In recent times the Chinese Immigration services have become more and more particular about the procedure required to get a chinese visa. My application was denied twice in Bangkok, Thailand for not having proper proof of my entry and exit into China. This was an issue as i want to travel into Southern China via Vietnam overland on a Train. And my Vietnamese isn't exactly conversational (read non-existent), so buying train tickets over the phone from bangkok isn't really an option.

However there is some light at the end of the tunnel. Turns out that the Chinese Embassy in Phnom Penh, Cambodia is a little bit of a rebel and doesn't ask for any of the aforementioned details. You turn up, fill out your form, and 3 days later you get the best sticker in the world. The other plus is that a single entry, 30 day Chinese visa in Bangkok costs around 1650 Baht for the regular service, that's about US$55 or £33 (Jan 2011), while in the "Kingdom of Wonder" (Cambodia's tourism tag line) it will cost US$30/£20.

On a side note, i highly recommend going to the Chinese Ambassador's residence in Phnom Penh, it's on street #380 at the bottom of street #51, like most things that involve the Chinese government its massive!