Don’t Dismiss the Street Food Vendor’s “Upsell” in SE Asia

The Upsell: don’t dismiss it hastily.

Having ordered the pork, the vendor’s tout suggested I also go the “seafood” side dish.


It is now one of my favorite travel meals – something a wise travel scribe avoids declaring too often.

Pineapple flavored octopus, with onions, cucumber, in a herb & spice “sweet & sour” sauce.

To this, I add barely more than a whiff of the hot chilli oil.

Just this dish, with the sliced cucumber and steamed rice, would have sufficed – I need not to have ordered the pork belly … so succulent … in a warm honey & spice sauce … but, hey, who’s complaining?

VND55,000 / AUD3.50, street vendor Cholon Chinatown, Saigon/Ho Chi Minh City

On the Wings of a Chicken I Find Myself Lifted …

Marinated chicken wings with steamed rice and a side dish of dipping sauce that would “knock your socks off” (to quote my dear Grandma).

The condiment of chilli, hot pepper, salt and lime juice might be a distant cousin of Khmer lok lak sauce?

It marries well with the sliced cucumber and Vietnamese mint.

I have promised my waistline that on my imminent return to Australia, rice and myself shall become estranged – albeit temporarily.

VND100,000 (AUD6.40), Nha Trang, Vietnam

(And apologies to lyricist & musician Russell Morris)

Pork: Five Hours in the Oven for this Moment of Bliss

Pork Ribs Cooked Five Hours in Oven.

I can’t have a favorite dish, in South-East Asia.

Not even a Top 10.

There are just too many.

This pork is served with a sauce of subtle but complex salt & spice flavors, a salad of lettuce, cucumber, tomato, onion and capsicum with a light-ish, creamy mustard dressing, and sticky rice – to which I like to mix in a squirt of chilli sauce and a good dose of South-East Asian hot pepper.

If I were at home in St Kilda, I would discreetly wrap the bones and tendons in a serviette and take for my two little terrier dogs – to better explain why I’ve arrived home with such a happy, contented smile.

At the newly opened The Local Anh’s restaurant & bar, cnr Hùng Vuong and Trâng Quang Khai streets, central Nha Trang, Vietnam.

VND135,000 (AUD9), or add VND10,000 for mozzarella cheese on the pork, which our Russian tourist friends seem to savour.

Our Hunger for Plastic

South-East Asia & Plastic: this is from one very simple lunch.

Pork, vege and rice USD2.50, from a popular street vendor in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

(Tasted good, too!)

This visit I have seriously reduced my plastic consumption:

● I’ve washed & reused a plastic bowl/spoon/fork/knife;

● go out always with a used plastic bag in my pocket for incidental purchases (those little cold cans of beer);

● given my empty plastic water bottles to housekeeping to recycle.

But still …

Eating In makes a nice change

South-East Asian food is cheap & plentiful.

Sometimes, though, it’s nice to whip up your own, back in your room – especially when on an extended holiday or journey.

An instant noodles bowl can be washed and often reused (reduce #plastic), buy plain egg/rice noodles (minus the salt sachets) and try the variety of sauces, flavourings, vegies, fish, egg etc.

Most hotel/guesthouse rooms have a hot water kettle.

Ăn ngon miệng nhé!

Fast Food Wars in Vietnam

Fast Food Wars: the smokey, heat of battle in Vung Tau, Vietnam.

Pitched on each side of the street, it’s Cóm 25k versus Cóm Tàm 25k.

Maccas v Hungry Jack’s? KFC v Red Rooster?

Both sell the grilled, ultra-thin chicken cutlet with egg, rice, vegie and a squirt of sweet chilli syrup.

Delicious, too.

Let’s call it a draw, and we’re all winners …

Crispy Rice ‘Puff’ is Good Stuff

Vietnam Lunch: the young bloke next to me was eating a plateful of these, with rice.

Being of daring spirit and with a yearn to learn, I had to try one too. Delicious!

Similar to a Cantonese ham sui gok, it is a light, hollow, doughy “puff” coated in baked rice “bubbles” (a la crispy rice crackers) and, I presume, pan fried.

These being hollow, you could have a lot of fun experimenting with various fillings such as paté or mince, or do vegetarian with diced tomatoes and onions; maybe a sweet version with raisins and citrus peel, and serve hot with vanilla bean ice-cream.

(I’ve impressed myself with these ideas. What am I doing, pretending to write? I should be pretending to “chef” …)

Crispy rice “puffs”: a delicious addition to lunch in Nha Trang, Vietnam

Vietnam Lunch is ‘One With The Lot’

Vietnam lunch is a “one with the lot”.

A big queue was happening at this Nha Trang street food stall – building labourers, office workers, they were pulling up on their motor scooters; the family running the stall were working like clockwork, filling take-away containers and ladening plates.

They all seemed to be ordering rice with a bit of everything. So I did, too! Smart move.

The meal was pork done various ways, chicken, boiled/stewed pigeon eggs, vegetable, crunchy fried shrimp (yes, I crunched them – shell, head and all), and other bits and pieces.

Generously spoon on some SE Asian home-made sweet chilli syrup, and tuck in …

Lunch is a Vietnamese “one with the lot”

Breaking Bread With Broken Rice: “Quiche Nha Trang”

Chà com tâm is a cold “pie” made with broken rice, cucumber and eggs – this version tastes also of mushrooms and salty fish sauce, adorned with red chillies.

It’s like quiche Lorraine … shall we call it “Quiche Nha Trang”?

On the topic of “broken rice”, one evening I chatted to an American in the Muster Bar in Vung Tau who was building a factory on the Mekong River, in partnership with a local, to export “broken rice”.

There’s big bickies to be made in the non-perfect rice grain trade …

Chà com tâm is a quiche-like Vietnamese dish made of “broken rice” (ie non-perfect grains) mashed with eggs, cucumber and other ingredients