Where Creativity Lies: Vietnam From the Back of a Motorbike
3. The third best dish I had in Vietnam was a bánh mì. I’d had it several times before, but this one left a lasting impression. This giant sandwich was stuffed with six different kinds of charcuterie and spicy pickled vegetables, then topped with bacon mayonnaise. Holding it all together was a toasted hoagie roll, but the best part was the price: only $1.25.
4. Of course, we had to stop at the popular offal rice porridge vendor before the dish sold out, which usually happened in less than two hours. I got one of the last bowls of the day and was glad I did because I had never tasted anything close to it. The slightly al dente rice was paired with pickled garlic and chiles, giving it the big kick of spice it needed to offset the creaminess of the rest of the dish. The hearty bowl only set me back $2.
5. The street food that truly epitomized Vietnamese street food, though, was banh trang tron, or shredded rice paper salad. But I wouldn’t call it a dish — it was more like a bag of ingredients tossed together. We didn’t even have to leave the motorbike to grab our food. Instead, I selected the ingredients I wanted from different bags, and the cook mixed the rice paper ribbons, dried beef liver, quail eggs, green mango, dried shrimp, kumquats, toasted peanuts, and chiles. He flung the finished product at me with chopsticks, and we continued on our tour. It was delicious (and cost $0.25!), and I was able to eat it while dodging traffic.
From the extremely affordable yet exotic food to our motorbike tour and exploration of the Mekong River, there was no shortage of adventure during my trip to Vietnam. It wasn’t a likely tourist spot, but for an aspiring chef looking to broaden his cultural and culinary horizons, it was the perfect place to visit.
Blake Beshore is the co-author of the James Beard Award-winning book, "Notes from a Kitchen: A Journey Inside Culinary Obsession," and is the co-founder of Tatroux LLC, a growing culinary arts publishing company. Connect with Blake on Twitter and Google+.