I have been on vacation for the last month, exploring some of the countries in south-east Asia as well as visiting my motherland (aka Hong Kong). I must admit, that despite being Chinese, I seldom eat Asian cuisine in New Zealand when I dine out (apart from Japanese). So during my month away, I decided that it was time to try as much as I could.
XO Foodie Tour: A tour company highly praised on Tripadvisor, we decided that this was the best way to try all the local cuisines at places where locals dine. Being zoomed around on the back of mopeds in the busy city that is Ho Chi Minh City, this tour was a perfect way to explore the various districts as well as try the different dishes. With local dishes like balut, BBQ goat and frogs, we enjoyed everything that they had to offer! Unlimited food, beer and soda is included in the tour price.
Temple Club (29-31 Ton That Thiep Street, Ho Chi Minh City): This place was recommended by bloggers and has become famous since Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt dined here when they were in Vietnam. Housed in a charming renovated Chinese temple, the restaurant is separated into two levels. We tried a couple of dishes, all reasonably priced and the atmosphere is very relaxed with good ambience. My sister and I both enjoyed the bamboo shoot salad served with crispy rice crackers.
L’Usine (151 Dong Khoi, Ho Chi Minh City): My first meal in Vietnam is from the L’Usine cafe which is linked to the boutique, quietly hidden upstairs, accessible via a small alleyway. Being the first meal, the price seemed relatively cheap, but as our days progress, we realised that we might have overpaid. The caramelised pork and herb sandwich was tasty, but rather mediocre. The coffee however, my first refreshing drink for the day, was perfect. Strong, milky and ice-cold.
Lemongrass (4 Nguyen Thiep Street, Ho Chi Minh City): Recommended by our local guide and only minutes from our hotel, the steamed clams from Lemongrass were similar to what I had via the Foodie Tour. With a hint of heat and a strong lemongrass aroma, the clams were plump and juicy. The accompanying soup was filled with flavours and this was quickly devoured.
Trung Nguyen Coffee (Various locations): This coffee shop franchise can be found everywhere in District One and is the Starbucks of Ho Chi Minh City. Here, we tried their local coffee which is brewed in a small metal apparatus that sits on your cup. The coffee slowly drips through and you end up with a rich dark coffee which you can have on its own or with condensed milk. Quite different from the usual coffee I have in Auckland, but it’s still very good. From their on-site store, I purchase one of the metal device as well as a couple of bags of their special coffee blends.
I very much enjoyed the food in Vietnam. Yet, I must admit that the Vietnamese cuisine in Auckland is just as good, if not better. The banh mi at Rad is much better than the ones I’ve had in Saigon and this is likely due to the superb ingredients that New Zealand has to offer. But it is important to remember that the ones in Vietnam is a fraction of the price, so I can’t really complain.
Next up, Phnom Penh and Siem Riep!