Hoi An

In a country that has seen its fair share of war, Hoi An is a small miracle. Through the chaos and destruction of World War II, the French Viet-Minh War, and the American War, this tiny town and its architectural treasures somehow survived intact.

Declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1999, little Hoi An offers up a glimpse at life in Vietnam centuries ago. Add to that, romantic cafes, a beautiful river-side setting, and miles of prime beach, and you’ve got yourself an impressive Continue…

Bun Bo Xao

Bun bo xao, which literally translates as “noodles beef stir-fried,” is one of my favorite dishes and the perfect light lunch for a hot and sticky day.

Also called cold noodle salad, the dish provides the perfect contrast of hot and cold. Cool vermicelli rice noodles are topped with hot tenderloin beef sauteed in onion, lemongrass and garlic. I always add a lot of Vietnamese herbs which are usually served in a big bowl along with your meal. Fresh mint, basil and cilantro are my favorites along with crisp bean sprouts and peanuts. The best part is the Continue…

Diving Nha Trang

After so much diving in the Philippines, I couldn’t suddenly go cold turkey, so I decided to do some dives in the islands off Nha Trang, which is generally considered Vietnam’s top underwater destination. As Thomas had a cold, I was on my own this time – or so I thought. It seems that the inexpensive $20 dives attract a lot of attention from backpackers passing through. The boats and the sites were packed. At points, it felt a bit like an underwater traffic jam as divers lined up for swim-throughs.

Despite the crowds, I enjoyed the dives which featured some beautiful Continue…

Clay Pot Specialties

While in Nha Trang, we’ve had the chance to sample several Vietnamese clay pot dishes. Somehow, I love the idea of cooking food in a clay pot. It sounds so organic. The cooking technique requires soaking the pot in water for about 30 minutes before the food is added. Once the pot is heated in the oven, the water absorbed in the pot turns into steam which helps the meat or fish  retain its natural juices and flavors. And I have to say, it definitely works.

Our first night out, we had delicious wild duck served with whole cloves of garlic and sizable shallots in an unglazed pot. It felt like we were being Continue…

Returning to Nha Trang

I’ve never been to Nha Trang before, but in many ways, our arrival here felt like an important return. On Dec. 18, 1967 my father, who was in the US Air Force, was sent to Nha Trang where he worked for exactly one year refueling planes and driving fuel trucks.

Those of you familiar with the war might recognize that his arrival date was shortly before the notorious Tet Offensive, a dramatic shift in the war which strictly limited non-essential movements around the country. This meant my father pretty much spent the entire year in the area between Nha Trang and Cam Ranh Bay Air Base – which is probably Continue…

Fabulous Pho

It may be totally obvious, but TnT’s Excellent Vietnam Food-Venture would not be complete without a posting on pho. If one dish were chosen to represent the entire nation of Vietnam, it would probably be pho (pronounced like “foot” without the “t”). Pho is a tasty noodle soup with a flavorful broth of stewed veal bones complemented with slices of beef, pork, chicken, Vietnamese meatballs, or tripe. As with Banh Xeo, pho is served with a large side plate of  mint, cilantro, Asian basil, bean sprouts, sliced peppers, and various greens.

Many travelers have heard that they should avoid fresh vegetables on the road, especially fresh leafy greens. There is truth to this fear, but Continue…

The Art of Crossing the Road

We thought we had it all figured out. In a previous blog posting about the challenges of crossing the road in Nepal and China, we talked about the run-jump-and-roll approach to safely walking across a busy street. As it turns out, this strategy does not work in Vietnam.

The traffic here moves at lightning speed. A constant tidal wave of motorbikes and bicycles rushes down the road, often spilling over onto the sidewalks where unsuspecting pedestrians have to run for safety. In fact, everything is so fast here, I never actually saw the smiling guy in the photo making the peace sign – it just showed up in the picture.

With that much speed, it might come as some surprise that confronting speedy traffic here is best done at a snail’s pace. Continue…

Market Sweets

Saigon’s Ben Thanh market is the ideal place to get a first glimpse of some of Vietnam’s food specialties. As we entered the indoor market, my eyes went right by the tropical fruit to a double row of tall glasses filled with fruity looking things. I’m big into desserts, so when I inquired what che was and an elderly lady told me “sweet soup”, I was quite confused.

After a bit more probing, I learnt that Continue…

The American War

Most Americans have probably never stopped to think about what the Vietnamese call the “Vietnam War.” Well, it turns out that they refer to it as the “American War.” Modern-day Vietnamese view the conflict as major episode in their much longer struggle for independence and celebrate their victories with monuments and museums much as Americans celebrate the American Revolution.

One such institution is Ho Chi Minh City’s superb War Remnants Museum, which offers several exhibits documenting and detailing the conflict from the Vietnamese perspective. The exhibits are graphic and challenging, provoking those with simplistic, romanticized visions of war with the more complex and horrifying realities.

Walking through the museum, I noticed several fellow Americans (as well as other nationalities) glued to Continue…

Banh Xeo

Since we’re in Saigon, we are starting TnT’s Excellent Food-Venture with one of mankind’s greatest creations: banh xeo. A savory pancake made with rice flour and turmeric, banh xeo, which literally translates as “sizzling cake,” is a southern Vietnamese specialty. Basic forms of this delectable dish are filled with bean sprouts, egg, green beans, pork and shrimp. More elaborate high-end banh xeo might include fish, squid, prawns, and mixed vegetables.

The dish is served with a large plate of greens including: lettuce, mustard leaves, Asian basil, mint, and other herbs. (If you are familiar with Vietnamese food, you’ll know that a huge plate of fresh greens comes with many dishes.) Use your chop sticks, or hands if you must, to rip off a piece of banh xeo and place it in a large lettuce leaf or mustard leaf. Throw in some Continue…