It took me only one day in Vietnam to realize the Vietnamese mothers are actually like the Jewish mothers; They like feeding people. It took me only one day to realize the Vietnamese are also like Israelis; Food is at the very heart of their culture. Almost every aspect of social, spiritual, and family life, revolves around food.
In Vietnam, food is everywhere in sight. In every street corner, a woman pulls out plastic stalls around a a dish, or a huge pot of soup. At each train stop, vendors rush up to the passengers, offering homemade treats such as shrimp cakes, sticky rice, grilled corn, mango or pineapple covered with sweet red chilly flakes, sun dried squid, dried fish, dried fruits, little black dotted eggs or French baguette. The Vietnamese cooking is fresh, healthy and light, and more over, colorful and beautiful to behold; Yellow corn, pinkish-orange shrimps, deep orange crabs, red hot chilly peppers, vivid greens, pearl-color glassy noodles.
In Ho Chi Minn I was drawn immediately to Ben Thanh Market, a popular and touristy destination, watching the women washing, peeling, cutting, cooking and serving food. And in Hanoi, I visited particular street vendors who were located in the alleys around the hotel I was staying in. I learned to recognize the specific type of food for every hour of the day; pork sausages on skews served as a morning snack for kids before they go to school, grilled pork in a marinade of sweetened fish sauce with a side of rice vermicelli for their parents, airy baguettes, then throughout the day one can find pork and mushroom dumplings, spicy Pho noodle soup, white porridge soup served with crunchy croutons, grilled seafood on skews, rice noodles in so many variations, and of course, the Vietnamese coffee; thick, rich with a sweetened condensed milk, that makes it all worth it.
Quick tip: If a place is busy, it’s almost certainly fine to eat there. Don’t eat anywhere with slow turnover (this includes fancy-yet empty restaurants) and make sure to drink a lot of water.