Ho Chi MiNH city
The street food of Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon) is world famous. This is Vietnam's most densely populated city, attracting people from all over the country. They bring with them their regional dishes, making Ho Chi Minh City a place of rich culinary diversity. Their history of Chinese settlement and French colonization adds to this diversity.
Of the population of almost 10 million, nearly 1 million people make a living selling outside. This means the 24/7 vibrancy of the city has developed a culture of socializing outside while eating and drinking, with people often crouched on the small plastic stools of their favourite street food stalls.
To get some sense of this vibe we highly recommend watching Episode 7 of the new Netflix documentary called Street Food, which features Ho Chi Minh City.
These street vendors may have passed down the stall they operate for generations, building loyal followings. Some share their family recipes. Others specialize in one dish, lovingly tweaked over the years until perfected.
Coincidentally, the latest World Travel Awards has chosen Vietnam as “Asia’s Leading Culinary Destination” reaffirming the growing international reputation of Vietnamese cuisine. Graham Cooke, the founder of the World Travel Awards (WTA), said "Vietnamese cuisine has crossed the national border and has become one of 'must-try' experiences."
[So, what are the World Travel Awards, you may ask? The WTA was launched in 1993 to acknowledge excellence in the travel and tourism industry. Heralded as the "travel industry's equivalent of the Oscars" by The Wall Street Journal, the awards are handed out based on votes by the public and travel professionals across the globe.]
Pretty cool, eh!
So, with all that it's not surprise that we're super excited to partner with our dear friends the Lam family - owners of Seasoned restaurant - as they share with us their favourite street foods from their home country of Vietnam, with an emphasis on the everyday treats found on the streets of Ho Chi Minh City. This 10-course feast will be a dinner you'll never forget!
One Alcoholic Beverage
Your ticket includes one alcoholic drink. You will be given a selection of choices. Any additional alcohol is over and above the ticket price. Unlimited tea is available all night.
Bán Cây - Cassava Fritter
Cassava is a delicious root vegetable. Our hosts used to have a street vendor outside their school who prepared Bán Cây. They reminisce fondly about finishing class and rushing outside to buy a paper bag full of these delicious fritters, and happily munching them as they headed home. This preparation is spiced with curry powder and green onion, with just a little bit of chili pepper. It has a nice crunch on the first bite and provides a satisfying, dense chewiness.
Bò Mỡ Chài - Lemongrass Beef Sausage
Delicious ground beef with lemongrass is served on a lettuce leave wrapper with basil leaves. They're a little spicy and very meaty and are served with Mam Nem, an anchovy based dipping sauce. These are often served as part of a traditional Bò 7 Món (Beef 7 Ways).
Chả Giò Rế - Netted Spring Roll
This spring roll is challenging to prepare and rarely seen in restaurants. The rice paper is cut into a delicate lace-like pattern that needs to be handled carefully, so it does not tear. Inside is shrimp wrapped with pork. Served with a sweet chili sauce, the result is a
symphony of crunchy textures and bright flavours. Addictive!
Bánh Bèo - Water Fern Cakes
This steamed, savoury rice cake dish originated in Huế, a city in Central Vietnam. It takes its name from a plant which
bears a similar appearance to the cake.
Shrimp are fried until dry, then grated over the cakes. A mung bean paste acts as a bed for a light sprinkling of artfully placed green onion. This is a very light dish that offers
complex flavours and is often enjoyed for breakfast
or during afternoon tea in Vietnam.
Fun fact: bánh bèo is used as a slang for Vietnamese girls
who are "portrayed as overly feminine,
weak-willed and high maintenance."
Gỏi đu đủ - Green Papaya Salad
This dish is enjoyed all over southeast Asia but is believed to originate from Lao. It makes good use of unripe papaya.
You might have seen green papaya salad on the menu before, but this particular dish is served in the most traditional street food fashion.
Every event we encourage our chef partners to include one dish to challenge more conventional palates. This dish traditionally involves beef liver which is cooked for a long time with coconut cream, cinnamon, and anise until the liver takes on a jerky-like consistency. For those who shy away from the taste of beef liver, the papaya mellows out the flavour. The salad is served with Vietnamese coriander and peanuts. Even if you haven't enjoyed liver before we do encourage you to at least try this delicious dish!
Best of all, it is served with their handmade shrimp chips, which we're absolutely addicted to.
Nghêu Hấp Xả - Steamed Clams
Clams are steamed with lemongrass. This is a very simple dish, and much loved. The shell is used as a spoon to dip into the Nuoc Mam, which is then sucked back with the clam. In Vietnam people often order these by the literal bucket full, then crouch down on a plastic stool and indulge. We can understand why; this dish is outrageously delicious.
We had to borrow an image from Travelling-foodies.com because when they arrived at our table we pounded them back so fast we forgot to take a photo. Oops.
Bánh Xèo - Sizzling Crepe
This dish is named after the loud sizzling sound the rice batter makes when it's first poured into the hot skillet. The paper-thin, tumeric-scented crepe is fried until crispy. We'll be enjoying the southern-style crepe which are stuffed with shrimp, pork belly mung bean, green onion, and bean sprouts. These delicious crepes are served with a generous amount of basil and lettuce leaves.
The crepe is intended to be broken up, placed in the lettuce leaves, wrapped and then dipped into the Nuoc Mam sauce. It's delicious!
Bánh Chưng - Taro Root and Jicama Rice Cakes
These cakes are steeped in tradition and legend. The old stories say this dish was invented by a poor Prince to impress the King, using ingredients available to peasants. Ever since, this dish has been an essential part of the Tết (Vietnamese Lunar New Year). It's considered an important part of the ancestral altar, paying homage to their simple roots and hard work.
This preparation includes frying the rice cakes, so they have a bit of crispiness on the outside. The taro and jicama fillings will surprise you with how flavour packed they are!
Lưỡn Xào Lăn - Eel in Coconut Curry
Don't be put off by the thought of eating eel. Seafood lovers know that eels are just long, delicious fish; if you've not tried eel before we invite you to become familiar with the texture and taste of this very popular delicacy. The meat is light and sweet, with a texture that is both soft and firm at the same time. The eel is cooked with onions, served in a delicious coconut cream curry topped with peanuts.
Added bonus: this dish is served with Vietnamese-style baguettes (a legacy of French colonial rule); use the crispy, delicious bread to mop up that
insanely good curry sauce!
Bánh Canh - Seafood and Pork With Tapioca Noodles
These tapioca noodles are hard to get in Saskatoon, so the Lam family is especially excited to make this dish for you. These thick noodles have a delightfully chewy texture that we find completely crave-worthy. The thick soup is chock full of plump shrimp, sweet crab, and tender pork. It's served with straw mushroom and quail eggs all in a rich chicken broth beautifully coloured with anatto seeds.
Chè Sương Sa Hạt Lựu - Rainbow Dessert
This is a crazy popular treat in the streets of Vietnam - and it's delightful! Tapioca, agar agar jelly, mung bean and coconut cream are served with ice to make a truly beautiful dessert cup that tastes as good as it looks. Stir it up and enjoy. It's creamy, chewy, a little crunchy and sweet. You'll love it!