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Travel Log: Vietnam, Part IV – “Eat, Drink and Yoo” (16 & 17 October 2009)

January 12, 2010

Those that know me, know that I love adventurous food and that I just plain love to eat -I guess you can say that I live to eat.  A huge part of traveling for me is eating new food and food associated with the area that I am traveling.

My first night in HCMC, Loc and I met up with some of his friends at a restaurant where I had what I would call my first Anthony Bourdain moment of the trip.  The restaurant was a long taxi ride outside the city into the suburbs of HCMC.  I remember crossing a bridge after driving 15 minutes and asked Loc “Where are you taking me?” The neighborhood we entered had a vastly different feel than the city.  It was only what I could describe as more gritty, but it felt lived in- I actually liked it better than HCMC.  The restaurant was owned by a friend of one of Loc’s friends.  We were joined by, people he worked with, his friends, and their girlfriends.

It was a typical Vietnamese building, narrow and 4 to 5 stories high. Nothing set this building apart from its neighbors except when you walked in you were surround by fish tanks full of living creatures. All of the actual dinning took place on the floors above it and the kitchen occupied its own floor. The bottom floor was used to show off what the restaurant had to offer.  We took a elevator to a small private room on the third floor.

Throughout the night we were brought out courses picked out by his friends, which included some interesting dishes.  One of the most interesting dishes was veal tongue.  Those of you who have ever eaten any kind of tongue know it is interesting looking. It was served like a beef carpaccio.  It was a little tough and stringy and didn’t have the flavor of beef tongues that I have had before.

Veal tongue anyone?

Another dish was a mud crab hot pot, however the restaurant did not receive any fresh mud crabs that morning, so they were replaced with another kind of crab. The name escapes me, but you can see it in the picture. We actually got this dish for free because they didn’t have fresh mud crabs.  The crabs were boiled in a broth and when they were done they were replaced with noodles and vegetables. Eating the crabs was extremely messy because you had to use your hands, it was either that or use chop sticks.  The noodles and crabs were a very good dish and probably my favorite of the evening.

Crab Hot Pot

Throughout the night we had fermented prawn sauce available for dipping, it is like fish sauce but it has more pungent taste.  Apparently it is supposed to better, who knows.

Drinking is a huge part of the Vietnamese culture, so of course this night we did our fair share. Someone would raise their glass, say “Yooo..” (I don’t know if I am spelling it right or what it means besides “drink”) and everyone rises up their glass, says “Yoo..” and we all drink as if we are one of Pavlov’s dogs.  His friends really tried to make me feel comfortable and involve me in the conversation, some spoke a little English and Loc did translate- but the way they made me feel welcome, was though drinking.

Side note: From my understanding this “Yoo..” cheer is used in Southern Vietnam, in the North it is “Cheers” (Lame- I know) and “100%”.  When someone says 100% it means chug all of your drink, which sounds like something you would do in college.  There are other drinking cheers, some sounded like songs, but I didn’t participate in those or understand them.

VIP Karaoke?

I left dinner with a slight buzz and extremely exhausted, it has been a very long couple of days for me on only a few hours of sleep.  Loc’s friends decided that we should all go to karaoke bar and no, I did not partake in the singing -I don’t know if there was enough bourbon in that place to get me to sing. Anyways, I was traumatized when I was 12 years old and vowed to never sing again. Cue ripply flash back.  When I was 12 years old after a baseball game we went out for pizza like most kids and on this night the pizza place had Karaoke. My friends and I sang “Welcome to the Jungle” and when we finished a guy told me that we butchered his favorite song and ruined it forever for him.  Needless to say my Karaoke days died young.  So I just listened to them sing Vietnamese songs. I did however, lead them in the occasional “Yooo…!”.

If you willing to drink and try any kind of food, I believe you can get along just fine in any culture and with anyone.  Overall, it was a great experience and one I will never forget.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. whats4lunch permalink
    January 12, 2010 12:37 PM

    no porcupine?

    • jonmarcotte permalink
      January 12, 2010 12:54 PM

      No, from what I could gathered this restaurant specialized in seafood. The food was ordered before I got there. Is it worth trying? If so, I will make a point to try it next time I visit my friend.

  2. A fan permalink
    January 13, 2010 5:28 PM

    Yes, you are an adventurous eater. I will have to remember the toast “Yoo” for celebrations with friends.

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