A taste of Indochina

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Karen Muskett travelled on our Indochina Encompassed group tour in 2016 with her daughter, Ali, a travel consultant for InsideAsia Tours. Here, she explains why the food was a particular highlight!

When I visit a new country I like to immerse myself in the culture, and that includes eating the food that the local people eat. I’ve just returned from a whirlwind tour of Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam and am very pleased to have managed to eat or drink something new to me each day of my holiday, some things more unusual than others!  Here are just some of the wonderful things I enjoyed.

Insects and more!

On the first night of the holiday, in Cambodia, the restaurant we went to had insects on the menu. So I started the holiday with quite a challenge – deep fried tarantulas and silk worm pupae. It was difficult picking up a tarantula (on a fork at least) but it wasn’t that bad to eat. The biggest issue for me was a psychological one as it did look exactly like a tarantula lying there on the plate! Thankfully, the main course was much more normal – fish amok curry in a banana leaf.

Spiders for starters
Spiders for starters

The other unusual things that I ate were in a small town on the road from Luang Prabang to Nong Khiaw.  We stopped for a break and elevenses was rat and cricket.  The piece of rat meat that I ate was still attached to its claw (see above).

Egg Coffee

When I first tried Vietnamese coffee I thought it too sweet and not very much like coffee. Once in Vietnam I grew to enjoy this sweetened coffee. One of the best things is that, like all good coffee, it isn’t instant! You need patience whilst waiting for the coffee to drip through onto the condensed milk.

However, the variation of this drink that is served in Hanoi was even better: Egg Coffee (cà phê trứng). This is like a dessert and a coffee in one cup.  It is coffee with a layer of egg cream on top which is not dissimilar in substance to a crème brulee (just without the top being caramelised). The egg cream was beaten egg yolk and condensed milk. There may be some sugar or vanilla essence added but this seems to depend on who makes it. I’m not sure if you are meant to stir the egg cream into the coffee but we all enjoyed eating some of it first and then stirring the remains into the coffee – delicious.

Egg coffee
Egg coffee

Banh Mi

This is essentially a baguette but the Vietnamese bread is much lighter than the baguettes we have in the UK. The classic version is known as bánh mì đặc biệt and is made with various cold cuts of meat along with liver pâté, vegetables like carrot or cucumbers, coriander and chillies. Recipes vary from place to place but I can assure you it is the most satisfying lunch you can get in Vietnam, as well as being extremely cheap!

Banh mi
Banh mi

The most delicious dessert in Vietnam?

We went to a couple of training restaurants and Streets International was one such restaurant. Here we had what we all agreed was the best dessert of the holiday – Coconut Ice Cream parfait with Pineapple Drizzle. It was such a simple pudding but the taste was amazing – definitely somewhere to go back to in order to sample more of their menu!

Coconut Ice Cream parfait with Pineapple Drizzle
Coconut Ice Cream parfait with Pineapple Drizzle

Hand crafted Cocktails

On our final evening in Ho Chi Minh City we went to Urban Kitchen + Bar which served amazing hand crafted cocktails.  These drinks were very creative.  I had one called “Wake me up France” which had blue cheese and cabernet sauvignon in it – heaven in a glass.  This wasn’t as cheap as the drinks had been for the rest of the holiday but it was a special ending to the holiday!

Heaven in a glass
Heaven in a glass

Karen travelled on our Indochina Encompassed group tour – click here to find out more or book a place for yourself!

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