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Food in Vietnam: Ventricle Watch

I’ve not yet said much about the food in Vietnam. To be fair, it’s a cuisine which isn’t well known around the world. ‘Fancy a Vietnamese’ isn’t necessarily something you’ll hear too often on a Friday night back home.

This is my local bun cha place. Note the de rigueur small plastic stools. Talk about numb bum...
This is my local bun cha place. Note the de rigueur small plastic stools. Talk about numb bum…
Bun cha, consisting of rice noodles, beef and bacon, and optional green stuff.
Bun cha, consisting of rice noodles, beef and bacon, and optional green stuff.
Nem! The best bit! Deep friend spring rolls.
Nem! The best bit! Deep friend spring rolls.

They reckon this is changing and I really hope it is, because Vietnamese food really is pretty bloody tasty! Sure, its got its ups and downs. It lacks the sense-assault flavours of other Asian foods. Perhaps too much of it is based on stuff served in soup. And then there are the questionable ingredients: A few weeks back my friend Lindsey discovered that the anonymous meat in the spicy soup we’d been eating for the last few nights at a local eatery was in fact chopped up cow’s heart. ‘I saw ventricles!’, she said.

So there is perhaps some cause to be aware of what you’re eating, if not wary. But don’t let this put you off. Get stuck in, be brave, and get away from the posh places you’ll see around town (you know, the ones with cutlery and proper tables and chairs) and into the more authentic little places that line each street. Frankly if you’re not eating your dinner crouched on a tiny plastic stool, then you’re not eating Vietnamese food.

My favourite food thus far, bar none, has been bun cha nem. Its utterly lovely! Bun cha is essentially rice noodles, beef and bacon served in a warm soupy broth. Salad is optional. To this you add the meals real highlight, nem – deep fried crispy spring rolls, stuffed with meat and veg. Well, I think stuffed with meat and veg. Sometimes its better not to know.

A standard meal along these lines will come to around 40,000 dong, depending on how many nem you want. That’s about £1.15, which isn’t bad I reckon? No wonder I’ve been eating the stuff pretty much every day…

My only complaint is that bun cha is seen as a lunchtime dish only. Come 2pm, everywhere selling it shuts up shop, for reasons best known to themselves. Trying to get bun cha after 2pm is like trying to convince an Evertonian that some misfortune at some point in their past might have been even partly their own fault: nigh on impossible.

So get there around noon, pull up a stool, order a few extra nem on the side, and get stuck in, I say. Just keep an eye out for ventricles…