Bunches of Lunches: Cơm Trưa

One of the luxuries of Vietnam is being able to dine out for nearly every meal due to the low cost of food. On average, The Astronomer and I each spend approximately $1-$1.50 per meal depending on the eatery and what we order. Although a part of me misses cooking up a storm, it’s easier and far more delicious to frequent restaurants and street stalls rather than bargaining, buying, and preparing raw ingredients in Saigon.

For the most part, The Astronomer and I have avoided eating out for breakfast because we prefer chomping on cereal and PowerBars in our apartment to eating hot soups street-side. However, lunch is a completely different story.

Here are some snapshots from lunchtime outings during the past few weeks:

August 3, 2007—While exploring our ‘hood during a rainy Saturday morning, we stumbled upon a friendly man dishing up goi du du kho bo (green papaya salad with beef jerky, basil, and fish sauce vinaigrette – 5,000 VND) and goi coun (spring rolls with pork, vermicelli noodles, herbs, lettuce, and mam nem dipping sauce – 6,000 VND). The green papaya salad was spectacular, especially the spicy jerky. The spring rolls, on the other hand, contained a bitter herb that was overwhelming. We also weren’t fans of the potent anchovy and pineapple dipping sauce.

August 6, 2007—A mechanic pointed The Astronomer and I to the Banh Canh Cua eatery. We shared a bowl of the restaurant’s siganature dish, banh canh cua (13,000 VND), and a sampler plate of the restaurant’s offerings that included banh beo, banh nam, banh bot loc, and banh ram it (10,000 VND). The banh canh was very different from my family’s version due to the employment of fresh noodles, which contributed to a thicker and starchier broth. The sampler platter was terrific!

August 9, 2007—Around the corner from our office is an outdoor restaurant serving worker’s lunches. We’ve eaten here twice mainly due to proximity. The rice is often too dry and the flies buzzing around quickly kill an appetite. On our first visit, The Astronomer had the braised fish and a fish patty, while I had tofu stuffed with ground pork and an omelet. Our lunch plates include a small bowl of soup with mustard greens, which The Astronomer hates but I rather like. The food here isn’t stellar, but it’s definitely decent and inexpensive at 15,000 VND per person.

August 11, 2007—My grandma’s younger sister, Ba Sao, invited The Astronomer and me to her house for lunch the other weekend. She prepared her famous egg rolls, thit kho, braised fish with tomatoes and turnips, and bi coun (spring rolls with shredded pork and lettuce). Everything was delicious! The Astronomer probably ate twenty egg rolls and the braised fish rocked my world. I hope to learn a few recipes from her during my year in Vietnam.

August 12, 2007—There’s no such thing as a bad bowl of pho in this country! This random pho joint called Pho Bac Ha is located off the uber-busy CMT 8. The Astronomer ordered the pho ga (15,000 VND), while I had the pho bo (12,000 VND). Nothing super special here, just a solid bowl of pho.

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