My travels in Vietnam last year (Oct/Nov 2013) was probably one of the most memorable moments of my life. Not only did I experience something so magical in a country I did not think I would have the opportunity to visit so soon in my life (It was, like many other destinations, high up there on the bucket list but tucked away on a ‘must see whilst backpacking through East Asia’). We were lucky enough to spend half a month in the country, and travelled across four regions.
The north is yet to be explored and I have decided to leave this for a longer return to Vietnam, so I can wonder through the hills in Sapa and breath in the clean fresh air amongst the flowers that many Vietnamese people I met last year talked about.
Like most people, I have this strange way of remembering places through flavours that I stumble across. Like familiar scents that make you nostalgic… food and its cultivation, preparation and consumption habits are one of the biggest ways in which I am able to understand countries in a heightened manner which seems to resonate longer with me. Every time I think of Vietnam, I can’t help but hark back to my first bowl of Chicken Pho, sitting inside a tiny narrow cafe at lunchtime, on Dong Du, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City.
Phở, pronounced ‘Fur’, is a Vietnamese noodle soup consisting of broth, linguine-shaped rice noodles called bánh phở, a few herbs, and meat. It is a popular street food in Vietnam and the specialty of a number of restaurant chains around the world. Pho is primarily served with either beef or chicken. The Hanoi and Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City) styles of pho differ by noodle width, sweetness of broth, and choice of herbs.
Like the true spice lover that I am, I tipped the full bowl of spicey sauce into my big bowl of Pho and also threw in the finely sliced chillis the waiter kindly brought out. He watched us, amused and knew it was our first Phoxperience. It was delicious. To date, I see it as an amalgamation of everything that I saw and felt in Vietnam. A warm, welcoming big bowl of broth, that would satiate you fully, hitting all the spots and more and still keeping you on your toes with spikes of unexpected flavour from the chilli, or lime and herbs that punctuated the dish. Vietnam, was just that. A national dish, which sums up pretty much all the reasons and more, why you should visit this gloriously beautiful, untouched and exciting country.
© 2014 Shroomantices ~ Rahima Begum