Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Đậu Hủ Nóng Sót Đường Gừng / Hot Tofu with Ginger and Rock Sugar Sauce

Đậu hủ nóng (dow hoo nom) is a throwback beach town dessert, specifically enjoyed after a morning soak in the ocean.  Today, morning walkers and jazzercisers add to the exclusive clientele list. 

Find a bowl accompanied by a glass of hot or iced soy bean milk on the corner of Lê Lợi and the park next door. 

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Cá Bò Da Nướng Giấy Bạc / Foil Grilled Leatherjacket Fish

Rivaling the salmon in size, just as fatty and tasty but at a fraction of the cost, the leatherjacket is seasoned with onions, oil and spices and grilled whole in aluminum foil.  The Vietnamese twist involves rolling pieces of the fish along with lettuce and cucumber slices in rice paper, then dipping in a lemon chili sauce.  Chúc ngon miệng! (bon apetite!)

5 Bãi Dương (bi yoong) serves up Cá Bò Da Nướng Giấy Bạc "ka baw ya noong yay back" in the late hours. 

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Bò Né / Sizzling Beef Steak

A thin strip of beef, a fried egg, a meatball, onions, and special sauce are fired up on a cast iron plate and brought to your table still sizzling.  The "né" in bò né (baw neigh) means to stand back (from the spitting sizzle). 

In the mornings, try your luck at Đức Phát (duck fat) restaurant on 55 Le Thanh Phuong.  And after dusk, at Bo Ne 32 on 32 Nguyen Thi Minh Khai

Mì Hoàn Thánh / Won Ton Noodle Soup

A near replica of the famous chinese dish, the Vietnamese version of mì hoàn thánh (me won ton) gets its unique flavor from pork broth rather than chicken, with the same pork and mushroom filled dumplings, hand pulled egg noodles, fried shallots, and a touch of dark sesame oil. 

In Nha Trang, you can find a bowl of this soup at Đúc Phát (duck fat) restaurant on 55 Lê Thành Phương (leh tan foong) from 6:30-11:30am.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Bánh Cuốn / Rolled Rice Sheets filled with Pork and Mushrooms

A Hanoian original, seasoned, minced pork and mushrooms filled inside thin sheets of rice which are then rolled and topped with grilled pork, cured pork ham (chả lụa / cha loowa), egg rolls, bean sprouts and fried shallots is what you call bánh cuốn (ban coon). 

So you want to try bánh cuốn?  Go to the corner of Ngô Gia Tự (ngoe ya tow) and Bặch Đằng (bock dong) from 6am-9am.  Moka Cafe on 74 Hung Vuong also has Banh Cuon from 7:30-9am. 

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Bánh Xèo Chảo / Vietnamese Pan-fried Yellow Pancake

Colored with tumeric and filled with shrimp, squid, onions, and bean sprouts, this flat seafood pancake is crispy and savory.  An absolute must try, one pan-sized cake is enough to satisfy. 

Bánh xèo chảo is fried to order on the corner of Tô Hiến Thành (tow heen tan) and Nguyễn Thị Minh Khai (ween tea min kai).

Friday, October 12, 2012

Visa Extensions Anytime Anywhere

The Vietnamese government allows visitors on a visitor's visa to stay up to 90 days. Before time is up you must renew your visa, which you can do a total of 3 times, giving you basically a whole year in Vietnam. Many people, especially those with 5 year exemption visas prefer to travel over the border to Cambodia to obtain a brand new visa. The cost of this would be a minimum of $200 including the round trip and accommodations. For those who have no business in Cambodia or are in a town quite far from the border such as Nha Trang, another option is to use a visa renewal service, usually through a travel agent. There are two that I recommend. The first is Jungle Travel on the corner of Trần Quang Khải (trung wang kai) and Nguyễn Thiện Thuật (ween teen twuck). Cost is $45 for renewing a brand new visa up to 3 times. After that, it costs $100 for a month long renewal on a visa that has already been renewed 3 times. The other option is Viet Dragon Travel on Hoàng Hoa Thám (hawong wah tam). This service costs $55 per renewal. If you have renewed your visa 3 times, the cost for a 3 month renewal is $85. The better option is a new 3 month visa for $105. This new visa has more restrictions than a brand spanking new Cambodia one, as you should only do the next 3 renewals at Viet Dragon since Jungle Travel will not be able to handle it without digging deep into their connections. Of course you can also do the 3 renewals at the local police and office of Foreign Affairs on Lý Tự Trọng (lee too trom) which only costs $10. This is only available to those who have a local home-owning sponsor. Hotels and Guest Houses will not be able to help you with this. With these methods I have managed to stay in Vietnam for 3.5 years straight without going to Cambodia. Jungle Travel Nha Trang

How to Speak Like an American Vietnamese (Viet Kieu)

So you want to learn the Vietnamese language, but all of the language centers only teach the northern dialect of the language which when a foreigner speaks it, everyone looks at with shock and awe. The southern dialect, specifically Saigon, is the most respected despite the Hanoian accent being the official sound of Vietnam, due to Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City) being the center of Vietnamese culture and innovation. But you want to know what is the most coveted accent? It is the accent of the overseas (usually American) Vietnamese. This is an accent of broken Vietnamese due to the Viet Kieu's loss of original language as a result of being force-fed English by American culture. Even Vietnamese Americans recently born are not formally taught the language as their parents have an indefinite need to study and practice English itself. This makes English the official language of most affluent Vietnamese households, especially those who came over as refugees in the 70's and 80's. The need for the elders and the kids to assimilate into American culture for fear of being ridiculed as un-American was so great that the youth lost the ability to speak the language past grade school.

When I stepped foot onto Vietnamese soil, I literally remembered just a handful of words despite being fluent in Vietnamese when I was under 12 years old. I attempted to recapture the language with Pimsleur and Rosetta but found them useless for attaining real knowledge in conversational Vietnamese. Those two programs focus on travel-speak, which is not a necessity as one may assume because most Vietnamese in the tourist business already understand travel-speak in the English language, so all you need to know is English to get your needs across when it comes to traveling. The trick is learning the right Vietnamese words and phrases in order to interact with locals.

When I came to Vietnam I immediately realized that the 10-15 words that I remembered from my youth was not enough to cut it here. I then created a spreadsheet with a list of Vietnamese words, a sentence for each word, pronunciation guide, translation into the common English phrase, and a literal translation into English. In one month I assembled a spreadsheet containing 170 core vocabulary words, with nearly 600 total words when combined with the supplemental words in the example sentences. As I used these sentences to interact with locals, I automatically learned knew words every single day. At the end of the month I had acquired a vocabulary of 1200 Vietnamese words, which I figured was a good enough number to hold a conversation with almost any fluent speaker.

Below is a link to the spreadsheet that helped me learn the language. Please keep in mind that much of it are ways to talk to girls as that was the priority when I first got here and also keep in mind that the pronunciation is like that of an 8-10 year old. But here's the kicker. Girls actually love it and think it's cute. So take it from me. The Viet Kieu dialect is extremely powerful. And with great power comes great responsibility so bear that in mind as well.

Vietnamese Cheatsheet Spreadsheet

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

The Sacred Pagoda

In Nha Trang there are many beautiful pagodas such as Long Sơn (lowm sun) or the one at Vinpearl.  Few are spoiled in riches such as those.  In their own ways they have become tourist traps.  And some of the monks at the former carry themselves more as cocky fratboys than humble students.  I once saw a group of them at an adjacent  karaoke room with 2 karaoke hostesses.  It is bad enough when a whole country of supposed followers of the teachings of Buddha are obsessed with wealth and outward appearances. 

The one pagoda that I respect as being true to carrying the essence of the Buddha is Chùa Linh Quang (jewah lin wang).  The head monk there is a tall, lanky man named Thầy Thích Nhuận Thanh (tay tit newon tawn).  Thầy means teacher.  He with the help of several old ladies have raised over 30 abandned children, with zero expectation of them staying with the pagoda when older.  Thanh himself was an orphan raised in a Da Lat pagoda.  He waa given the opportunity to study in England.  As a young adult, he was entrusted to take the helm at a new pagoda in Nha Trang which I call a Buddhist sanctuary.  The whole area with its trees, ponds, and wide open spaces is so serene.  It is humble, not flamboyant.  And it is peaceful.  I treasure the uplifting conversations I have had with Thay Thanh and the invitation for me and my friends to have lunch with him and the kids of the monastary. 

If you wish to visit, take Le Hong Phong to Phong Chau.  Make a left when you see the sign for Chua Linh Quang.  The address is 58/8 Vườn Xoài (voong swai)- Đòng Rọ (dom raw)- Vĩnh Xuân (vin swung) - Vĩnh Thái (vin thai)

Which Bus / Tour Company To Use

Although many hotels are partnered with bus companies such as Phương Trang (foong trang) or Phương Nam, I personally would avoid most companies that are not The Sinh Tourist.  There are three reasons why you pay an extra $1-2 for The Sinh Tourist.

1) English speaking guides.  And English speaking people on the bus with western standards of ettiquite.  

2) Impeccable safety record.  Other buses are often in too much of a hurry due to being late.  Rollovers occur several times a year. The Sinh Tourist has never experienced one.

3) No nonsense travel.  Just 1 pickup point and a max of 2-3 dropoffs.  Multiply that by 6 for other companies. 

The Sinh Tourist's new location in Nha Trang is on 90C Hung Vuong street.

Bún Chả / Thin Rice Noodles with Chargrilled Pork

A Hanoian original, bún chả (boon cha like in chad) combines grilled to order pork patties and sliced pork loin with airy rice noodles in a nước mắm (nook mom) based sauce, enhanced with leafy and stringy veggies. 

How To Eat:
Method 1: Place veggies of your choice into the meat filled bowl of sauce.  With chopsticks, dip some noodles into the sauce.  Bring the noodles up to your mouth with veggies and meat.
Method 2: Place noodles, veggies, and a piece of meat into an empty bowl.  Spoon some sauce into the bowl and chow down.

The best Bun Cha in town is at Quang Sanh (wang san) on 7 Hàn Thuyên (han tween) near Dam Market / Chợ Đầm (chuh dom).

Friday, October 5, 2012

Bún Thịt Nướng / Noodles with Grilled Sweet and Spicy Pork

Nước mắm / nook mom (fish sauce) with chilli flakes and pickled veggies top a bed of tender noodles, lettuce, grilled pork, and peanut sauce. 

Đặng Vân Quyên is located on 2 Phan Bội Châu.  That is "dang von ween" on fan boy chow.  Pho 24 also now has their own version of the dish. 

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Phở Bò Kho / Pho with Beef Stew

Chunks of beef are stewed till tender.  The soup is added to a broth of Pho / fuh with those famous white noodles. And you thought Pho only came with rare beef or chicken. 

Bánh Canh and Bún Cá / Fish Broth with Noodles

The clear broth is made with fish headl, filets, and fish patties.  Bun Ca / "boon ca" adds tomatoes while Banh Canh adds fried and caramelized shallots. 

Banh Canh / Bun Ca can be enjoyed at Nguyen Loan on 123 Ngo Gia Tu

Sinh Tố / Fresh Fruit Smoothie

Freshly cut fruit combined with sweetened condensed milk, ice and water sounds so simple yet trumps all over Jamba Juice and the like in taste.  Not to mention it is under $1 per glass.  Order up a glass of Táo / apple), ca-rốt / carrot, dâu xây / strawberries blended (yao say) or even chuối - yauort / banana yogurt (chewy ya oowah). 

My favorite Sinh To (sin toll) is at Sinh To Quy on 50 Bach Dang.  For late night cravings, go to the Catholic church and look across the street.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Cơm Gà / Chicken with Tumeric Rice

Fried shallots, mayo, pickled veggies, and a sweetened, gingery, chilli fish sauce is topped on traditional southern Com Ga / "come ga" while the northern Hai Nam style involves more ginger in the sauce, plus chicken fat and garlic are used in place of tumeric for aroma and more natural color.

Ha Com Ga is located on 75 Ngo Gia Tu.  For Hai Nam style, 44 Nguyen Binh Khiem is where the famous Lac Canh Restaurant is located, but you will have to call ahead to pre order the very dish that my grandfather perfected there under French occupation. 

Pictured is actually Com Chien Dui Ga, or Fried Rice and Chicken Drumstick, offered at Salina Restaurant on Tran Phu next to The Light hotel

Bánh Căn Mực / Hot Rice Cakes with Squid

Squid is cooked upon thick, crispy bottomed rice cakes over an insanely hot and aromatic cast iron and clay wood charcoal cooker.  Egg (chicken or pigeon) and beef are other common toppings. 

The crispiest banh can ("bahn cahng") is a small spot on 2 thang 4 street across from Medic Hospital. 

Friday, September 28, 2012

Tôm Đất Cháy Tỏi / Crispy Garlic River Shrimp

Pan-fried with whole garlic cloves til crispy, this seaside style plate of river-raised shrimp has the crunch and savoriness without any breading. 

The absolute best Tom Dat Chay Toi ("toem duck chay toi") is at Duc Phat Restaurant on 55 Le Thanh Phuong and Lang Nuong (BBQ Garden) Duc Phat on 23 thang 10 near Metro Wholesale Center. 

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Lẩu Canh Chua Cá / Sour and Spicy Soup Hotpot with Fish

The signature dish of Vietnamese cuisine, fresh fish is poached in a sour, spicy and subtly sweet tamarind broth appropriate for all seasons. 

Traditional Lau Canh Chua Ca cooked over wood charcoal can be had at Nha Trang Xua (suha). 

Cơm Bò Lúc Lắc / Vietnamese Pan Shaken Beef

Oyster and soy sauces, plus onions and garlic are shaken (that is what luc lac / "look lack" means) with tender cubed filet mignon on a flaming hot wok. 

This exclusive dish is served piping hot with vegetables and rice at Louisiane Brewhouse on 29 Tran Phu.  For the more intense, buttery local flavor, head to Bo Luc Lac Hong Ngoc (Homg Ngawp) at C4 Phan Boi Chau near Cho Dam / Dam Market.

Bánh Ướt Nóng / Hot Thin Rice Sheets

Pronounced "ban ook", these sheets of rice served hot from a crepe making-like griddle are rolled with cured Vietnamese pork slices and dried shrimp powder, then dipped in a watered down, hot fish sauce / nước mắm (nook muhm). 

It takes a journey into the east end of Nha Trang to find this local specialty.  Direct your driver to Ha Banh Uot on 23 thang 10 street near Cây Số 5 ("kay so nuhm" which translates to "5km east of town"). 

Lẩu Chay / Vegetarian Hot Pot

Mushrooms, cabbage, tofu and local greens simmered in a sour, sweet and mildly spicy soup is what Lau Chay (low chaye) is all about. 

Long Son pagoda on 23 thang 10 street serves this hotpot for breakfast, lunch and dinner. 

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Bún Riêu / Vietnamese Crab Meatball and Tomato Soup

Minced crabmeat in a giant meatball, tomatoes and shrimp sauce power this southern spectacular that bursts with flavor in every spoonful. 

The best Bun Rieu (boon reel) in town is at Salina restaurant on 86c Tran Phu, next to The Light hotel

Phở / Vietnamese Pho Noodle Soup

Aromas of anise, cinnamon, and roasted onions coupled with tender white noodles and generous amounts of beef, tripe, or chicken  are what makes this signature Vietnamese dish a mainstream success. 

Pho can be tasted at Pho 24 on 24 Tran Phu street in Nha Trang, next to Nha Trang Lodge hotel.  Another quality location is Pho Bach Dang on 123 Bach Dang street near Som Moi market


Sunday, September 23, 2012

Bánh Mì Bò Kho / Vietnamese Beef Stew with French Baguette

Sweetened with coconut juice and spiced with anise and whole peppercorns, this hearty stew (pronounced: "ban me baw caw") is enjoyed with a loaf of french baguette. 

You can sample this dish at Pho 24 on 42 Tran Phu next to the Nha Trang Lodge hotel or UFO cafe on 50 Vo Tru street near Som Moi market. 

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Bún Bò Huế / Hue Beef Noodle Soup

Flavored with beef, lemongrass, chili, and complimentary pigs blood, this dish is the direct competitor to the world renowned Phở/Pho.

You can find this dish at Moka Cafe on 74 Hung Vuong street in the city of Nha Trang, Vietnam. 

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Surviving Traffic in Vietnam


Basically, go slow and keep your eyes open. Look ahead at a distance of 1-2 seconds (not the 3-4 seconds you may be used to with higher speed traffic) and be ready to "flow" with the traffic around you instead of assuming that as long as you're driving within the rules that nothing bad will happen.

Be especially weary of cars and trucks. They own the left hand lane and will not hesitate to make a pass even if there is a motorbike in the car lane of the opposite direction. Instead of trying to make sense of it, just accept that you are basically on another planet where they've never heard of a DMV. Good luck!

Monday, September 14, 2009

How to Date Vietnamese Girls

Vietnamese girls can be quite a challenge to both the uninitiated and the veteran expat. They are the true essence of femininity.

You see, everything that girls do that men find annoying, such as being insecure, jealous, being upset yet not telling you what's wrong, saying no when they mean yes, saying yes when they mean no, telling little white lies, telling some big personal lies, etc...they do this because they are women...because they are feminine. The feminine being is not sure of herself. She is possessive and jealous because that is natural femininity. When a Vietnamese girl gets upset and says she wants to break up, she doesn't mean it. What she wants is for you to hug and kiss her, tell her that you love her, that you want to be with her forever, etc. You can do this a million times and it will work every single time. Is it worth the trouble? Well, it is your destiny that will decide for you.

So how do you go about finding a Vietnamese girl? Well the best way is to say hello while riding a motorbike right next to one, preferably at night when everyone is already on their way to some birthday party, a night of karaoke, or a small get together. Catch them in a good mood and you will get them blushing just by saying "Chào em. Em có khỏe không? Lúc nào em rảnh em muốn đi chơi không?" (Chow em. Em caw queh kong? Look now em rahn, em moon dee choi kong?) That translates to "Hello miss. How are you? When you're free, do you want to hang out?"

Maybe you're into some particular type of girl. Maybe it's a poor girl with little education but is heavy on devotion, loyalty, and submissiveness. So where would you find this kind of gally gal? Some would steer you towards the countryside. Maybe you should take a trip up to the province of Van Ninh where you will find plenty of girls riding their bikes to the market.  Just remember to brush up on your Vietnamese as you won't find many English speakers in the area. 

Perhaps you want an educated college girl.  Nha Trang has a university right in town.  Go to Nguyen Dinh Chieu street where the college is to scout them at icecream (kem) and smoothie (sinh to / "sin tow") joints. 

You know, some of you are not even looking for a girlfriend or a wife but a temporary fling.  Just taking a stroll down Tran Phu st past 8pm and you will get hastled by xe om (seh ohm / hugging bike  taxis) drivers about taking you to meet girls.  If they drive you to a brothel you are lucky.  On the other hand, if they take you to a dark alley, be prepared to part with your money and belongings.