Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Culinary City Spotlight: Saigon

A few years ago, thanks to a great mistake rate on airfare, I was able to hop over to Vietnam for a long weekend to explore the culinary wonders of Saigon.

My first night in the city, I reserved a table at La Villa (14 NGO Quang Huy St, Thao Dien Ward, District 2). Because the French occupied Saigon from the late 1800s until the 1950s, there is a distinct French stamp on the local cuisine and La Villa is a fantastic example of it. Course after course of French food was paraded before me and I delighted in it.
























I spent the morning and afternoon of the next day taking Vietnamese cooking classes at the Saigon Culinary Arts Center (make reservations at http://vietnamsaigoncookingclass.com). For a very affordable rate (less than $50USD) I was treated to an educational tour of the local markets, an in-depth overview of typical Vietnamese cooking ingredients, lunch (that I made), and a recipe book. The class even includes escort from one's hotel. The techniques I was taught have proven valuable; I still rely on them whenever I cook Vietnamese cuisine at home.

Market Stall                   






Vietnamese shrimp and pork salad





Grilled pork and sticky rice










By far, the most amazing thing I did in Saigon (and perhaps one of the most amazing things I've ever done anywhere in the world) was to attend a "Back of the Bike" culinary tour my last evening in town. Motorbikes are EVERYWHERE in the city, seemingly the main mode of transportation, and since traffic is insane you need a skilled driver if you want to survive. I hired a talented duo  - an American chef and his Vietnamese wife -  to buzz me around the city's authentic best eats on a multiple hour stuff-yourself-full tour. My mouth waters just thinking of the deliciousness of course after course after course all these years later. Definitely a must do when you visit Saigon.



I'm hoping to make a return visit to Vietnam in the coming years and bring the entire family with me. There is still much of the country to explore and the people are wonderful and welcoming. One fascinating bit of trivia - in Vietnam they refer to Vietnam war as the "US War of Aggression". Was quite unnerving to hear the locals call it that.
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