"WHATEVER HAD THE MOST SHOCK VALUE
BECAME MY MEAL OF CHOICE."
When travelers seek adventure, they often forget that the true route to exploring the range of diversity in a culture is through the palate. What's on the plate can be exciting, invigorating, a wee bit dangerous, and definitely, off the beaten path ....
FOOD SAFARI Vietnam & Cambodia
In Vietnam, bun ca or fish noodle soup can be found most everywhere. Palate tingling, bun ca combines fried fishcakes, dill, tomatoes, green onions, and perilla -- a mint-like herb. Add a little lime, vinegar, chili and herbs from the condiments on the table, to achieve the essential balance of salty, sour, sweet and spicy.
You can also try the bun rieu, which is a meat or seafood vermicelli broth with a sharp crimson color. The red color comes from tomato paste and annatto oil, made from achiote tree seeds. Freshwater crabmeat and blanched tomatoes are the soup's key ingredients. Tamarind paste adds an appealing sourness to the dish, while light bits of fried tofu make for a pleasing crunch. Depending on the region, bun rieu might also come topped with beef, pork, snails or fish. Vermicelli noodles form a nest in the soup, and add a squirt of lime juice, chili and greens -- like banana blossoms and mint -- and you have a perfect meal.
Even familiar items like good old coffee have a distinctly Vietnamese twist. Vietnamese "egg coffee" -- or Ca Phe Trung -- is a Hanoi specialty in which a creamy soft, meringue-like egg white foam crowns the dark depths of Vietnamese coffee. The cold version is served as a yellow concoction in a small glass. It's consumed with a spoon and tastes almost like a coffee flavored ice cream. The hot version, on the other hand, comes resting in a small dish of hot water to keep its temperature. The strong coffee taste at the bottom of the cup seeps through the egg -- the yellow layer on top -- and is cappuccino thick, though not sickly sweet.
CNN Staff. "More than pho: 5 dishes every Hanoi visitor needs to try." CNN Travel. Destination Hanoi. 2 June, 2019 <https://www.cnn.com/travel/article/hanoi-food-best-dishes/index.html>
For a country that was under siege during the Khmer Rouge regime, the genocide of hundreds of thousands of Cambodians also saw the suppression and near disappearance of vital cultural aspects, including local cuisine.
Ly San, a 29-year-old Cambodian lawyer who was born in Siem Reap, began researching Khmer cuisine while studying in France. He traveled the country learning about lost recipes from elderly Cambodians. Read more about his quest and that of other fellow Cambodians to discover their country's forgotten cuisine here
Coffee culture is on the rise in Laos, and local coffee houses are becoming a status symbol among middle-class consumers in the country.
Not only is Laotian coffee gaining global popularity, but its cuisine has also earned Michelin stars.