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Diversity of Vietnamese cuisine can yield some unfamiliar flavors

 VietNamNet Bridge – “I know I’m an acquired taste – I’m anchovies. And not everybody wants those hairy little things.” – Tori Amos

VietNamNet Bridge – “I know I’m an acquired taste – I’m anchovies. And not everybody wants those hairy little things.” – Tori Amos



Bun dau mam tom - PHOTO: Harry Hodge


When you ask expats around town what they like about living in HCMC and Vietnam in general, invariably “the food” is one of the answers.

Vietnamese food has a fair amount of variety, ranging from the ingredients used to the region of origin. Noodle dishes, grilled meats, seafood, soups and everything in between can be found for very affordable prices everywhere from the side of the road to more posh surroundings.

That said, anyone who’s lived here for a while (and even some new arrivals) may have been offered or sampled some local dishes that would be considered uncommon in one’s homeland. The following are what I’ve found to be an acquired taste:

(1) Thit cho (dog meat). What can I say? Not a fan of this particular dish. Can be prepared or served with mam tom (shrimp paste) which you will see further down this list, known for its pungent aroma. This dish is not favored by all people in all regions; many Saigon friends find no appeal to eating dog meat. My personal aversion to it has to do with having some at a party without being informed of what it was, and learning after the fact that the person who brought it was just “kidding around.”

(2) Bun dau mam tom (fried tofu and fresh rice vermicelli with fermented shrimp paste). This dish is actually quite edible, once you remove the nefarious shrimp paste that accompanies it. Even the most dedicated appreciater of Vietnamese food has to admit the pungent aroma of shrimp paste can be enough to get Westerners unfamiliar with it to flee the room. (For similar results, bring a fresh durian to a party.)

(3) Chan ga nuong (grilled chicken feet). With this one, it’s not so much the taste as the payoff…. It’s easily the boniest dish I’ve dealt with. You spent most of your time dealing with gristle and tiny bones and are starving after an hour of eating the stuff. (For similar results, chuot dong nuong (grilled mouse) is equally trying, bones-wise.)

Harry Hodge    



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