After being in Bali for a couple weeks, we headed north to another beautiful country – Vietnam. We landed in Saigon (or Ho Chi Minh City), the busiest of the cities in Vietnam, a place that was large and spreadout and a bit smoggy. We took one of the more trustworthy taxis (mai linh group) to the first district where many of the sights and our hotel were. Aside from cars there were mopeds. Everywhere. If you weren’t dodging a car while crossing the street, you were dodging a moped.
I wish we could say we stayed here but our hotel was around the corner (and more like a motel). This one is famous for hosting a lot of french war journalists during the 1950s and where such authors like Graham Greene used to reside. Anyways, much more elegant than the Asian Hotel where we stayed.
Ok, we’re in Saigon so time to start getting some culture. And by that I mean street food! If you’re not dodging mopeds and cars, you’re probably tripping over the gazillion tiny bright red or blue plastic stools scattered around the street food vendors. These stools (and tables) are more appropriate for Legos than humans but they’re the unofficial street food restaurant furniture throughout Vietnam. Comfort level – zero. Makes you want to sit down just long enough to finish your pho or bahn mi or whatever. And that’s probably the point.
On one of the days in Saigon, Kirsten and I made it our mission to find the Lunch Lady. She’s now pretty famous in the foodie world after being written up in magazines and profiled on shows like Anthony Bourdain. She makes her own type of pho (or soup) based on what she shopped for that morning. Like a CIA operative, she supposedly has good contacts in various meat, fish, produce markets where she gets to pick the choiciest of the lot. She then does her magical cooking which entails hours of simmering in a big pot and she’s done for the day when her batch runs out. We wanted to try her pho and see if it was worth the hype. Our plan was to get there kind of early (around 11am – ok that’s early for us) to try to beat the long line. Her food stall location hasn’t changed and, therefore, it was hard to find as, we were told, it was located in one of the many side streets in a not so well to do area.
So we went through some streets based on various suggestions from websites…
And it was so incredibly delicious. I’m not ashamed to say it was the best pho/soup I’ve ever had. Complex is the best way to describe her pho. First, you didn’t taste one kind of stock (like beef or chicken), you tasted like four. And although you tasted salty, sweet, spicy, savory, etc., they were all perfectly balanced. It was truly one of the most interesting (and delicious) soups I’ve ever had.