We were told that most families that farm and live in the countryside on Ben Tre make about $40 US per month. $40!!!!! Food, however is pretty inexpensive because most of it (bananas, mango, lemongrass, mint, bitter melon, cucumbers, pineapple, chilies, lotus flower root, etc, etc.) grows right in their own yards.
Here is a recipe that we helped make which utilizes many of these yummy homegrown ingredients. It resulted in a beautiful, super flavorful papaya salad. Of course this is one thing I forgot to take a picture of!!!! Well, use your imagination….OR, even better, make it for yourself!!
SWEET PAPAYA SALAD
1 large orange papaya, skin peeled off and the inside (minus the seeded core of course!) shredded.
Handful of mint leaves chopped up
Half a lemon worth of lemon juice ( could probably do lime too or instead…)
Approximately 1/4 cup of sugar
Handful of salt (to taste)
A few tablespoons of fish sauce
A few tablespoons of rice vinegar
A clove of garlic, chopped finely
Two small red chilies chopped (again, more or less to taste)
1/2 cup of cooked pork chopped into cubes (optional)
Mix with your hands in large bowl, serve at room temperature and enjoy!!! Nom!!
***As this was truly home cooking, there were no real measurements, I am just guessing in this area. When making this yourself, start with a smaller amount, taste, taste, taste and add as you need to!
The kitchen in our homestay was tiny, somewhat makeshift and in a separate little building apart from the main house. The stove was a small portable propane number, bowls and other kitchen ware were stored in baskets on the floor, and the “sink” was a spigot outside.
Irregardless of the small space, all sorts of food was made for dinner on the two nights we stayed, including grilled egg plants, a cabage dumpling soup, omelette, stir fry, several kinds of spring rolls and my personal favorite, fried bananas.