The first half of our Vietnam trip was spent with family in a small town called Go Cong. I was born here. I liken it to being in the middle of Arkansas or Oklahoma. In summary, we were bored out of our minds. But I did spend lots of time with family and experiencing home cooked meals in Vietnam.
The first day we arrived, my dad took us to a local pho restaurant. We walked a short distance down the street to a small corner cafe type of establishment with outdoor seating on plastic chairs. This regular sized bowl is equivalent to a small size in the US. Pho in America is actually better because the luxuries we can afford. The best pho broth is made from oxtail which is richer and more fatty. In America, you can afford to make a whole batch of broth using just oxtail. In Vietnam, the shop orders one cow for the entire day's service. This means they only have a few sections of oxtail and make their broth from other parts of the cow. The meat slices were also thicker because they are hand cut whereas our butchers use a machine to get thinner slices. Phil ordered 2 bowls and this made the restaurant owners very happy. Locals don't usually need 2 bowls to be full.
That green fruit is star apple (trai vu sua). If you literally translate the Vietnamese name, it means mother's milk. It comes in a round apple-like shape and is soft. The best way to eat it is to massage the whole fruit, rip out the stem, suck the white milky fruit through the opening left by the stem. Once the fruit is all shriveled up, you know you're done. That's why it's called mother's milk, it's just like a boob! Sweet, soft, juicy.
A special family lunch. We were told that typical family meals are not like this. A meal like this at my cousin's house was prepared because we were special guests. They killed 2 of their chickens for this chicken porridge. The chicken was really lean and chewy. Much different than chicken in the US. Definitely hormone-free and raised free range.
On a separate day, we had a large lunch with fresh spring rolls. There were too many people to fit around the table so my cousins cleaned the floor of their outdoor porch area and we all ate on the ground.
A nutritious soup made from fighting roosters and papaya. This is also a rare treat and possibly illegal and an aphrodisiac for men. These roosters were bred to fight. This guy probably lost of retired and is now someone's meal. The soup was sweet from the papaya and rich from the chicken. The chicken meat itself was even more chewy than regular backyard chickens.
This might be more chicken served with lemon grass
We stayed with my aunt who made some pretty interesting snacks for dinner. These are fresh shrimp just boiled and dipped in a fish sauce. It was really sweet and fresh. One of my favorite eats in Vietnam even though it was so simple.
[WARNING: The following food item is not for the faint of heart. If you don't like weird food like balut, please do not look.]
Looks like a normal bowl of quail eggs, but these are actually quail egg balut. They are specifically bred and incubated to have a quail embryo inside. The preparation is just to boil the eggs, peel, and eat with a salt/pepper/lemon dip and greens.
Gross? No, very delicious, nutritious, juicy. Full of protein and much easier to eat than duck egg balut because it's bite sized. This is my favorite bite in Vietnam. Is it inhumane? Yes, but when in Rome...There are so many things in Vietnam that are inhumane, and yet at the same they utilize all parts of an entire cow without discarding anything.