After traveling around Thailand for a week, my family collectively grew tired of eating Thai food. I thought I loved Thai, embracing papaya salad everyday, but I think the endless buffets (thanks to the pre-booked tours) quickly bored our palates. I never tired of mango & sticky rice though, but it never really occurred to me that Thai cuisine isn’t as diverse as Vietnamese cuisine. SHOTS FIREDDDD. Jaykay. Such a first world problem, right? It wasn’t until flying into Hanoi did I truly appreciate the cuisine of my peoplez. It’s exponentially more diverse than Thai food, especially due to its influence from its colonial French past & its Chinese neighbors. We’ve got similar desserts based in coconut milk & then we have these amazing cakes & pastries thanks to the French. We have dozens of various noodle soups, while Thailand only has a handful. While most other Asian countries embrace soy sauce in nearly every dish, Thai & Viet food is similar in that both cuisines embrace fish sauce, a highly pungent & salty fermented fish sauce. It’s often mixed with sugar, water, salt, & vinegar as a dipping sauce or dressing. Fish sauce (concentrated, not mixed) has always been my mother’s secret weapon in enhancing any meal whether it was spaghetti or Banh Canh Cua. Also, MSG. She used a lot of MSG, but the point is, whenever her meals needed a major kick in umami, she pulled out a bottle of fish sauce & measured out a tablespoon of it into her dish. Never fails.
We were excited to finally get our hands on some Vietnamese food, exciting our tastebuds with new combinations of flavors & spices we grew up with. I learned that Hanoi’s goi cuon tom (aka summer rolls) is made with a much thinner sheet of rice paper & honestly, it’s more annoying to eat & make. I love summer rolls. I make them at least 3 times a month, no matter the season, because it’s so healthy, fresh, filling, & low in calories. While Hanoi’s (Northern Vietnam) cuisine is much lighter than Saigon’s (Southern Vietnam), it still has some of my personal favorite dishes: Bun Cha & Cha Ca Thang Long. See all of our eats & travel photos below!