Where’s the Pho? A True Vietnamese Home-cooked Meal

As shameful as it is to admit, I have to say that I spend an inordinate amount of time on Quora (especially when I know I have very important things to do, because that’s just how a procrastinator is). I once stumbled upon this question, which I found equal parts amusing and bemusing: “My Vietnamese girlfriend can’t cook Pho. Does that mean that she’s not good at cooking?”

It is a truth universally acknowledged that Phở is the most famous Vietnamese food on Earth. Another truth is that Vietnamese restaurants have popped up in every corner around the world (thanks a lot, globalization!). The consequence of that, however, is that those restaurants, and the reputation of Pho, paints a very misleading picture about what Vietnamese people actually eat at home.

Source: sbs.com

The stuff that you see on the menu at a Vietnamese restaurant, all the Pho and Pho cuon and Bun cha and Banh xeo – those are the food that we Vietnamese have when we eat out. Not everyone knows how to cook Pho, because a perfect bowl of Pho is like art. It’s something that you perfect over time, most often through generations, and it takes an immense amount of effort.

So what do Vietnamese people cook at home?

Vietnamese culture puts a heavy emphasis on balance and harmony, and that is evident in how we eat. That balance and harmony is present in the spices we use, the ingredients we pick out, the flavours of each dish. It is also present in the elements of a meal.

A complete meal should have five elements: rice, one or two savoury dishes (from meat, seafood, tofu, etc.), one vegetable dish, soup and the sauce (often fish sauce mixed with lime juice and chilly). Everything is placed at the centre of the table and is shared by everyone. Of course, people don’t have enough time and effort every day to ensure there are five dishes on the table all the time, but we at least want to make sure we are consuming rice, meat and veggies in one meal.

Source: Pinterest

The rice we use are often white rice, and the most popular types are either Vietnamese-grown rice, or Thai jasmine rice. Modern knowledge about health and carbs have steered many people towards alternatives such as brown rice or black rice if they can afford it.

As for savoury dishes, the main meats that we use are chicken, pork and beef. Seafood (clams, shellfish, fishes, etc.) and river fishes are abundant and affordable. Tofu is not a vegetarian-only sort of food (as it is often regarded in the West) but just another type of protein. We Vietnamese boil, steam, stir-fry, deep-fry, stew, braise and do just about everything under the sun to our meat. A typical dinner table probably has about two or three different cooking methods going on.

Vegetables and root plants are integral parts of Vietnamese cuisine. It started out that meat was a luxury in Vietnam, a luxury that most people couldn’t afford. Vegetables, meanwhile, was plentiful and readily available. Even now, as Vietnam is on the track of developing, vegetables and root plants remain integral elements to our meals. They balance the fat and heaviness of meat, they are a great source of vitamins and fibre, and they are healthy, so what’s not to love?

The concept of soup in Vietnamese cuisine is quite different from what you normally imagine to be soup. For us, soup in everyday meal is more of a broth with vegetables and meat, or the water from boiled vegetables. Ever tried boiled water spinach soup with tomato and a squeeze of lime? You are missing out!

Source: Blog Sinh Vien Nau An

Then last but certainly not least, is the sauce. Or to be more precise, it’s dipping sauce (nước chấm). The central element to Vietnamese dipping sauce is fish sauce, mixed with a few cut of chillies, a bit of lemon juice and a few drops of water. Depending on the dish, you can also add sugar, pepper, garlic, vinegar, etc. The sauce is an irreplaceable part of a Vietnamese meal; in many cases, it is what makes or breaks a meal!

So you see, what Vietnamese eat at home and what are sold in Vietnamese restaurants are very different things. If you have the chance to try a home-cooked meal, take it. I am sure you will not be disappointed.

[Event] – Bidoup Trekking 2: Explore the National Park in Lam Dong

Welcome you to our 10th travel – Bidoup Trekking with an absolutely different concept from other trips we have been through together.

This time, Vietnam Track cooperates with Toong Trips (the professional trekking group) is organizing a trekking trip to the Bidoup Nui Ba National Park in Lam Dong Province, near Dalat – the well-known destination for travelers. Bidoup Nui Ba National Park is named after the two highest peaks of the Langbiang plateau: Bidoup (2.287m) and Nui Ba (2.167m.) Ranked as one of the five largest national parks in Vietnam. the park is home to thousands of species of plants and animals, a part of which is listed in the Red List

With the total path length of around 28 km, we are gonna go through the large forest with diverse ecosystem, observe the rare species of animals and plants, go through the Klong Klan Village, cross the Da Nhim River, enjoy the fresh air and coolness on the mountain with the nature surrounding and more importantly, we are gonna experience those ups and downs with many awesome friends who come from different countries apart from Vietnam.  

So, let’s pack your backpack and jump on the bus with us! Oh wait… please register yourself first. We need your information to proceed booking tickets and doing some preparation for the best and safest experiences for you. Limited slots and promotion available. Please scroll down for more information. 

Time: 23 – 26/11/2018
Maximum number of participants: 08 people
Schedule:

 

Fee:

The sooner your payment is, the higher promotion you get 😉

  • 16/11 – 19/11: 2,800,000VND ($120)
  • 20/11 – 21/11: 3,000,000VND ($129)

Including:

  • Transportation 
  • Entrance tickets.
  • Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner
  • Water
  • Camping tools (tents, sleeping bags, etc.)
  • Guides and supporters 
  • Travel insurance

**Excluding: Other fees out of those above-mentioned things.

Registration deadline: 21/11/2018.
Cancellation Refund Policy:

If you cancel your registration, you will receive refund based on the time of your cancellation.

  • 16/11 – 18/11: Refund 60% of the total fee.
  • 19/11 – 21/11: Refund 30% of the total fee.
  • 22/11 – 23/11: No refund.
Registration Process:

Step 1. Register by filling in the form below.

https://goo.gl/forms/E9z2JCACTlSmqo2M2

Registration deadline: 23/11/2018.

Step 2. Complete your payment via:

***Bank Transfer: The information of bank account will be sent to you via email.

***Direct Payment:

Contact Minh Nguyen

  • Phone: 0366725720
  • Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/minhvuongainguyen

***Your registration will only be counted after completing your payment.

>>>Let’s take a look at our previous trips:

Thanh An Island (Can Gio) | Giang Dien Waterfall (Dong Nai) | Tay Ninh | Bac Lieu

[Dalat] Pink Grass Festival | When & Where

Da Lat tourism has never been ceased to attract domestic and foreign tourists. When the blooming season of wild sunflowers has not yet passed, tourists can also enjoy  the picturesque hills filled with pink grasses in early morning.

Da Lat is located on the Langbiang Plateau at 1500 metres above sea level, where the climate is pretty mild all the time. Besides poetic landscapes, majestic waterfalls and breezing pine forests, Da Lat has lots of graceful flower types. Each season has its own specialty – mighty white of cauliflowers, regal yellow of wild sunflowers, dreamy purple of Poinciana, etc.  However, it is impossible not to mention the pink grass – a type of shrubs hidden under pine trees in the misty scene which makes tourist slow their paces to enjoy.

The ‘Da Lat’s Pink Grass Festival 2017’ (Mùa Hội Cỏ Hồng Đà Lạt,) hosted by Lam Dong province’s Department of Culture, Sports and Tourism – is an exciting opening event for the 7th Da Lat Flower Festival on December 2017Da Lat’s Pink Grass Festival 2017 lasts for 11 days (November 24th – December 4th) at the pink grass hill near Đan Kia -Suối Vàng Lake (Lac Duong Ward) with no entrance fee.

Photo: Foody

The festival includes ‘The Pink Meadow Moments’ (Khoảnh khắc cỏ hồng”) (a photography competition for professional photographers nationwide); the ‘Selfie Moments’ (Khoảnh khắc selfie”) dedicated to young fellows who love taking selfie photos, the ‘Pink Sunday’ (Chủ nhật hồng”)  aimed for couples who get married in 2017; the ‘Meadow Paradise’ (Thiên đường hoa cỏ”) inviting tourists to see and take photos. The festival space is divided into 10 major and 20 minor landscapes.   

It’s also an ideal place to take your wedding photos (Photo: LinkedIn)

Also in this festival, there are other fascinating cultural activities like the local culture day Bản sắc đại ngàn (High mountain uniqueness), which includes the straddle-less horse racing competition by Kơ Ho – Lạch ethnic minority in Lac Duong; ‘Night of Lach people’ picturing the harvesting season rituals which involves drinking tube wine, ‘xoang’ dancing, gong music performing; fireworks, etc.  

People are riding horses in Liangbiang, Dalat (Photo: ngkhaclich)

Da Lat’s Pink Grass Festival 2017 promises to be an introduction for tourists about this beautiful wild pink grass transforming itself from white snowflakes in the early foggy morning to a glittering pink carpet when the sun rises.

Photo: tienphong.vn
Photo: sggp.org.vn
Photo: terocket.com

Source: Du Lich Da Lat

Translator: Diem Nguyen

Thiên Đường Cave – Heaven on Earth

Vietnam is a country blessed by God for its own beautiful nature nowhere else could have. It’s the breathtaking beauty, the beauty that if one has seen, one could never forget. In the middle area of the letter “S” shaped country, lies one of the most beautiful provinces of Vietnam, Quảng Bình Province, home to so many extraordinary beaches and of course, natural caves. Among them, Thiên Đường Cave (Paradise Cave,) the longest cave in the world, is a true heaven on Earth.

Paradise on Earth. Photo: asitimes.blogspot.com

The discovery of Thiên Đường Cave:

Thiên Đường Cave (Paradise Cave) is part of Phong Nha – Kẻ Bàng National Park, a UNESCO’s World Heritage Site. The cave was discovered by a local man in 2005, and the first 5 km of its was explored by the explorers from the British Cave Research Association in 2005. The British cave explorers were so impressed with the beautiful and spectacular stalactites and stalagmites inside that they named it Thiên Đường Cave (Paradise Cave.) This cave is 31km long, 72m high and 150m wide. In 2012, a new scorpion species Vietbocap thienduongensis was found here.

Amazement. Photo: Google Image

How to get there?

Thiên Đường Cave is 200m above sea level, near the west branch of Hồ Chí Minh Highway, in Sơn Trạch Commune, Bố Trạch District, Quảng Bình Province, Vietnam. It is 60km northwest from Đồng Hới city.

There are many ways to get there. You can travel by train or airplane to Đồng Hới city, then rent a car or get on a bus to reach the cave.

A journey to Thiên Đường Cave:

Once arrival, you can see the parking lot, a wide area to park car,take a rest and buy souvenirs from local shops and enjoy some food at local restaurants. There you must also buy entrance tickets to visit the cave.

After entering, you will have to walk or get on the electric car to get to the foot of the cave.

Photo: Ngọc Lê

Then, there will be two ways up to the cave, one stairway and one flat trail. Either way, you have to hike or climb the stairs. There will be two public toilets along the way.

The Walk. Photo: Google Image

After a pretty (very) long hike, you will reach the entrance to the cave, which only fits one person at one time. There is a house for you to rest your tired legs, buy water and food, take photos or simply just enjoy the view of the beautiful nature before entering the cave.

 

A 15m steep slope leads down to the base of the cave, which is created by nature in an extremely sophisticated way, with numerous stalactites and stalagmites. On the two sides of the slope are traces of past collapses, scattered of stalactite poles like having undergone a tectonic phase.

Down to Heaven. Photo: Ngọc Lê

Located at 360 meters above sea level, Paradise Cave has the temperature of 9 to 10 degree Celsius different from outside. The cave is separated into many large chambers, the widest being 200 meters wide and above 100 meters tall.

To protect the natural condition of the cave, the ‘Trường Thịnh’ Group enterprise built a wooden bridge which is 3.5 meters wide and more than 1000 meters long for visitors to observe the beauty of the cave. This road is currently holding a national record as “The Longest Wooden Road.

The Longest Wooden Road (Photo: Wikipedia)

 

The magnificent beauty of the cave is finally revealed when the light illuminates the colourful stalactites. Inside the cave, you can freely use your imagination with the endless variety in shapes of so many stalactites that the “first men” has used such beautiful words to name, such as the Galaxy Waterfall (Thác Ngân Hà), the Moon Rabbit (Thỏ Ngọc),etc. that could only be seen to understand.

Ilumination. Photo: Google Image

The journey ends after 1km of walking, admiring and relaxing. But it does not just end like that. On your way out, you will see another amazing perspective of the cave, maybe even more beautiful than the way in. That is the magic of this cave: it’s mesmerizing.

Photo: Google Image

  • Ticket price:

– One adult/one ticket: 250.000VND (10.97$)

– Children from 0.9m to 1.3m/one ticket: 125.000VND (5.48$)

– Children below 0.9m/one ticket: free

  • Electric car service from the entrance to the down of the cave (1km trip)

There are two types of electric car service, the price is calculated by trip: 4 seats electric car trip and 6 seats electric car trip.

– 4 seats electric car trip:

  • One way: 60.000VND (2.63$)/trip/turn
  • Round-trip: 100.000VND (4.39$)/trip/round

– 6 seats electric car trip:

  • One way: 90.000VND (3.95$)/trip/turn
  • Round-trip: 150.000VND (6.58$)/trip/round

Note: Electric car trip tickets DO NOT include entrance fees. You still have to buy entrance tickets anyway.

If you have any problem travelling in Vietnam, whether it’s food problem or anything else, please don’t hesitate to contact us for more assistance. We will be thrilled to help.

Ngọc Lê

 

Vinh Hy Bay – A Hidden Pearl of Vietnam

Do you want to look at the beauty of Vietnam from another angle or have a different experience in this S-shaped country? If you say yes, the eastern coast of Vietnam – Vinh Hy Bay (Ninh Thuan Province) – should be on your bucket list. The Nature Mother has given this place a majestic scenery with emerald water and white sand.

Continue reading “Vinh Hy Bay – A Hidden Pearl of Vietnam”