Vietnam 

A Continental Cuisine Series

Vietnam Journal

Part 6

The next day we say our goodbyes to the hotel staff and depart, yep, in the rain. The hotel is fantastic, I will be back. Its everything you could wish for.
Phoc drops us off, I feel sad to be leaving him, lovely guy, and no doubt I will see him again in the future. We check in and depart for the next leg of the trip.

Arrive Saigon Ho Chi Min, what a difference, modern, clean very western, so different from Ha Noi. We meet our next fixer Nghia and our driver; we pack the coach and set off on a 4 hour drive to Can Tho, a small town with 1.4 million people. The roads are okay for 2 hours then they turn into pot holed no go areas. We pass many rice paddies, and a constant stream of mopeds and lorries all tooting their horns. I fall asleep but violently woken up at times with the pot holes. 

After a couple of hours we stop at a small Vietnamese motorway service station. I suppose its the equivalent of Watford Gap. The car park is full of coaches, buses and cars. All the people are funnelling into a large open sided building. We approach and look inside, its a huge circular eating area, probably seating 300 people. Hghia, asks if we are hungry, we all nod a bit wearily. He orders we have all sorts form spring rolls to hot salty fish rice dishes and a spectacular whole deep fried fish that the waiter breaks apart and wraps into spring rolls for you.

I see a small cooking area to one side and wander off to have a look. Its packed full of bar b q pork, cooked fish, steaming rice and what looks like 2 large balloons. I watch as the chef, places a large lump of rice paste mixed with a little soya oil into a huge cauldron of bubbling fat.

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He massages it and flattens it and works it as it bubbles away in the oil. Gradually the rice expands and starts to puff up. He keeps turning, coating in hot oil and the ball get bigger and bigger until its the size of my head. He lifts out and drains well.

Its eaten as a sort of bread course. I make my way back to the table to tell the crew that we have to film it. When we have finished I say to camera 'and this is roadside food'. Feeling full, we pile back onto the coach and fall in and out of sleep for the next 2 hours of our journey.

We arrive at our hotel, The Victoria, its large open planned and has the air of a colonial building, its very nice. The rooms are spacious and clean and well appointed. My room looks out over the swimming pool and has a lovely look to it in the late afternoon sunset. The staff are immaculate and service is some of the best I have ever encountered. There is a common theme emerging here. It even has a resident buffalo! We crash into our rooms and quickly come down for an ice cold beer and have a dinner of crab and mango rice. I retire early, the lads go out for a beer.

 

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