As I mentioned in an earlier post, one of my favorite Christmas gifts this year was a National Geographic book called "Food Journeys of a Lifetime: 500 Extraordinary Places to Eat Around the Globe". Of these 500 places, 3 are in Vietnam. Score.
The first on the list was to take a cooking class in the home of a Vietnamese family. The class starts out in the markets early in the morning. After you pick up the items you'll need for lunch, you return to your hosts house to cook the meal. The class includes an English language guide to aid in translation and to help explain the cultural nuances we are experiencing during the day. The book also includes a couple of websites for companies they recommend using. Unfortunately, the three website they recommended weren't helpful at all. Two of them aren't valid any more and one is just for a hotel.
The next options was Vietnamese Street Food. Basically, this article says we should just go out on the street and find a great place to eat. We were planning on doing that anyway. It also suggests we find a street vendor with squat stools and belly up with the locals and eat Pho. Sounds good enough to me. There were no real suggestions on specific locations, but they did recommend a couple of websites that might offer guidance.
The third Vietnamese Journey is in the Best Places to Enjoy Cafe Society. Hanoi is number four on the list of top 10. According to the book, Hanoi's social life revolves around cafes. A throwback to the colonial days when the French established Vietnam's first coffee plantations. I can easily see us sitting at a small cafe in the old quarter of Hanoi and drinking some coffee (I'm not a coffee/caffeine guy, but will do it on vacation for the experience).
Vietnam is listed in one more section of this book -- as one of the best (number 3 out of ten) best New Year's Feasts. We are not going to be in Vietnam for Tet -- which is probably a good thing as most things appear to be closed for 2-3 weeks around Tet.
I was a little disappointed the websites weren't very helpful, but I do think that probably more of a function of Vietnam and not this book. I've checked out a few other websites for destinations that were not in Vietnam and they worked just fine. I think the way to use this book is to use it as a guide and not a bible.
When you travel do you want plan your meals far in advance or do you just wing it? Do you like to take cooking classes while on the road or at home? Do you find the idea of grocery shopping and cooking in someones home while you are on vacation to be vile?