Southeast Asia

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vietnamese Pho
Vietnamese Culture, Vietnamese Food

Yin and Yang, Banh and Pho

Imagine yourself walking through the streets of Ho Chi Minh City in the south of Vietnam and a wave of people with food in their hands comes towards you. Suddenly you are surrounded by all sorts of smells and flavors! Just the thought of that makes you hungry, right? So let’s explore the wonders of Vietnamese food together.

Vietnamese Food

Some might say that Vietnamese food is like any other in Southeast Asia, nothing special. What they don’t know is how wrong they really are! Vietnamese food is neither bland nor boring.

The combination of fresh herbs and spices makes the food not only colourful, but also full of flavor. Although it might differ from region to region, there is always something that makes Vietnamese cuisine unique. The aroma, the taste of sweet and sour, and the hint of fish sauce are all combined and perfectly balanced. It is all about yin and yang, in every meal providing beneficial input to your body!

China influences heavily the food in the north. That means a lot of stir-fries and noodle-based soups. Then towards the southern part the flavors become more and more tropical, almost blending with Thai cuisine. But it is hard not to talk about the French influence in Vietnam cuisine.

One example would be the bánh mì which is basically a crispy/fluffy baguette filled with seasoned pork and vegetables like cucumbers, cilantro and pickled carrots. Some say you can find the best bánh mì in the streets of Ho Chi Minh City.

InternVietnam - Banhmi

When you walk through the streets of Ho Chi Minh City, you are definitely going to find Ph. Pho is made of a smooth broth with vermicelli rice noodles and meat, topped with the freshest herbs you can find. It is a very popular street food in Vietnam and probably the most known Vietnamese food in the world. Surprisingly, is usually eaten as a breakfast!

InternVietnam - Pho

If you are a pork fan, then bún mọc is for you. In it you can find pork sausage, fried pork meatballs, pork ribs and pork belly with a light mushroom broth and garnish with fresh herbs. That is a lot of pork and all in one bowl!

 

Exotic ‘Nam

If you have more of an adventurous side, you can try the coconut worms in fish sauce and chili slices, usually eaten alive while drinking! One bite of these fellas pops salty and spicy flavors into your mouth. But be careful with their mandibles because these little worms may bite while you are trying to eat them!

Another daring option would be the balut, a fertilized bird embryo, usually duck. The Vietnamese believe that the balut is very nutritious and restorative for pregnant women.

InternVietnam - Balut

 

But enough about meat!

Don’t be afraid to visit Vietnam if you are vegetarian. Vegetarian restaurants are really common in Vietnam, as there is a large Buddhist population. It means that being a vegetarian is not a big deal. And even if the restaurant is not specifically vegetarian, you can still find or ask for vegetarian options.

It is important to know the Vietnamese word for vegetarian (chay) and that would get you through. You can make any Vietnamese dish into a vegetarian dish like phở chay, bánh xèo chayhủ tiếu chaycà ri chay, and so on. Or say “Tôi ăn chay”, which means “I’m vegetarian”. Another option is to say that you don’t eat pork “Tôi không ăn thịt heo” or beef “Tôi không ăn thịt bò“.

InternVietnam - Veggies

There are a variety of vegetarian dishes you can get, like sticky rice (xôi). Most of the xoi are vegetarian and found in the food stands on the streets. Đậu sốt cà chua is a fried yellow tofu with tomato paste and onions. You can accompany your dậu sốt cà chua with some fried water spinach and garlic (rau muống xào tỏi) or some bok choy with shitake mushrooms (cải xào nấm).

Cheers!

Drinks are on me! A common drink is the Vietnamese iced coffee or cà phê đá made with freshly brewed dark roast Vietnamese-grown coffee and condensed milk. But if you go to Hanoi, you might come across the egg coffee (cà phê trứng) which includes egg yolk. Sugarcane (nước mía or mía đá) is a really popular drink during the hot summers. Kumquat juice is often added to the sugarcane to balance the sweetness.

InternVietnam - IcedCoffee

Vietnam has its own brewery called Sabeco, which is Vietnam’s leading beer producer. They produce not only the classic Saigon Beer, but also Vietnam’s favorite 333. Bia hơi is a draft beer popular among the locals. It can be found in small bars and on street corners. It’s brewed daily and each bar gets a fresh batch delivered everyday! Going to the stronger liquor is the rượu đế, rice wine, made out of cooked glutinous rice.

InternVietnam - SaigonBeer

 

Enjoy these delicacies and join us!

Travel

Spring Holiday in Sri Lanka

Having an expat dad living in the same country as you has its perks: you get to tag along on his travels! I must admit, after witnessing all the preparations in the weeks before Chinese New Year, I was a little bummed out that I wouldn’t get to see the actual celebrations. But when the opportunity arises to travel to an exotic island in Southeast Asia, you just can’t say no!

InternChina – Sri Lanka

I spent all of 8 days in Sri Lanka, and I have to say, it’s nothing like any country I’d been to before. For instance, around 70% of the population is Buddhist, meaning: lots and lots of temples! My dad is sort of a Buddhism aficionado, and it seems to be his personal mission to visit as many temples and shrines as possible. Sri Lanka definitely gave him a lot of material, including the stupas in the ancient city of Anuradhapura (where the oldest tree in recorded history has remained guarded for over 2000 years), the tiny temple where Buddha’s teachings were put in writing for the very first time, and of course, the Sri Dalada Maligawa Temple in Kandy, which houses Buddha’s Sacred Tooth Relic.

InternChina – People meditating at the Sri Maha Bodhi Tree Temple

One consequence of visiting all these temples is you have to do a lot of climbing, since monks have the tendency to choose high grounds for their meditation duties. I am not a very sporty person and at the beginning I was a little mortified to have to climb all those steps, but I have to say the outcome is very much worth it. Especially at Sigiriya, the ancient fortress built on a flat rock nearly 400 metres high, where I literally felt like I was on top of the world.

InternChina – Sigiriya Rock

Other awesome highlights of my trip were the visit to a spice garden, where I learned all about Sri Lankan medicinal herbs and got to buy a whole bag of goodies, the tea factory where I found out how my favourite cuppa (English Breakfast) gets made, and the gem factory, where I had to beg my dad for an elephant pendant with a tiny incrusted topaz. And let’s not forget about the food: with so many practising Buddhists, Sri Lankan cuisine relies a lot on vegetarian dishes, and most of the meat dishes are either chicken or seafood. But their amazing variety of spices and tropical ingredients all come together to create some of the most fresh, flavourful and – on top of it all – healthiest food I’ve ever had.

InternChina – Sri Lankan Traditional Cooking

But my personal favourite was the chance to be in close contact with animals: as an animal lover, Sri Lanka is as close as paradise as I’ve ever been. Buddhism teaches to be kind to all living creatures, and you can really see that here. There are dogs and monkeys everywhere, and as dirty or skinny as they can be, people don’t mistreat them and they happily coexist. I also got to go on a safari at Yala National Park, and see all kind of birds, buffalos and even a short glimpse of a leopard. The cherry on top of the cake was the Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage. Being mere metres away from dozens of elephants, watching them bathe and play and feed their babies – plus touching them and feeding them myself – was an experience I’ll never forget.

InternChina – Elephants Bathing in the River

Coming to the other side of the world for an internship wasn’t just about work experience or even learning Chinese – it’s about having the opportunity to visit places you’ve only ever read about and never in your wildest dreams thought you’d see.

InternChina – Beach Sunset in Galle

Want to explore Southeast Asia like Daniela? Come to Zhuhai for an internship and go on lots of adventures! Apply now via email or directly on our website!