Wat Pho

Wat Pho in Bangkok, ThailandOne of the more memorable things I’ve seen so far in Bangkok is an enormous temple complex dating from the 16th century called Wat Pho.

Wat Pho in Bangkok, Thailand

There are so many amazing buildings here.

Wat Pho in Bangkok, Thailand

Not to mention the statues.

Wat Pho in Bangkok, Thailand

And these weird pointy… things… I have no idea what these are.  They look quite nice, though.

Wat Pho in Bangkok, Thailand

Then of course there’s the most famous thing here: the reclining Buddha statue.

Wat Pho in Bangkok, Thailand

I don’t think the photos quite give you a sense of how big this thing was, but it was absolutely enormous.

Wat Pho in Bangkok, Thailand

They also had this thing in the same room with the statue where you could buy a small bucket full of coins, and then individually plunk them into various pots lined up along the wall.  I had no idea what this was for, so I didn’t do it.  I’m sure I missed out on a potential good luck bonanza.

A couple more pictures:

Wat Pho in Bangkok, Thailand

Wat Pho in Bangkok, Thailand

It’s Pho-nominal

Pho in VietnamObviously I wasn’t going to leave Vietnam without having pho.  I’m not a crazy person.

I didn’t know this before getting here, but there are actually two types of pho: there’s the beef version, called pho bo.  That’s the one that we’re more familiar with back home.  There’s also a chicken version called pho ga.

I tried both, of course.  Again, I’m not a crazy person.

First up is pho ga, the chicken version, which I had at a restaurant called Pho Lam Nam Ngu in Hanoi.

Pho in VietnamTopped with green onion and some sliced chicken, and served with a very generous amount of slightly mushy noodles, this was quite tasty.

It’s essentially the platonic ideal of a bowl of chicken soup; it had an exceptionally clean, simple (and delicious) flavour.  It’s tasty on its own, but once you jazz it up with a spritz of lime and a bit of the chili sauce they’ve got on the table, it really starts to sing.

Pho in Vietnam

I wish the noodles had been a bit firmer, but all in all this was a satisfying bowl of noodle soup.

The second restaurant was called Pho Gia Truyen.  It’s super popular.  The first time I showed up, the place was an absolute mad house; I came back the next day right when it opened, and there was still a line, but it was a bit more reasonable.

Pho in Vietnam

It’s packed for a reason.  The soup had such an intensely satisfying beefy flavour — with just enough spicing to compliment it but not get in the way — that I didn’t even bother putting any chili sauce or any of the other condiments on the table.  I didn’t want to mess with it.  It was perfection.

Pho in Vietnam

It was topped with a surprisingly generous amount of thinly-sliced beef; that beef was bananas.  It was super tender, with a shockingly rich flavour.  This was obviously some top-shelf stuff, because it tasted good.

Pho in Vietnam

The noodles were pretty great, too.  It’s easily the best bowl of pho that I’ve ever had.

Pho in Vietnam

I think I might have actually ruined pho for myself, because I’m never going to be able to find anything this good back home.  Oh well.

The Greatest Banh Mi I’ve ever had…

…And maybe the greatest sandwich I’ve ever had, period?  It’s right up there, that’s for sure.

Banh mi, for the unaware, is a Vietnamese sandwich served on a version of a baguette.  I’ve had a few since arriving in Vietnam.  They’re typically served in roadside stalls like this one.

Banh mi in Vietnam

Or this one.

Banh mi in Vietnam

That last one featured a banh mi that was filled with grilled meat patties.  It was quite tasty, but the patties were a bit too dry.

Banh mi in Vietnam

One of the better ones that I’ve had (up until the mind-blowing best ever that I’ll get to in a moment) is from a place called Banh My Lan Ong in Hanoi.

Banh mi in Vietnam

They’re famous for their freshly-made pate (you can even buy it in little plastic tubs from the restaurant), and rightfully so.  That pate is absolutely amazing; a little bit chunkier than the norm, with a very mild liver flavour that’s balanced perfectly by the pate’s unique spicing (it has quite a strong cinnamon flavour).

Banh mi in Vietnam

But the bread itself was a bit overly crunchy; one of the great things about a banh mi baguette is the very light, crackly exterior and the fluffy interior.  This one was aggressively crunchy — it’s the type of bread that’ll tear up the inside of your mouth if you don’t eat it carefully.

Banh mi in Vietnam

The greatest banh mi of all time, oddly enough, was a random discovery.  I was just walking around in Hanoi and saw a very impressive line for a place called Banh My Pho Hue; if you’ve been reading this blog for a while, then you know that I absolutely cannot resist a line for food.  And even if that had never paid off for me, it still would have been worth it a billion times over for allowing me to discover this place, because oh man.  Oh man, this sandwich.

Banh mi in Vietnam

It’s so simple: a slathering of butter, a heaping spread of pate, a little bit of pork floss, a few slices of cold cuts, and a few slices of plain cucumber.  There’s none of the pickled veggies or herbs that you find in a lot of other banh mi, and you don’t miss it.

Banh mi in Vietnam

You can add on a little bit of the zingy chili sauce they have on the side (and you should definitely do this), but other than that it’s a pretty basic sandwich.

Banh mi in Vietnam

The bread is ridiculous; it’s satisfyingly crispy on the outside, and fluffy as a cloud on the inside. You can eat this sandwich as aggressively as you want — you’re not going to cut your mouth.  And yet that outer crisp is still very much there, it’s just amazingly delicate.

Banh mi in Vietnam

The pate, like at Banh My Lan Ong, is a bit chunky, and absolutely amazing.  It’s easily the star of the show, and is complimented perfectly by the creamy butter, the cold cuts, the pork floss, and the fresh crunchiness of the cucumber.

It’s a simple sandwich, but all of the components are so delicious and work together so well that it’s a revelation.  If I were to list the top five sandwiches that I’ve ever eaten, it’d be on there for sure.

Delicious Fish Noodle Soup

Bun Ca Sam Cay Si in Hanoi, VietnamWhen I sat down to eat fish noodle soup (a Vietnamese dish called bun ca) at around eleven in the morning, I started to wonder: is this a mistake?  Maybe eating a potentially very pungent fishy soup for breakfast isn’t a great idea?

Bun Ca Sam Cay Si in Hanoi, Vietnam

Well, it turns out it absolutely was a great idea, because the bun ca that they served at a placed called Bun Ca Sam Cay Si in Hanoi was phenomenal.

Bun Ca Sam Cay Si in Hanoi, Vietnam

The broth, in particular, was something special: it was mildly seafoody, with a zingy, almost sour flavour that was given some added depth thanks to the fresh herbs, particularly dill.

The chewy noodles and crispy veggies worked great together, and there was a very generous amount of fried fish chunks.

Bun Ca Sam Cay Si in Hanoi, Vietnam

They must have fried the hell out of those things, because they somehow managed to retain their crunchy exterior right down to the last piece.  And yet the inside was tender and flaky.  I don’t know how they did it, but it was pretty amazing.