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McDonald’s Around the World: Malaysia Edition

McDonald's in Kuala Lumpur, MalaysiaWell, the trip is drawing to a close, which means that this is my last taste of international McDonald’s weirdness.

McDonald's in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

First up: the Golden Prosperity Burger, which consists of a chicken patty (it’s also available in beef), a hash brown, black pepper sauce, and onions.  I didn’t care for this one at all.  For one thing, it was easily the sloppiest burger I’ve ever had at McDonald’s; the soft bun was barely even able to hold up under all that sauce.  The chicken patty was really bottom-of-the-barrel — it was one of the shoddiest reconstituted chicken patties I’ve ever had.  Plus, the sauce was just one-note peppery.  It really needed pickles or something acidic to balance things out a bit.

McDonald's in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Up next was the Bubur Ayam McD, which was a rice porridge with chicken, green onions, fried shallots, ginger, and sliced chilis.  This was actually not bad at all — the rice had a good texture, and all of the flavours worked pretty well together, with the fried shallots adding some crunch.

McDonald's in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Last but not least was the Red Bean Pie.  This was about as close to a sure thing as it gets.  I mean, it’s a crispy fried McDonald’s pie filled with tasty red bean filling.  Yeah, it was quite good.

Uncle Bean

Uncle Bean in Kuala LumpurLine-ups for food are a traveler’s best friend.  Have I mentioned this before?  I have?  A million times?  Well, it’s true.

The latest line-based discovery: a street food stand called Uncle Bean, which serves up some seriously delicious tofu-based desserts.

There’s a few things on the menu, but most people seemed to be ordering the tau fu fa, which is an incredibly creamy tofu pudding.  They have a few different syrups you can top it with (the tofu itself isn’t sweet at all); I got the brown sugar ginger.

Uncle Bean in Kuala Lumpur

It was really, really good.  The tofu is silky and amazing; it doesn’t taste like much, but that’s what the syrup is for.  A lot of ginger-based desserts are a bit too overpowering for me, but the syrup here managed to strike a perfect balance of sweetness with a very subtle ginger kick.  Bonus: it cost about 50 cents Canadian.  I could eat a million of these.

Crispy Little Pancake Tacos

Khanom bueang at Terminal 21 food court in Bangkok, ThailandHere’s a very pleasant surprise, and something I hadn’t even heard of until I came to Bangkok: khanom bueang, a Thai dessert that consists of thin, crispy pancakes with a generous spread of a creamy Italian-meringue-like substance, along with other fillings (the one I tried had egg yolk threads, though coconut was also an option).

This was really, really good.  It probably helped that they were made fresh at this booth in the food court in the Terminal 21 mall (the food courts here are so much better than the food courts back home, it’s ridiculous).

Khanom bueang at Terminal 21 food court in Bangkok, Thailand

The pancakes were crispy and fresh, and were kind of like a cross between a crepe and a cookie.   The creamy meringue worked perfectly with the crispy pancake, and though the egg yolk threads didn’t add much (they were just kind of chewy and tasteless), they didn’t detract, either.

Khanom bueang at Terminal 21 food court in Bangkok, Thailand

I got an order of 10 of them, and I figured I’d eat a few right away and then save the rest for later.  But of course they all wound up in my belly immediately, which I probably should have predicted.  I’m not really a “save delicious food for later” kind of guy.

It’s Offaly Good

Nai-Ek Roll NoodlesFunnily enough, one of the best things I’ve eaten in Bangkok isn’t Thai at all — it’s Chinese, from a Michelin-rated restaurant in Bangkok’s Chinatown called Nai-Ek Roll Noodles.

As you’d expect from a place that’s cheap and Michelin-approved, it’s quite busy.  But the line moves fast, so within ten minutes or so, I was in.

Nai-Ek Roll Noodles

The menu is fairly extensive, but “Roll Noodles” is right there in the name.  I got a bowl of noodle soup that came with minced pork, sliced pork, and crispy pork belly, along with some organs — stomach, liver, kidney, and tongue (plus, they don’t mention it in the menu, but there were also intestines in there; it was quite the cornucopia of pig innards).

Nai-Ek Roll Noodles

It was really, really good.  The soup had a bit of a kick, with a nice peppery flavour.  And the noodles were kind of like a Chinese version of penne pasta.

Nai-Ek Roll Noodles

Plus, the pork belly managed to stay crispy even in the soup, and all of the various organs were prepared perfectly — no off flavours here at all.

Mind-blowing Chicken Satay in Bangkok

Jay Eng in Bangkok, ThailandThough a lot of the food I’ve been eating in Bangkok has been a bit underwhelming, there’s definitely been some good stuff, too.  Such as: this amazing chicken satay I had from a place called Jay Eng.

Jay Eng in Bangkok, Thailand

Everything about it was just right: it was super tender, the marinade was really tasty, and it had a nice smoky flavour from the grill.  And that peanut sauce?  Bananas.  It was like a nuclear bomb of flavour.  Perfection.

Jay Eng in Bangkok, Thailand

I’d say it’s the best chicken satay I’ve ever had, but then I had some pretty amazing ones in Singapore a couple of years ago; I’d have to try them side-by-side to know which was better.

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.

McDonald’s Around the World: Vietnam Edition

McDonald's in VietnamThere was something particularly depressing about eating at McDonald’s in Vietnam. I’ve only been here a few days, but it’s already clear that this country has some of the best food of anywhere I’ve visited so far. It kind of sucks to waste a meal on McDonald’s, but I’ve come this far. No point in turning back now.

The feeling of vague sadness was compounded by being surrounded almost exclusively by Western tourists. I don’t want to be the kind of traveller who judges the way that other people travel, but my hotel is near the main tourist-centric stretch of town, and I’ve seen some stuff. There are so many tourists that hang out at these cheesy-looking bars eating stuff like pizza or nachos, and it just makes me sad. The food here is so good.

But then blog or no blog, I’m in McDonald’s too, so I guess I’m part of the problem.

The menu here had a few interesting things, at least.

McDonald's in Vietnam

The first thing I tried was the pork and rice. This came with a small pile of rice with teriyaki sauce, a cut up pork patty, some veggies, and an egg. It was fine, I guess. I think you can get a pretty good idea of what this tasted like just by looking at the picture.

McDonald's in Vietnam

I had the curly fries on the side. There may as well be one factory that makes all of the curly fries for the entire planet, because they always taste exactly the same.

McDonald's in Vietnam

There were a few sauces other than the usual ketchup at the dispenser, which helped. I tried the chili sauce, the garlic chili sauce, and the mayo sauce, and they were all fairly tasty.

McDonald's in Vietnam

I had the Strawberry McFizz to drink, which was basically a strawberry soda with jam on the bottom. It was intensely sweet, but refreshing.

A Delicious Noodle Soup (that isn’t pho)

Bun Bo Hue Nam Giao in Ho Chi Minh, VietnamPho may be the thousand pound gorilla of Vietnamese noodle soups — it’s the one that pretty much every single person on the planet has heard of — but it’s certainly not the only one.

Take, for example, bun bo hue. I just had a bowl of it at Bun Bo Hue Nam Giao, and it made a strong case that there should be room in your life for more than one noodle soup from Vietnam.

It’s got a zingy, ever-so-slightly sour broth that’s really satisfying; it’s much more of a face-punch of flavour than the comparatively subtle pho.

Bun Bo Hue Nam Giao in Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam

It comes with various sausagey mystery meats that are all quite tasty, and a couple of plates worth of veggies and hot peppers to customize your bowl.

I should note that those peppers are inferno hot; I added most of them to the soup, which was probably a mistake. The peppers themselves were fiery little spice-bombs, and they quickly infused the broth with their intense heat. I have a fairly high tolerance for spicy foods, but even I found this to be a bit much.  I was getting pretty sweaty by the time I finished the bowl.

Ben Thanh Market

Ben Thanh market in Ho Chi MinhThough there are tourist-friendly markets in pretty much every city in the world, the Ben Thanh market in Ho Chi Minh is particularly interesting.

It’s one of those places where they sell everything under the sun — from knockoff watches and knick-nacks to produce and prepared meals.

Ben Thanh market in Ho Chi Minh

I wanted to get something to eat, but I didn’t have anything in mind, so I figured I’d just wander around until I found a crowd.

Ben Thanh market in Ho Chi Minh

The busiest vendor — by far — was this one, selling a dish called banh beo hue.

Ben Thanh market in Ho Chi Minh

It’s not like anything I’ve had before, and when I ordered it, I literally had no idea what it was. Was it seafood? Some kind of sausage?  Who knows!

Ben Thanh market in Ho Chi Minh

It turned out to be slices of a chewy rice cake (it’s really similar in texture to Korean rice cakes) topped with fish sauce, a generous handful of parsley, and some crispy bits of pork crackling for contrast.

It was surprisingly delicious. It was chewy, crunchy, tangy, and addictive. It also cost 20,000 dong, or about $1.10 Canadian for a fairly filling lunch, so like everything else here, it’s delightfully cheap.