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Pictures from the right side of the bus

I'm petty. And selfish. I admit it.

Even in a country as pictureseque as Vietnam, it always seems like there's always something I'd like to take a picture of on the other side of the bus [other-side-of-the-bus-view-envy]. However, going from Saigon/HCMC to Nha Trang (and on up the coast to Hanoi for that matter), it's essentially an east and north route, meaning that the right side of the bus generally faces the ocean, so that's the side I chose. But the left side has incredible views of the mountains. I guess I'm lucky to have these problems.

But before I get to that, let me finish up my last few hours and eats in Saigon/HCMC. Here's a damn fine banh mi dac biet. They were keeping the baguette fresh in a small toaster oven (rather than just getting stale on the counter), and the quality of all the meats and goodies was excellent. Dac biet means special, or the works [or deluxe], I believe. This one has pate, a few kinds of headcheese or sausage roll, a little thinly sliced pork belly, some chicken loaf, pork floss and the usual pickled carrots and daikon, some cucumber spears, chilies and some soy sauce.


After so many days of being weak and trembly in the belly, finally felt strong and hungry. This is a first snack at a place called banh cuon LA. It's clean and modern, and would look just as home on Melrose Avenue or Main Street in Santa Monica. Things cost about twice as much as they would at a hawker stand, meaning about 18,000 VND or about $1.20 for this plate. It's freshly made steamed rice noodle/wrapper with Vietnamese sausage and crispy shallots. The sausage is surprisingly close to kielbasa, having that nitrite-ey, brined and smoked taste. [It's served with a soy-based sauce, so the overall effect is very similar to the look fun noodles you might get at a Hong Kong style dim sum joint - the ones with some shrimp or green onions rolled in them]


I spent the afternoon unsuccessfully looking for a particular vendor of bun mam noodles. So when I spotted this little stand with about 35 customers at 11:30pm, I had to check it out. That's really impressive, given that the blocks around here aren't so busy at that time, even though it's only a few blocks from Ben Thanh market. This contains the slightly thicker rice noodles (udon sized), with a couple of squares of pork skin, a few cubes of pork blood, and a nice slab of pork shank that was cooked tender, but still toothy. Before you start turning your nose up at pork blood and skin and so on, I'll just say it's delicious. And worth many times more than the $0.90 cents I paid.


Here's the view of it from across the street. It's a different restaurant during the day, they just use the sink and the sidewalk at night. I thought I would get the name of the dish from the signboard out front, but it didn't come out in the picture. Something like hiu something heo?


On the way to Nha Trang, some fishing boats -


Some duck wranglers -


I've seen a lot of tapioca farms throughout Thailand and Cambodia, but this is the first harvesting I've seen. In Spanish, it's known as yucca, and it's usually fried crispy and served with mojo de ajo in Cuba and Central and South America. I believe it's made into flour for desserts and wrappers in Asia, so it's being dried.


After the 11+ hour bus ride, including a decent banh mi sandwich, some undistinguished fish soup for lunch, and a crappy cake thing, I was looking for some grub. Here's a grill-it-yourself eel setup. The marinade seemed to be soy based, sweetish, with a lot of ginger and lemongrass.


Another dish of the south is caramel braised pork in a claypot. I neglected to take a picture of the cucumbers provided with this - they're fresh and raw, and added at the table so they don't get so cooked. The cucumbers themselves are a bit yellowish, and drier and crisper than most of the cukes I usually see in LA. This one was nicely balanced between the caramel, the black pepper and I think a little turmeric, and not too sweet.


I'm off to explore Nha Trang.


Now that's a sandwich!

oh my god im hungry it looks so yummy delish xo

Hi there - well that caramel pork dish sounds right up my alley. is there sugar in it??? well then YES i'll have some. Meat with sugar. MMMMM.

Pork floss?!

Forgive my hog ignorance, but w-the-f..? I'm curious.

Hope all's well with you.

Caramel sauce (or sometimes special brown sauce on the menu) is definitely for you, Amy. The caramel is diluted before it's added to the dish, so it's not exactly candy sweet, but it's at least as sweet as some teriyaki sauces. You'd love it.

Pork floss (cha bong) and chicken floss (ga bong?)are dried meat, like beef jerky, then pulled apart into it's fibers (by machine I'm sure, but not sure how it works). The texture is kinda cottony, and like a lot of things in Asia, it's both sweet and savory. I haven't acquired the taste for it yet, but I try it all the time. In Malaysia, Singapore, and Vietnam, many bakeries do savory pastries with pork floss wrapped in slightly sweet bread dough with mayonaise or puff pastry.


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