A Taste of Vietnam

Ali McCarthy, Guest Writer

Good people, good food, and a good time; what more could I ask for?

Vietnam is a country full of beautiful cultures, a deep history, friendly people, and delicious foods. On our first day in Vietnam, my friends and I decided to do a walking tour through Ho Chi Minh City to better understand the traditional foods common in the area. Plus, I mean, who doesn’t love some quality food?

We began at a restaurant where we were taught step by step how to make spring rolls. It’s definitely not as easy as it looks, but we had a blast trying, and failing, to make them into a perfect rolls. But, thankfully our guides, local women from Ho Chi Minh City, were more than eager to share and teach the process to all of us. These ladies were some of the kindest and funniest people I have ever met, and I enjoyed our various conversations throughout the day.

We continued to one of the oldest coffee shops in the city, where were able to not only try the coffee and food but also see the back kitchen to learn about how the owners brewed their famous coffee. They were more than accommodating of my vegetarian diet and ordered us all various traditional sandwiches there.  It was one of the best dishes I’ve ever had, and even though I was a bit hesitant to try all of these different foods, I was delighted by the new flavors.

Though the owner of the coffee shop spoke no English, we were able to pass the language barrier through music. She turned on her tiny radio and as a group we began to dance with her, instantly filling the restaurant with smiles and laughter from everyone present. At that moment, we were not Americans and she was not Vietnamese, we were just people in a coffee shop enjoying our night together. Eventually, our time there died down and we made our way to our last destination.

Very full and very sleepy, we made it to our final restaurant, where we were given a traditional meal of pho and some kind of rice cake for dessert. Though I learned so much about the country through the exposure to their foods and traditions, it was incomparable to what I learned from the people themselves.

We sat around the table asking questions about the way the country worked, the lives of the people, the language, and countless other topics. We saw temples and worship areas as we walked from place to place and were able to learn about their religion and beliefs. It was fascinating to see the topics I had been learning in my philosophy class in front of me. I am more than thankful that we decided to try something new and attempt a food tour because it ended up being so much more than that.

Food was a small part of what I learned that day. Friendships, understanding, and a broadened perspective were much more prominent parts of the day, which in my opinion, are priceless.