Some online acquaintances of ours live in Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), and started a new food tour business called Saigon Street Eats. Their tour is highly rated, and when we finalized our plans to visit HCMC, they were the first people we contacted and the first plans we made!
The first morning after arrival we set off on their Saigon Pho Trail tour, which started us off with a traditional Vietnamese breakfast of Pho Soup (Pho is pronounced like a British “fir?”–the tone implies a question!). It’s mostly noodles with the choice of chicken or beef (I chose chicken and picked out the chicken), and you top it off with lots of greens and herbs from the table!
Not just a few greens, mind you! Lots and lots go into this soup to make the “vegetable” of the meal! Barbara is Australian and her husband, Vu, is Vietnamese. They are the combo that make this food tour great (a local insight with Western perspective)!
After breakfast we set off trekking through the streets, markets, and of course, a local bakery.
I wouldn’t have had a clue what this street food was (it looks like fried flour things they sell in Mexico!), and was thrilled to discover it was fresh jackfruit! DELICIOUS!
We also picked up some freshly cooked sweet potatoes.
Everywhere we went, the vendors had many smiles for us! The Vietnamese people are very friendly!
While walking into the market we passed a shop owner burning paper in front of her store. Vu told us that this is done to clear away bad customers, and welcome the new! She likes had a recent customer who was rude or tried to haggle too much. The idea is to burn off the old and get new, better customers!
I told you they’re friendly!
Inside the market Barbara led us past the fried fish section. Yuck!!
Ethan got a lot of attention, although I admit the people weren’t nearly as hands-on/aggressive with our kids as I had been warned. Not too bad! (are we desensitized from Mexico?)
I was surprised to see the vendors in the covered market squatting above their merchandise. Squatting in any form does not “sit” with me right…I’m impressed they can do this all day!
The butchering section of the market…all women!
Snails, anyone? Some were trying to escape their baskets…
The tofu lady…
“FRESH fish!” (anyone know which movie that is from?)
A fashion statement?
Next we went to a little eatery area that was open to motorbike traffic, which meant we still had to keep track of the little ones.
When we spotted fresh coconuts, the girls got excited and asked for some! We stopped and enjoyed some coconut juice and some other new foods.
The dried noodle section…
After we had plenty of different picnic foods to take with us, we went to a local Buddhist temple which had a nice park out front. The girls found some beautiful tree blossoms to play with, and the adults snacked away (as if we weren’t already full from breakfast…but that didn’t stop us)!
It wasn’t a typical Buddhist temple, as it’s dedicated to a famous war hero who had much success in his lifetime. I believe his body rests there, and he is viewed as a source of inspiration for success and prosperity.
Our friends encouraged us to get our fortunes told, which entailed a kind of wild ritual that we watched another woman go through. I told requested Jared to try it, so I could watch and take photos
First, Jared had to make a wish about anything in the world (he wished for our family to have a happy life) and then he had to select a cup of sticks with numbers on them from the man sitting nearby. He then had to kneel while shaking the (popsicle-like) sticks in the cup so that only one stick fell out (difficult)! Next he had to throw down two little crescent shaped wood blocks until they landed correctly to indicate that the number he had chosen was good for him.
Then he was directed to go to a cupboard in another room where he found cubby with his number that held a fortune paper.
Then he took it to the dude hanging out (not a monk?) who read him his fortune. The sheet had fortunes for various wish departments (fortune, business, family, etc). Jared’s fortune was that he would have a happy family and success in his personal and business ventures. We’ve been told this guy gives bad fortunes…so we breathed a sign of relief!
As we exited the temple grounds, we spotted a lady plucking gray hairs off another woman’s head with tweezers. Sure, they may say that balding is a genetic problem for many Asian women…but maybe the truth is that they’re plucking!!
We had a blast with Barbara and Vu from Saigon Street Eats, and appreciated being able to ask someone our many varied questions about Vietnam, the food, the culture, etc! We’d definitely recommend their food tour in Ho Chi Minh City! It was a great way to kick off our stay in Saigon!