Hobbling around I did my best to enjoy a free food tour last night around Can Tho. We want to get the most out of the amazing street food in Vietnam which means having a bit of a command of the language as it seems most people don't speak a word of English!
Our guide took us all around town and encouraged us to try the specialties of this city and the country. He pushed our boundaries quite a bit as well, having us eat foods we usually don't even consider as a source of subsistence at home.
Our first stop was at this pork bbq joint. They are known for their pork and serving it similar to a do-it-yourself spring roll, with all the fixings. You select what you wish from the array of meat, rice noodles, and veggies, roll up, and dip away as you try not to spill all over the table.
There are no copyright laws in SE Asia. This means we have amassed a DVD library of over a thousand movies and also are now buying $5 copies of Lonely Planet guide books off cute little girls on the street.
It also means it's hard to find the original restaurant. As soon as a restaurant is successful, all over the city restaurants will be renamed to copy the popular spot in order to confuse tourists like us. Our guide, Thoai, explained the original banh cong restaurant has tons of knockoffs all over the city. He said none of the places taste as good as the original - where he took us. These muffin-like foods are difficult to explain. First the women fill a ladle with meat, then they fry it. Then they take that, stuff some batter around it, add a bit more filling, and press two shrimp into the top, and fry it again. Voila, a delicious, fatty, muffin. The serve the muffin cut into pieces along with some greens and a sauce. We took the muffin and rolled it in the leaves of mustard greens and dipped into a special sauce. It was quite good!
Our next stop was the hardest to stomach. Thoai explained the specialties at the next restaurant were eggplant with pork, tofu with pork, and field mice. Hmmm. He explained that field mice used to be really popular food in Vietnam but with all the pesticides now used in the rice paddies that the mice usually die. The cost for 1 mouse is the same as the whole pork meal we had at the first spot. But when in Rome... Luckily we had some cold beers to wash it all down with! (Click below to enlarge any photos. The pot in the middle photo is filled with eggplant and pork, and the dish to the far right is the mouse.)
Filled with delicious and unusual flavors Thoai decided it was time for dessert. Again, he knew the imposters as he led us to the woman with the best sticky rice spot alongside the river. Photos don't do justice to the delicious flavors we enjoyed.
We happily agreed to a night cap before turning in. Thoai was a great guide, telling us all about the food (and writing down all of the Vietnamese words we requested for the different types of food) but also telling us about his life in Vietnam. We generously tipped him for his time and will take our food knowledge with us over this next month in Vietnam!