Nadia Lim’s food discoveries in Vietnam

Nadia Lim eating local food in Vietnam

Nadia Lim, cook, dietician and winner of MasterChef New Zealand, certainly knows her way around many of the world’s most delicious cuisines.

So we sat down with Nadia to find out what struck her most about the food in Vietnam on her recent Intrepid Real Food Adventure

What are 3 things that taste better in Vietnam?
1. Breakfast – they have noodle soup (pho) for breakfast every day. It’s delicious and beats boring cereal out of a cardboard box any day!

2. Coffee – I’m in LOVE with Vietnamese coffee! I love it black, or with ice, or sweetened condensed milk. It tastes so good you don’t have to mask it with frothed milk like a lot of cafes do at home.

3. Fresh vegetables and herbs – the variety and freshness from the markets is incredible; locals buy their fruit, veg and herbs every day, so the turnover is very quick.

What’s the first food you would tell travellers to try when they arrive?
If you arrive in Hanoi (the north), seek our bun cha. If you arrive in the south (Ho Chi Minh), find banh xeo. Bahn xeo is a pork and prawn savoury pancake. You roll it up with rice paper and loads of fresh herbs, it’s soooooo good!

Street food in Vietnam – thumbs up or down?
Massive thumbs up!

How does Vietnam street food compare to other countries you’ve visited?
It’s now in my top two countries for street food, up there with India. However Vietnam is probably the only place in the world where vendors and customers alike sit on tiny plastic stools on the ground to cook and eat – I loved being part of that.

What surprised you the most about Vietnamese food?
It wasn’t as spicy as I thought it would be, and I was expecting to see more coriander… so it’s very different to Thai food, that can sometimes blow your head off and has coriander in everything. Vietnamese flavours can often be quite subtle, but they use HEAPS of fresh herbs, especially mint.

Have you come away from Vietnam with any different impressions about the food?
I had this idea in my mind that it was amazing before I went there, and I’ve come away thinking it’s even more amazing, so kind of yes!

Did you learn any new cooking techniques while you were in Vietnam?
Yes, picked up lots of delicious recipes. You can find some on my website, including lemongrass chicken and slow cooked five-spice pork.

Want to read more about Nadia’s food experiences and her great cooking tips? The Good Food Cook Book is out now and features delicious and nutritious recipes that are easy for the home-cook to re-create.

Plus New Zealand foodies should make your way to The Food Show Wellington on 9-11 May, where Nadia will be talking about her food adventures in Vietnam with Intrepid and explaining how to cook a Vietnamese meal at home. Then look out Auckland, your chance to see Nadia comes at the end of July!

About the author

Sue Elliot - Like many of us, Sue contracted a serious travel bug at an early age. She's visited over 90 countries in search of a cure, but her wanderlust just seems to get worse. Thankfully at Intrepid Travel she's amongst people who understand the affliction and since 1998 Sue has enjoyed being our blog and newsletter editor. Here you'll find helpful travel advice and inspiring tales from Sue and other Intrepid travellers.

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I love to read posts about one of my favorite cuisines!

You are right, Vietnamese food is not that spicy. However, since especially the people from the Center, like Hue or Da Nang, love their chilies, you find extra spices in most street side kitchens.
The point is contrary to India or Thailand, the Vietnamese eat fresh chilies with their meals and rarely cook them with the soup. While that is great for people who don’t like it spicy, it tastes different and a bite into one of these tiny hellpeppers can change your food experience dramatically.


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