Thursday, December 23, 2010

Dalat Street Food - As Fresh As It Gets, Vietnam

Thursday, December 23, 2010
Banh Mi with Roasted Pork Belly

Have you ever heard of Dalat? Picture a less crowded Saigon, chilly temperatures in the vicinity of 12 degrees Celsius, a whole lot more French-inspired architecture, hilly terrains, slightly less motorcycles, picturesque nature sights courtesy of the highland climate and perhaps best of all, street food that are a whole lot fresher. I am convinced that the chilly climate results in a natural refrigerating system that helps keep street stall ingredients at its freshest. Considering most ingredients are left in the open the entire day, you can literally taste the difference. Perhaps this was why we were so impressed by the Banh Mi we had in Dalat, since the dish involved assembling pre-cooked ingredients. The difference isn't as obvious when it comes to dishes that are cooked on the spot. The Banh Mi pictured had a crustier baguette, perfect pickles (the pickles in one of the Banh Mis we had in Saigon were actually bitter), fresher meat and even fresher greens. It's slightly pricier cause of the cheese, but very, very tasty, refreshing even. I wish I tried the Banh Mi Thit Nguoi (Banh Mi with Deli Meats) too.

Soya Bean Milk with Pastries

It's interesting that even though we love having Soya Bean Milk with pastries in Singapore as well, the pastries offered in Vietnam are rather different (with the exception of the You Char Kway (Fried Chinese Cruller)). We tried the second stall, and the almost boiling hot Soya Bean Milk was the perfect drink to warm us up in the chilly highlands. The Cream Puff we tried was satisfying and inexpensive (5,000 dong) as well - I thought both the choux pastry and cream were very decent.

Banh Canh

We chanced upon this Banh Canh stall on the second level of the Dalat Market, which was much like a Vietnamese hawker centre. It was hugely popular with the locals, so we decided to give it a try, and were very glad we did. While this was still not the crab broth Banh Canh we set out to try, it was excellent nonetheless. The dominant ingredient was a fragrant minced meat roll similar to Ngo Hiang, and the Banh Canh noodles had the perfect texture that was chewy but not overly so. We added lots of chilli padi to the broth which really spiced things up, and at the end of the day, it was just a great experience dining alongside the locals and eating what they love to eat.

Sup Cua (Crab Soup)

We found this stall outside Dalat Market, and gave it a try. Sup Cua is essentially a viscous crab meat soup similar to the $2 Pseudo Sharksfin Soup you can easily find in Singapore. The difference is that good renditions of Sup Cua are purportedly very generous with the amounts of crab meat, and no, it's not mock crab meat they're using. This one here was tasty, but really tasted more of mushrooms than anything else.

Assorted Seafood

These looked good.. I really wish we tried them!

Charcoal Grilled Rice Paper with a Savoury Sauce and Scallions

We initially mistook this for Banh Xeo, though you can see pretty clearly from the first picture that it's really Charcoal Grilled Rice Paper with a savoury sauce and scallions. We chose to have some chilli squeezed over ours and thought it was a crispy and reasonably tasty snack.

All of these street food were located within walking distance of the Dalat Market, and you're sure to spot the stalls as you stroll around the vicinity.

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