If you have led a sheltered life and not sampled Asian food before and then decide to book a holiday to Vietnam, you are likely to find the food very different from home. In the ‘’west’’, supermarkets stock just about everything, although if it is food from abroad it is likely to be processed. If your usual diet is meat and two vegetables, pies, burgers, maybe pizzas, then your Vietnam travel package will be something new. That is not to say that in the cities you cannot find most of what your diet has been at home but why would you come on an adventure to a lovely country like Vietnam and not try its dishes? Realistically you wouldn’t so be prepared for change, but very tasty change!
There are some things that all westerners will avoid; dog, cat, mouse and snake are good examples. If you remember you are visiting what has historically been a poor society, it was a matter of eating anything at times if it was at all edible.
In Vietnam, some seemingly strange things are thought to have medicinal and generally beneficial qualities and given the Vietnamese are very superstitious they are unlikely to change their ways. As you travel in Vietnam, especially in the remote villages, you are likely to see things you have never seen before; it is all part of the experience.
Snake is a case in point. It is eaten regularly, pickled in alcohol and the medicine produced is thought to be very good. You do not need to try it because at every turn there is good food on offer. In the narrow streets of the cities, street vendors sell the freshest of food and there are plenty of restaurants when you can enjoy a meal in comfort. The locals often by their breakfast from the small stalls in the street on the way to work, and may stop for something at other times in the day.
Every Vietnam tour package comes with a guide who can explain things if you are slightly uncertain of what will be in a dish. He will speak English even if the waiter doesn’t. The street vendor is likely to do a specific dish and if you have someone with you who speaks Vietnamese and a little English ask what it is.
You can meet locals in the beer gardens in a city; men inevitably drinking beer and women a variety of fruit drinks or tea. They may be eating and talking. There is nothing to stop you doing that. In rural areas, things are slightly different though you will always find spring rolls and noodle soup (Pho).
If you are someone’s guest, you will be given the best. As a foreigner, you will be expected to eat meat because vegetables are for the poor; it was all that some families had, and in some places still is. If you are invited to a home, you might well sit on the floor or a large mattress and you will be given a bowl to just help yourself from the dishes put in front of everyone; no real formality here. It is likely you will be offered beer or rice/herb liquor. The last offering is likely to be green tea. Bon appetit!