hong kong is incredibly varied – it can be expensive and excessively luxurious, or fiercely local and hometownish. it wears both personas just as easily, and you pick what suits your mood (or more likely, your budget).
just a few photos from the trip – from the mandarin oriental, which is the epitome of elegant chichi;
we were drawn to this store by the smell of delicious grilled meat on charcoal – vietnamese grilled meats almost always have a touch of sweetness in their marinades, so they caramelize very nicely and make it known to you by way of the maillard effect.
this lady was grilling tiny patties of meat – slider-style, if you’re being hipster – on a tiny grill next to her store, forming them as she went along from a large bowl of mince. we ordered a banh mi – which is a vietnamese sandwich made with pickles, fresh vegetables and certain meat options – and it came with four gorgeous patties slid between a crusty french loaf atop pickled radish and carrot, as well as some crisp lettuce.
street food at its best, and cheapest.
p.s. meds noticed the google results on the side of the store – which led me to find out that this might be saigon’s best banh mi at 37 nguyen trai! what a good find, and so brilliant that she noticed – really made this foodie’s day!
just to follow up with ben thanh, here’s the other market that people bandy about in ho chi minh: binh tay. they sound phonetically very similar, so be careful what you tell the taxi driver – my dad tripped up on his instructions a few times.
despite our years of coming to ho chi minh, this was our first visit at this market and probably our last.
I think it’s time I told you about my trip to ho chi minh and the mekong delta – the start of the year is always a great time to daydream about holidays and places, and ho chi minh is a great place to be. I visited in late december – yes, I know, a little out-dated but still relevant, nonetheless – and took quite a few photos to share!
I’ll start with something familiar and known to people who have ever been to, or considered traveling to ho chi minh: the central ben thanh market. right in the middle of town, this market operates in a day largely within a huge covered compound, with a smattering of countless shops (most of them are just store fronts with goods piled high and the storeholders sitting on a tiny chair beside) selling anything from clothes, to houseware, to dried goods and fresh fruit. this is, of course, highly tourist-centric, but it doesn’t detract from the charm of the place.
in guangzhou I was on familiar culinary territory, and everything looked amazingly appetizing. these are just a small subset of the photos I took there, and I think it serves to illustrate a little how guangzhou is a mishmash of both traditional and modern things.
there were lots of dried goods along alleyways, stores serving takoyaki, traditional cheung fun, century-old waxed meat stores and peddlars on the street with fruit and and dried goods.
chengdu is an amazing gastronomic city. the heart of szechuan, and you get the chillies you associate with the province, as well as a plethora of street food. this was the sort of scene I envisioned when I thought about chinese hawkers.
sugar sculptures, dried prunes of all sorts, spicy peanuts, soya bean and peanut powder beard – so called due to the pulled wispy strands the sugar becomes – candy, spicy beancurd, grilled/steamed corn/maize (do try the maize, it’s lovely with its glutinous texture – you recognize it from its muted yellow colour, unlike the bright colour you get from sweetcorn), sweet potato noodles, fried treats and more.
we ate very well here – I’d very much be happy to return.
the first city on my 2-week chinese tour. food here is hearty and heavier, usually attributed to the colder weather. I found lots of muslim influence here – especially in the use of lamb and spices that aren’t ordinarily found in chinese food.
xi’an is known for its persimmons and pomegranates, both of which I tried and enjoyed in abundance. generally though I found the food in xi’an not much to my cantonese palate – minimal spice and cleaner flavors – though they contributed to the conviction that china is a one amazing gastronomic paradise.
many of these photos were taken in the muslim quarter, so make a trip down there if you’re in the city!