What I ate in Cambodia & Vietnam.

Just a little something they whipped up for dinner…

If you’re a fake vegetarian like me, there’s no better place to eat than Southeast Asia.

Because the people of Cambodia & Vietnam are primarily Buddhist, they’ve developed a rich cuisine around the freshest of vegetables and rice. 

And because they are poor, they eat what’s readily abundant in the fields and waters that surround them.

Pumpkin blossoms, meant for a hot pot extravaganza….

….Meaning fish is nearly always on the menu.

Red tilapia and rice noodles, mushrooms, onions and tomatoes.

Now that’s fresh fish…like about 20 minutes from the water.

Plus lotus root, morning glory stems — and all kinds of gorgeous greens.

Shrimp & delicious lotus root.

Pumpkin and cassava leaves … so SO good!

I’m sure I’ll insult both countries by conflating their cuisines (this is my graceful segue between writing about Cambodia and Vietnam, if you haven’t guessed) but they DO have a lot of the same dishes. It’s just that the Vietnamese have an overlay of Frenchified luxe –

The sticky rice ball was just … amazing!

Simple & simply delicious pork (perfect for a fake vegetarian)!

… and their fish sauces, dipping sauces and accoutrements are really… oooh, la la.

Even something as elemental as lime and seasoned salt is beyond delicious.

Needless to say, I was delighted in BOTH countries with every single meal — from soup….

…to nuts…

Fresh cooked cassava (tastes just like potatoes!) and peanuts.

and everything in between.

A typical breakfast….

A fancy Cambodian  lunch…

And beautiful dinner!

And guess what?

What’s life without a little fruit dessert of longon & the crazy sexy rambutan?

They even said I was awesome with my chopsticks!

When you can eat banana flower salad with chopsticks, you’re IN.

Score!!!

Categories: Cambodia, Food, Heifer International, Photography, Travel, Vietnam | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 37 Comments

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37 thoughts on “What I ate in Cambodia & Vietnam.

  1. I think my favorite part of Vietnam was the fruit. I remember having to learn how to even open some of them, Mangosteen (spelling?) was especially challenging. I also loved the blend of SE Asian cuisine with remnants of the French. Hard to beat those bagettes we purchased fresh on the street. What can I say? I’m kind of a carb-oholic. Great images here, Betty!
    Hugs,
    Kathy

    • Oh, yeah – the bread! I was pretending I was allergic to (bread) carbs in this blog, but no — I totally indulged in the french bread & butter! I knew this would bring back a few memories for you & Sara, Miss K! xoxoox b

  2. Judy

    Ah, glorious memories of meals in Vietnam and Cambodia, both. I’m headed to Myanmar/Burma in three weeks and expect to find a variation on the theme but with Indian notes. What a trip, Betty. Good for you and good for Heifer!

  3. Great food! I am going to Malysia, Singapore, and Korea. I cannot wait to eat Tammy food.

    • Jackson, you know I want to hear everything about your trip to Asia — and your book being published in China! ALL the best — so proud of you!

  4. Wow…unbelievable these meals. The typical breakfast though, hmm. I’ve never seen that fruit, looks like it came from the sea.

    • Kim, it definitely looked like a sea urchin but was really lovely inside, with a big round black pit! The typical breakfast of noodles seemed totally weird to me at first, too, but once you get used to it, it’s SO delicious and comforting and filling — I missed it when I was back home!!

  5. Thing about Asia is i can’t read a thing, so when it’s mealtime, it’s follow the nose… ;)

  6. Deb Morrow Palmer

    They eat just they way I love to eat. My biggest problem is I like to have someone else prepare the food!! Ha!! Another reason obesity isn’t an issue in those countries!

    • It really is amazingly fresh — but then, the women get up and go to the market and buy their ingredients for a meal every single day! There sure aren’t many overweight people in these two countries, but oddly, Cambodia has a super high rate of diabetes, even though they eat almost no sugar — I am really curious why and couldn’t find an answer. Anybody out there know something about this???

  7. Everything in every picture looks delicious. Yes, even the fish! In Korea, our hosts served us plates piled high with fish looking back at us. I love trying new things, so “dove” right in. Thank you for sharing the cuisine from these countries with us, Betty. What a healthy diet, unlike so much of the processed food consumed in the U.S. That rambutan is so intriguing. I’d never seen nor heard of it.

    • I’ve never been to Korea, AA — but I love your enthusiasm and diving right in — that’s not exactly my style (more like dipping a toe in)… but I totally agree about processed food. The fact is, they go to the market and buy fresh food EVERY day — the only “processing” is what magic they do in the kitchen!
      How about that rambutan? They left a few in my hotel room with a beautiful napkin and knife so I gingerly opened one, popped it in my mouth and was like … yummmm! They can it a Rubitan … so I had to go online and try to find out what it was really called!

  8. eric

    I will give you a perfect score, good job, Betty

  9. Woow, what an experience that must have been! That crispy pork was like music to my ears, haha. This was really eye-opening, thanks!

    • FF — the crispy pork was SO delicious — as was the BACON i had this morning in Malawi which was unlike anything processed or agri-business-supplied. I almost never eat much pork in the USA but over here, you can just see the timer …. the meat is about 2 hours old, and really incredibly fresh and unaltered so it’s hard to say no. And I didn’t! Thanks for the comment!

  10. Genie Wolfson

    Loved this post. Everything looks totally delicious and wonderfully fresh.

    Genie

  11. I love that you call yourself a “fake vegetarian” …

    What’s the puffy white food on the fancy Cambodian lunch ?

    It all looks pretty yummy ….

    • It is really, REALLY yummy! The puffed thing is a rice puffball of some sort … and I am a fake vegetarian … but it’s so stupid because the meat here is totally organic, completely free range, and about 5 minutes from the axe (excuse my candor) … makes Whole Foods look like White Castle. xoxoox b

  12. Martha Radatz

    Wow! Banana flowers and Morning Glory stems! Something new under the sun (for me!).
    Sybil (above) asked the question I was afraid to. It looked foamy to me.
    I love these “What I ate” entries! Thanks…

    • oh, you have no idea how beautiful and delicious the vegetables are — and even if they were brand new to me, there was nothing I was afraid to try because they’re veggies for crying out loud! I didn’t really like the banana flowers that much (i was hoping for noodles) but the morning glory and lotus roots were yummy!! Glad you liked the post, Martha!!

    • Oh… the foamy stuff was actually hard, like a chip, actually. Quite innocuous — but didn’t have the salt I crave so … not that interesting to me!

  13. My daughter visited Vietnam and Cambodia last year and said they were two of the most beautiful places she’d ever seen. I hope to go there and see for myself someday, although I don’t know what I’ll eat. What’s inside the sticky rice ball?

    • BB – if you like fish (at all… and this is really FRESH delicious fish) or pork or beef or just vegetables and rice, you’re in business! Inside that big, ostrich-egg of a sticky rice ball (which was kind of sweet and crunchy and absolutely delicious!!) was a small little mound of … sticky rice. It was certainly the oddest thing I’d been served … but the really spectacular thing was, most of this food was served to me in people’s houses in the rural countryside, far from any big kitchen. It’s just the way they eat every day. And yes, your daughter is right — the countryside and people are so elegant and charming and lovely – it’s a very enchanting place. You should meet your daughter there and go!!!

  14. From this end of the camera I think this looks like the best food of your whole year. Protein and green vegetables and fruit.

    Rambutans grow in Hawaii and we can buy them at the Hollywood farmers market. They’re really tasty

    • Thanks, Rosie — I have to say, the food was glorious! I also love that you (oh sophisticated one) knew what a rambutan was — and also liked it! I have a REALLY delightful food post from Malawi coming up … hope you like it!! ( :

  15. I always love the “what I ate” posts, Betty. Thanks.

    • Thanks, Pattie — I always think of you when I post these eating ones! (and of course, I’m still working my way through your faboo bourbon!!!)

  16. Beautiful beautiful post! :) Looks delightful too!

  17. Rufina

    My mouth is watering from your gorgeous pictures of all this wonderful food! Plus I love all the pretty plates they served it on….fun post!

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