ceF in vietnam – part 1

October 15th, 2010 · 32 Comments


see this? i like this… i like this so much that i had 3 of them. in a row. on a cathay pacific first class flight to hong kong. on my way to vietnam.

oh. wait. have i not told you? 

i just got to saigon this morning. i made a decision about a month ago that i needed to do this – and that i needed to go as soon as i could. ever since hearing bourdain go on and on about this country, i’ve felt drawn here. i’ve never had much of a desire to go to asia in the past. i’ve always been the europe girl. give me italy, spain, france (in that order)… over and over, and i am pretty damn content. but suddenly it was vietnam. i had to go and now i am here. and if you’re even the least bit surprised, well you’ve just no idea… 

part display, part mise en place at the outdoor restaurant where i dined streetside.

so i’ve not been in touch for awhile (again) even after saying that i would be more diligent about posting. i mean, trust me when i tell you that there is no shortage of very fine restaurant dinners in my life and then there’s michael and me in the kitchen which is not too shabby in the least. i’ve had more than enough material to perhaps even wow you on occasion. just the night before i took off, i started dinner and then michael came home and we bounced a few ideas off each other and came up with the most remarkable dish. seared lamb over fregola with roasted and crisped kale, garlic and zest, deglazed with fresh chopped tomatoes, that was so nuanced we were giddy. cooking with that man is so much damn fun… among other things.

but listen, honestly, all those empty declarations of how i vowed to post regularly were nothing more than good intentions gone awry. and you must know that i really want to share this experience with you. because i’m here for at least 5 weeks and i’m on my own and well, you can be my traveling companion – in a way, except that you won’t be picking up any checks… which is too bad because if you were to ever take me to a fabulous dinner, saigon would be the place to do it. the food is so damn fine and it’s all on the cheap. 

dinner was to be light. after being plowed with (good not great) dim sum, lobster, duck and congee and whatever else my heart seemingly desired on all the flights, i hadn’t much of an appetitie. but i wanted to go to the night markets and so off i went, into the frenetic energy that is saigon. i took it to the streets dodging the scooters and cabs with the aplomb of a local and made my way past the 5 star hotels and the likes of louis vuitton, until it got just a bit earthier. in vietnam, you don’t have to go too far for everything to get really real.

this plate of clams in a lemon grass broth cost me $1.50. and it was stunningly good…

coconut water and beer on ice. 

i bought some durian and ate it sitting in a park, knowing i couldn’t bring it back to the hotel. it was incredibly good and nothing like the frozen ones i’ve tried in the states. if i may say, the follow up burps were a bit funky – but worth it.

ok, i’ve hit the wall and am literally falling asleep at my computer. it’s after 1am and tomorrow i’m shopping and then cooking lunch… i don’t think i’m jet lagged, it’s more like i’m really disoriented AND i’m a 49 year old woman. for example, i was so sure that tonight was thursday but i was informed under no uncertain terms that it is in fact friday night. which means i’ve been in the same clothes for 48 hours. no lie.

clean clothes or not, i’m here and it’s exactly where i need to be. 

Tags: asian · travel

32 responses so far ↓

  • 1 S L // Oct 15, 2010 at 11:56 am

    Sleep well, my friend – we can’t wait to hear what you discover tomorrow! (or is that day after tomorrow for us? ha ha ha)

  • 2 letran // Oct 15, 2010 at 12:11 pm

    Congrats on your decision to explore! I’ll sit here and wait for part 2.

  • 3 becky and the beanstock // Oct 15, 2010 at 12:52 pm

    Look at you, posting from Saigon! I’m enjoying your adventures via FB, and am glad to see the post. Your photos make me want giddy — please keep sharing them.

  • 4 ruhlman // Oct 15, 2010 at 12:55 pm

    what does vietnam smell like?

  • 5 Tim Johanson // Oct 15, 2010 at 12:56 pm

    Finally, we hear from you and you’re WHERE? I always love to read about what you’re doing or cooking or thinking. Thanks for including us on the big adventure. And this is my first time ever commenting!

  • 6 claudia // Oct 15, 2010 at 1:11 pm

    so far, saigon smells like scooter engine fumes.

    the night markets smelled good to me… food was cooking all around but no fishy or rotten smells anywhere… and no trash piles either.

  • 7 Colleen // Oct 15, 2010 at 1:42 pm

    OOoooo…I can’t wait to hear (and see) all the wonders you encounter in Saigon! I am so jealous after watching Anthony’s shows! Looking forward to it.

  • 8 Melissa // Oct 15, 2010 at 2:31 pm

    This makes me smile. Huge. ♥

  • 9 lisaiscooking // Oct 15, 2010 at 3:54 pm

    Now, that’s coming back (to your blog) with a bang. How exciting! Thanks for bringing us along. Can’t wait to see your next meal.

  • 10 Robert // Oct 15, 2010 at 4:09 pm

    Cooking in used industrial adhesives buckets, that is a sure sign it is gonna be good. And you know I mean it in a good way.

    Way to hit the ground kid………

    Its kinda like we never missed a beat here at CEF………

  • 11 Angela Kaset // Oct 15, 2010 at 6:40 pm

    just ate a scallop roll at Miyako here in “Whitewood”…thought of you over there in AsianHeaven….in my mind I “upped” it to the flavors you might be savoring….

    drinking enough sake helped immensely!

  • 12 eatingclubvancouver_js // Oct 15, 2010 at 7:07 pm

    Am jealous. . .

  • 13 Peter // Oct 15, 2010 at 8:43 pm

    Just remember… don’t listen to Mike. If you find yourself on a boat with a young Martin Sheen, GET THE HELL OFF THE BOAT.

  • 14 kitchen geek // Oct 16, 2010 at 7:29 am

    i am sooooooo jealous of those photos and that trip!!! it IS mitigated somewhat by the fact that i’ll be in Colombia in a little over a month, but really…those photos are outrageously delicious. and you’re there for such a long time. FANTASTIC.

  • 15 laura // Oct 16, 2010 at 9:51 am

    Ben tornata! Missed you and am thrilled you’re back (and, yes, just a weensy bit jealous of your Vietnam experience – foodwise and otherwise). Have fun and share what you can, please.

  • 16 Meister @ Eat This Neighborhood // Oct 16, 2010 at 3:52 pm

    This post feels so… alive! You are so clearly exhilarated and having such a wonderful, eye-opening, heart-charging experience.

    I hope every minute in Saigon (a place I’ve always longed to visit, too) is an adventure, discovery, awakening. Cannot *wait* to read about all that happens.

  • 17 Sam in Hanoi // Oct 16, 2010 at 5:19 pm

    Email me and maybe I can meet you in Hanoi.

  • 18 annie // Oct 16, 2010 at 6:06 pm

    I can’t tell you how much I loved this. Of course i would have been satisfied with the description of the dinner you and Michael whipped up…..

  • 19 Michael C. // Oct 16, 2010 at 9:37 pm

    Great adventure ahead. Put your hand on the earth for me.

  • 20 ethel // Oct 17, 2010 at 8:17 am

    The advemture and excitement you feel rolls off your blog and I am LIVING IT AND EATING IT. I’m with you … all the way.
    Love the photos and now of course this country is on my list too.
    You are really something else !!!!

  • 21 yveala // Oct 17, 2010 at 9:14 am

    incredible..keep enjoying…lov u

  • 22 Donna // Oct 17, 2010 at 9:17 am

    Claudia—love your photos—especially when you get the people in them too—keep em comin

  • 23 sandra oleck // Oct 17, 2010 at 1:34 pm

    Hi Claudia, friend of your mom, from camp chipinaw. heard so much about you- have a great trip and return with wonderful memories.

  • 24 Dr. Lita // Oct 17, 2010 at 4:12 pm

    Dearest Claudia

    Sounds fabulous! maybe I can convince Ethel to go with me? The food, the sites, the people and especially you…….you are an incredible writer, storyteller and beautiful besides.

    I love you and have a wonderful time and I look forward to more!


  • 25 Leslie Ellis // Oct 17, 2010 at 5:08 pm

    What an incredible adventure and thank you for taking me along. I’ll look forward to the installments. Sleep well and…um…while it may not seem necessary; it might feel good to shower and change! xxooL

  • 26 Aunt Flora // Oct 18, 2010 at 11:47 pm

    Your newest chapter in Vietnam is amazing – love your writing and food descriptions. Your ability to bring the tastes, smells, and vibrancy of this place in Asia, a country whose food seems to be quite extraordinary is impressive. Continue to enjoy yourself as you discover more adventures each day, and I will continue keeping up with your news.

  • 27 Joan in the 88th Street Zone // Oct 20, 2010 at 5:52 pm

    Hello Claudia,
    You’re there! Wasn’t it just yesterday we were sitting around the dining table with your bro and mo, kicking it around? Good heavens, your word is good as gold. You went, you’re experiencing, you’re conquering. Wonderful things lie ahead — every single day! From one solo traveler to another, I’m cheering you on.
    Love, Joan

  • 28 ali // Oct 21, 2010 at 7:07 am

    love everything about you and your words and your get up and go…..more more more….


  • 29 Chuck Jones // Oct 21, 2010 at 11:32 pm

    Hey Claudia, as Savannah would say, “Holy Schnitzel!” You’re in freaking Vietnam!! I’ve just been turned on to your blog. I’ve been the lucky recipient of your revelatory repasts in the past, but I had no idea you’d turned your love of fine dining into such a wonderful thing. Kudos my friend and marvelous writing as well. While you’re there you should hire a camera guy and video some of your prandial exploits. We’d love to see you on the Food Channel.

  • 30 Tony // Nov 3, 2010 at 10:03 am

    (not that tony) BUT i just got wind of your antics by accident, stumbled upon you looking for osso buco and this is fantastic! Would write more but i need to catch up on this series.

  • 31 Angela@spinachtiger // Nov 21, 2010 at 8:58 am

    Just decided to pop in and wow I AM surprised. Five weeks? Alone? You’re brave. I’ll take some time to read each post. If you are still in Nashville, we must find a way to meet up when you return. You are amazing. I know so little about this kind of food, but I”m willing to learn and EAT it up.

  • 32 Rach // Dec 19, 2010 at 2:17 pm

    Hello – I have just properly caught up on your vietnam posts. Great stuff. It’s also reminded me how much I like the way you write, your take on life and food. I hope you are well and happy holidays to you both.

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