travel bite: Can Tho, Vietnam

I NEVER like to be negative about places or experiences as I always feel that there is something to be gained from all that you do, even if it doesn’t go to plan. But I must say I was slightly disappointed by the floating markets around Can Tho.

I always tell myself to have low (if not no) expectations when travelling – whatever the situation – but in this instance I got carried away with excitement at the prospect of food mecca, all notion of taking heed of my own advice disintegrating. And in light of travel guides brazenly declaring that Phong Dien market may just be the ‘best’ the Mekong you can see why this may have happened.

My visions were of colourful produce drifting downstream upon paddle boats, interspersed by elderly women weaving on floating craft in between, sidling up to you offering steaming bowls of pho and freshly wrapped spring rolls. But that’s not quite what it was like…

In my puppy-like enthusiasm to sample the raw delights of Vietnamese cuisine I dragged myself out of bed for a 5.30am start on the Mekong Delta towards market number one, Cai Rang:

We leisurely passed by large boats heaped with produce, and the odd motorised tourist boat stopped at stalls catering  for the passengers of these tours. Our small paddle boat – with possibly the slowest motor on the Mekong  – continued through however, headed for market number two:

To be honest this was a major shock. Having just sat for ridiculously long time on a wooden bench creeping down the river we arrived at about eight small boats with only a few wares left. It felt as though we had missed the main attraction and the sellers that were there hand simply hung around for the tourist trade. We did however gorge on the most delicious pineapple, sticky juice streaming down our hands and faces. We also snacked on thin, slightly chewy, rice papers dotted with sesame seeds.

Back on shore though, Can Tho was more than capable of delighting the taste buds. It’s a comfortable city to walk around in, and worth spending a lazy afternoon in following the early morning start. A delicious dinner for cheap is also easily found and a perfect way to round off the day before moving on the next day, and it is for this – of course culinary – reason that I am so happy to have visited.

This Pho Vien Bo Mien was the most delicious beef pho I've had.

This was wonderful street find that I never managed to find again. Chao Ga (the soup on the left) is a rice porridge soup on a deep flavoured chicken broth with freshly ground black pepper and fresh coriander. Chao can be found everywhere, but the other dish Goi Ga ('ga' means chicken) was the elusive one. Here I was served a heap of bean sprouts, daikon, carrot and banana flower topped with lightly pickled vegetables and crushed peanuts. A sweet shallot pickle sauce on the side. I opted for it without the 'Ga'. If you can, go try it at Tuyet Van (81 Phan Dinh Phung).

snails beautiful snails - awaiting their culinary fate at the market

An evening snack: Bo La Lot - minced beef with peanuts and lemongrass, wrapped up vine leaves and cooked on the BBQ, a finishing touch of thick soy and sweet chilli sauces drizzled on at the end.

One Response to “travel bite: Can Tho, Vietnam”
  1. carolyn says:

    olga darling it was also worth you going because there is an an exquisite vignette in the photograph of the gorgeous little girl viewed through the window on the boat with the pineapple speared like a flagstaff above her head i just loved that xxxxx carolyn

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