Recalling my one-month journey in Southeast Asia, wandering through Malaysia, Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam, I note, with a degree of whimsical irony, that I began and ended my travel with a bowl of noodles. I kick started my eating foray with asam laksa, a spicy and sour tamarind based noodle soup with explosive flavors in Penang. Then, coming full circle, I concluded with a steaming hot bowl of pho in Ho Chi Minh City. In a Proustian-like occurrence where taste begets memory, the city will forever be intertwined with lime juice, hot peppers and aromatic herbs.
Vietnam’s cuisine reflects not only its geographical position, but also incorporates Chinese (stir-frying, widespread consumption of noodles) and French (freshly baked baguettes, pâté) influences. Furthermore, regional differences also divide Vietnamese cuisine. South and central Vietnam have better access to an abundant variety of fruits and vegetables, as well as fresh herbs; thus, food tend to be more flavorful and robust than that of the north.