I just came back from a short trip to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam where, overall, I thought I survived pretty well!
The gluten free dining card came in handy, although, to be honest, there are really two major things to watch out for: 1. sauces (mostly soy sauce), and 2. MSG (bot ngot). Most all noodles are rice noodles (so little cross contamination fear) and few other things offend. One needs to be super careful about the two items just mentioned though, as they are ubiquitous. I couldn’t find a pho I could eat because of the MSG that was used to make the stock (almost all of them mix it in). (P.S. But I did find a pho shop in Hong Kong that didn’t and that was amazingly good–in another post!)
Papaya and mango salads were usually fine from any restaurant or street vendor (with street vendors, you have the added benefit of watching them prepare food and looking at the labels of the vinegars they use). Also fried rice or noodles with just salt, veggies, and meat were safe. Just tell them twice over to clean out the pan and use fresh oil. The fresh fruit juices are a life saver when you don’t feel in the mood of hassling someone who barely understands English about the requirements of GF food (a tip: ask for sugar free or they will dump in tons of sugar!).
One place that astounded was a vegetarian place simply called “…hum.” Beautifully decorated with floating Buddhas and coconuts and explicitly aspiring to health- and earth-conscious eating, “…hum”‘s food was exquisite.
The crystal salad (a variation of the papaya salad but made with aloe vera) was amazing, the mushroom rice was simple and energizing, the teas and juices most excellent, and the sticky rice with mango (for dessert) was out of this world. I could tell that they had *just* squeezed the coconut milk and made the organic rice.
Pricey for Vietnam standards but excellent fruit and vegetables used. Totally worth it.
Ho Chi Minh City
- Allergy friendly: ****
- Taste: *****
- Atmosphere: Earthy, spiritual, escapist *****
- Service: ****
- Cost: $$ Dishes range from RM20 to RM30 (expensive for Vietnam)