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Vietnamese and Mexican street eating. Very similar styles a world apart.
Health and fun
Vietnamese and Mexican Street Food
I just got done answering the hub question; What is your favorite street food? By Leroy world. Besides making me hungry it reminded me of all the fantastic meals I have had on the streets of Saigon Vietnam (currently known as Ho Chi Minh City) and Norte Mexico. I am a hefty feller of about 220 and 6ft. All the little stools that you sit on to eat at the open street café’s are built for thin 4.10 individuals. Get over it and get comfy.
As my girlfriend, now wife, showed me around these places I was delighted to learn about the variety and specialization that each little kitchen developed. We hit one place just for café se dat, another for a fried type breakfast another for day soup and another for nighttime meals. One for chicken, one for fish and so on and so on. Excuse me but there we several for each category, the ones closest got most our business. The funny thing about the closest cafes, was our arguments with the proprietor chef. If they were so close to us they must make the food to our liking. I sat through a few meals where the cook would yell from the kitchen and my companion would yell from our table for fifteen minutes. It seems that if the cook kept up the yelling long enough his passion would win our patronage.
Now down Mexico way, life is not so different in the area of street food. Any and all Mexican dishes can be cooked using a mesquite charcoal base for the heat. From baking to frying to boiling and broiling, to deep frying. All you need are the right pots, pans, Dutch type ovens and a grill. (I was just trying to think about things from Lobster to Flan and it all works) Notice I leave out frozen food or ice cubes, for I have met plenty a touristo with tourista from bad ice. Frozen anything is just preservation of what was frozen. Street side carnitas are awesome but be careful of the raw radishes and cilantro, no water, no washing.
For me, I grew up camping and and many a short trip into Mexico, and in the other direction the Navajo and Hopi Indian reservations. Cooking over charcoal is just part of who I am. In the great southwest working with limited drinking water is second nature. So outdoor cooking without running water is just fine by me. One thing is common in a developing nation; roadside cooking fires, I suppose California and Arizona fit in there because next to any congregation of outdoor laborers you see the same thing. (except where they are outlawed, so the workers must eat at McDonalds or pay for the meal from the boss) These guys are just as healthy as can be. So while exploring outdoor cooking anywhere there is one thing to look for: the food you get must be too hot to eat for several minutes. Kind of strange on a 90 degree day but a necessity for sterilizing any food. And so it is in Vietnam and Mexico, they developed beautiful wonderful nutritious soups.
From albondigas to Pho Tai to mutton stew, the theory is the same. The beauty and variety in soups are the ingredients. If you could check or get up a 4am to see the farmers markets where the herbs and vegetables come from, and your vendor was there then you are good to go. You see, at the vendor’s local market is where that mornings’ harvest is sold. Freshest ingredients, most nutritious and cleaned up by the broker who has plenty of water. Here is a cool trick I learned after visiting a few of these markets. The smell. Fresh fish, meat, vegetables and spices give off a discernible flavor and odor - bouquet. Not fresh give off a discernible other smell. So go to the market capture the essence then go out to a vendor – same essence, same stuff. (I have heard that US places, scent the air to obtain same)
Oh my, I have wondered all over the place in this hub, kind of hard linking Mexico with Vietnam. Kind of hard talking about cooking hygiene or cuisine in a back alley or on a lost country road I hope you get the ideas of freshness and sterilizing through high temperatures. I hope we are all blessed enough to be around each other long enough to get in depth on the cool spices, flavoring soups, and as I touched a bit on, my native American dishes that I was blessed to be raised on.
Eating off the street
When traveling do you eat off the street vendors?
I loved living here outside of Puebla Mexico.
Here is a funny fact of my life.
I suppose I should knock on wood saying this but I really think that a lot of tourists get sick on vacation because of the food they eat. Easy now I am not saying that the food will make them sick. What I am referring to is their attitude. They get themselves so worked up and worried about sanitation and procedures and health worries that they actually worry themselves sick.
And here is another one -- folks get so worried about the water that they do not drink enough. And then they get dehydrated and then bad things get stuck inside and they end up poisoning themselves in a most disgusting manner.
So lightening up and enjoying yourself and realizing that you are really not in the middle of a canyon two hundred miles from a doctor. And that no matter if you get sick, only about .05% of tourists get sick enough to see a doctor. However about 4% go to see one anyway.
I am sure you get the point. Leave that worry at home.
Let me end with a few thoughts on eating out.
In developed countries they use a ton of preservatives. They problem is that preservatives kill living organisms. And yes you are a living organism.
In underdeveloped countries they develop customs and traditions. Like Kosher was developed. And almost nothing is added as a chemical preservative. -- except in restaurants that cater to tourists.
A vegetable or Fruit picked fresh off a tree loses a lot of nutrients in the first 20 minutes. I heard that and pulled up a ladder to an apple tree. You guessed it, I ate an apple a day, without ever picking it. I think I looked pretty funny.
There is almost no fresh fish in the world to eat. Except at places where it is caught in water next to the restaurant. 99% of ocean fish that is claimed to be fresh actually has a several hour minimum trip back to shore --- fish is stored on ice during that trip.
"Tourista" is a disease that is caused by drinking different water. Notice that I did not say bad water. Every water is different, and our tummies will adjust but at first it plays havoc.
Remember this: Really really hot food is safer than really really preserved food.
Almost all street vendors in Mexico and Vietnam are illegal, but they flourish.
Music and ambience
Try this next time you go on vacation to a foreign country. Stay at a five star hotel. And sit there and relax dream about being back home and in a hotel down the road from your house. Open your eyes and realize that you might as well be.