I met an online friend and we decided to meet up for dinner. She is a 3rd year university student majoring in English and she aspires to be a translator. She suggested that we meet at the entrance of the famous Ben Thanh market at 6.30 pm. My hotel receptionist told me is very near to walk to Ben Thanh market. I was determined to not get lost this time and walk to Ben Thanh market to make up for my earlier disaster.
As you have suspected, I got lost again and have to resort to the motorbike taxi dude to bring me to Ben Thanh. I was 30 minutes late and my Vietnamese friend ( her name is Tien ) was graceful and did not feel a bit irritated. Tien brought another of her fellow classmate as well. We shook hands, did the customary short introduction and she then proceed to ask me what I would like to eat. I told her some street food would be cool but she suggested that the street food in Ben Thanh market is kinda pricey. Not surprise there as it is a tourist area. So she suggested a Hue restaurant instead. I like the sound of it as I have no idea what “Hue” is and this gives me a chance to learn more about Vietnamese cuisine.
It is just walking distance from Ben Thanh market to the Hue Restaurant. The restaurant is air conditioned and looks pretty trendy. So, street food gotta take the back seat for today and I like the idea of eating dinner at a fancy Vietnamese restaurant for the first time. We decided to sit upstairs and the seating is more traditional where we sat on the floor. There’s a low table and is not a problem for me at all as I can sit comfortably while folding my legs. We went through the menu and I let Tien pick a dish for me. I asked them to order whatever they like and dinner is on me, since I’m late and she is a student.
They told me that they have already eaten and I insisted that order some kind of food that is not that heavy. Those transparent spring rolls with lots of vegetables stuffed in it looks pretty light, I said. She gave in and ordered the spring rolls and a bowl of noodles for me. While waiting for the food, she explained to me about Hue cuisine. According to her, Hue cuisine is the locals favorite. I am guessing is how Isaan food in Thailand is the favorite of Thai people and Hue food is to Vietnamese folks.
When the food finally arrived, the food looks pretty. Hue cuisine is famous for this, as the chefs are required to make the food tasty and visually appealing. Looks like Tien order a rice noodles dish for me with some fried spring rolls with crab meat in it. It has a bowl of sauce where I am supposed to drench it on my noodles. It is not a soupy dish and it tasted kinda like some sort of special salad to me. I asked her how can I make the noodles spicy and she suggested that I put some chili oil. I mixed the noodles with chili oil and the sauce and took my first bite. I like it and when I took a bite on those tiny fried spring rolls, YUMMY!
I am guessing that the spring rolls are coated with a little bit of sugar that’s caramelized together with some sesame seed. The stuffing of the crab meat is very tasty too. Since I am very hungry, I finished my noodles pretty fast. My first meal in a fancy Vietnamese restaurant and Tien did a good job by ordering that particular noodle for me. Oh and I was offered the last piece of the transparent looking spring roll and it is good too. I like how the wrapping is thin and not thick like the ones I had before in Vietnamese restaurant that is not in Vietnam. I thanked Tien for bringing me to this restaurant.
I paid the bill which I can’t remember the exact price but I do know it was not expensive at all. Maybe not more than 10 USD, pretty cheap for a fancy looking restaurant. After dinner, Tien suggested that we go to a park opposite of Ben Thanh market to chill and chit chat. According to her this is a favorite past time among low and middle income Vietnamese. I love the idea of doing the same thing as the locals of the countries that I’ve visited and going to visit. We sat down and chit chat about everything and anything that comes to mind. Sometimes we paused to observed the people in the park. There are young couples on a date, families with their kids playing soccer, some sporty couples playing badminton and also group of Vietnamese just hanging out and chit chat. I can’t help but to feel really satisfied and happy deep inside. I just sat there amongst the locals and absorbing the atmosphere of Ho Chi Minh at night time.