By Akasia Nelson, Semester at Sea, Spring 2017

The food in Vietnam was by far my favorite country cuisine yet! So many vegetarian options offered a diverse and flavorful experience of Vietnamese cuisine. Rather than the simple vegetable dishes that China provided us vegetarians, Vietnam had an array of delicious plates that equally represented the culture while remaining meatless. I experienced an assortment of vegetables, tofus, glutenous imitation meats, noodles, soups, salads, breads, and sweet treats.

One of my favorite dishes I tasted throughout my travels was the vegetable spring rolls. This was a roll of spiced vegetables, tofu, mushrooms, bean sprouts, and/or rice noodles tucked up and fried in rice paper. These crunchy rolls could then be dipped in soy sauce to complete the array of flavors. I was lucky enough to see these spring rolls at multiple restaurants and even at a home cooked meal atop the mountains in Sapa during a homestay.

During my homestay while trekking in northern Vietnam I was lucky to see how these families live off the land. They cook vegetables and rice that they grow and prepare meat they raise and kill themselves. They created a wonderful feast of traditional Vietnamese dishes for us including spring rolls, sautéed vegetables, duck for the meat eaters, and the most wonderfully flavored fired tofu I’ve ever had.

On my final day of exploration, I finally tried Vietnamese coffee. As a non-coffee drinker I was reluctant, but gave in to the hype of this treat. This coffee surpassed all my expectations. It was delightful! It is made with brewed coffee, sweetened condensed milk, and ice. I am so pleased to have opened my mind to coffee beverages after my wonderful experience with the sweet, rich Vietnamese specialty.