The street foods of Ho Chi Minh City never cease to fascinate, and sometimes perturb, even for a seasoned Saigon based chef like Peter Rollinson.
If you flip through my passport, you’d notice that it’s completely filled with chops stamped by Vietnamese immigration authorities. I have been to Vietnam 17 times. I spent eight years in Melbourne, where there is a sizable Vietnamese community and lots of Vietnamese food. My ex-girlfriend is also a Vietnamese Australian, who did her part by introducing me to her culture. I really liked the myriad flavours in this cuisine, and its emphasis on fresh greens: the food is completely different and unique when compared against the usual Western dishes we had in Australia.
When I came to Singapore to work five years ago, I took every opportunity I had to visit Vietnam, given the geographical proximity between the two countries. During my first trip, I went to Ho Chi Minh City and made my way up north, spending two weeks there. My first impression of the capital was that it was a hectic and noisy city, but after a few more visits, I saw the charm beneath its apparent chaos: despite the frenzy on the streets, the city’s pace of life is relaxed, and the food scene is always fun to explore.
Excerpt from July 2013 issue of epicure.