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Eating on the Street

SmarterTravel

Author: Susan Weinberg
Date of Trip: November 2015

Street Food Fun Times

We sat at a streetside fruit stand on tiny blue plastic stools eating our bowls of fruit salad served with tapioca pearls (sago) and a plastic container of shaved ice. Once we found out how delicious this was, it was our daily dessert. Sitting there one afternoon, right on busy Hang Bong in Hanoi, a troop of tourists passed and a woman leaned over and said, “Is it safe to eat?” and I realized at that moment that not once on the whole two month trip through Asia had I thought once whether it was safe to eat. I suppose we’d ingested Anthony Bourdain’s comment that if it made the locals sick, the owner would go out of business and we’ve never hesitated to sit down and eat whatever it was, wherever there appeared to be a lot of locals eating.

This has resulted in some adventurous eating and surprising results. In the 7-Eleven stores in Japan (yes, they are convenience stores with offerings of daily freshly prepared foods) I ate white and brown speckled tubular things in a brown broth, along with white stringy things bundled together like string, and small white donut looking things. All seem to have been made out of the same ingredient, but today I still don’t know what it was. It was an experience of eating various mild tasting textures in a warm broth. A favorite dish that comes out when the weather turns cool.

In Vietnam, the smiling lady sitting on her haunches welcoming us to sit down at her sidewalk restaurant, was serving up bowls of hot broth with floating things of unfamiliar colors and shapes, and a copious side of a variety of green and purple leaves and stems with leaves. Many locals were busily dunking their leaves and slurping their soups while smiling and talking. I sat down. When my husband asked what that piece of half moon shaped whitish perhaps meat item was, the owner’s husband said, “duk”. My husband repeated, “Duck?” The gentleman repeated, “duk!” My husband said, “dog?!!” The gentleman continued to smile approvingly and nod, “duk”. I had already taken a bite. He was shocked and promised not to tell my dog owning sister. I finished my delicious soup, but left the piece of duk. It wasn’t thaaat good.

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