Part of learning a new country is learning to find food. At the present time there are three types of food establishments that we can recognize: coffee, beer and pho. Yes, I know. One might argue that coffee and beer are not “foods” but the coffee comes with a 1/4 cup of condensed milk which means carbs, protein and Vitamin D, and beer comes with carbs, protein, fun, both useful for riding. And, pho, well….I even impress myself with this one… I read Lonely Planet and actually remembered one food word with my 54 year old brain from the 30 page section of Vietnamese food. (Pho = noodles)
So today, we’d been riding for many hours and our tummies were starting to talk. Between dodging cows, admiring rice paddies, staring at the female road construction crews building the new road one shovelful of rocks at time, and avoiding patches of gravel on the one-wheel track, I was also trying to find a place to eat.
When I spied a familiar brown sign with a white coffee cup and the words coffee underneath, I knew that, at least, we had found some sugar. Eric, for whom hope always springs eternal, is convinced that a coffee shop in Vietnam must have some food somewhere. (They really don’t)
Here’s the conversation/pantomime between Eric and the coffee shop owner.
Eric: Have you got food?
He pantomimes bringing a spoon to his mouth.
Owner: blank stare and brings us two Vietnamese single press coffees dripping in a glass with a layer of sweetened condensed milk at the bottom and a separate glass of ice cubes.
At this point I remembered I ‘d bought a fresh baguette on the ride out of town that was strapped to the back of my bike. I brought it back to the table and tried this conversation:
Me: Can we eat our bread with our coffee?
Owner: nods OK, runs to the house and brings us a dish of sweetened condensed milk and says Vietnamese style.
So we pulled off a hunk of bread and dipped it in the milk….Delicious!
Me: Delicious. We’re hungry.
Owner: Eat. My Family.
She motions us to come inside.
Of course I’m not going to “eat her family” but“with” them sounded good.
And so that’s just what we did. We went in her house. We sat on her family’s bamboo mat and joined her son just home from school, her husband and her and we ate the most delicious chicken, Vietnamese vegetables dipped in a spicy garlic sauce, rice and tea.
I only hope I can turn a coffee into a lunch for some strangers in the future to repay her kindness.
N.B. This should serve as confirmation for Eric that coffee shops DO NOT serve food.