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Food Mekong Delta Style
By Thea Easterby
9 January 2012

I booked on a Mekong Delta Tour with Urban Adventures because I thought it would be a fun way to explore the area. While I knew I would meet some wonderful people, including our friendly and knowledgeable tour guide Huong, what I wasn’t expecting was a day of eating and drinking.

Our tour starts in Saigon and after picking people up from their hotels, we hit the freeway. Huong tells us the staggering number of motorbikes in Ho Chi Minh, approximately seven million. Many people have more than one bike. Huong explains that for young single men, the motorbike is seen as a status symbol. For a married couple, the husband buying an expensive new bike may not be a good thing. Let’s just say, it has the same connotations as a married Western man buying a shiny red sports car when he is of a certain age.

From the city of My Tho, we catch a boat over to Unicorn Island for a serving of honey tea and Vietnamese style lollies. Coconut strings, lychee balls, ginger treats and peanut lollies which are similar to the peanut brittle we have at home though thankfully not as hard on the teeth. The lychee balls are my personal favourite. The honey tea reminds me of what my Dad used to make for me, when I was young and had a sore throat.

Then it’s onto a fruit selection where we get to eat papaya, mango, pineapple, jack fruit and milk apple. They serve the fruit with salt and chilli (definitely an acquired taste). Having a sweet tooth, I prefer the fruit by itself. The local Vietnamese serenade us with folk music while we eat.

Our next stop is to see how coconut candy is made and naturally we get to have a small sample. We watch as they squeeze out the milk from the coconut on a manual press. To be honest, it looks like hard work.

A small canoe ride though the coconut palms, another boat ride and a pony and carriage ride later and we are at our lunch destination. By the time we get to the restaurant, we are all hot and hungry. Make sure you carry your own bottled water with you. Many of the people on my tour didn’t carry water with them and were parched by the time they arrived at the open air eating area.

The food however is definitely worth the wait. Two whole elephant ear fish come out and they start serving it into rice paper rolls along with salad and fresh herbs. At first I am worried the fish might not be enough, but they continue to bring out plenty of food. There is fried rice, fresh prawns, a soup which to be honest I have no idea what’s in it but it tastes great and some small spring rolls that I develop an instant addiction for.

I normally don’t drink beer. But it’s sticky, humid and hot and the Tiger beer is ice cold, so I decide to give it a go. To my amazement, I drink the whole can in record time, definitely a first for me.

We all head back to the boat – full, satisfied and happy. On the boat, I finish off a lovely meal with a refreshing drink straight out of a coconut before jumping back in the van for the drive back to the city.

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