We explored Vietnam by sailing up the Mekong, which means we got to see life on the river.
Our boat was always going over water hyacinth — a pretty plant that becomes a problem weed in the Mekong Delta. It is used as food & animal feed, and also to weave baskets! And it was everywhere:
We went out on a sampan to visit the floating market in Cái Bè — traders come by boat bringing their produce, like pineapples and watermelons. Most of it is sold to locals, but some goods (e.g. bags and bags of rice) are bought up by bigger companies for export.
In Phu An, we saw the process of making rice paper wraps (for those delicious fresh spring rolls!):
We also watched how coconut milk candies are made:
As well as these exceedingly delicious crispy snacks, made with rice noodles tossed with malt, sugar, coconut milk, green onions, and cilantro. Sweet, savoury, and crispy. Perfection. These flavours are totally going into something around here soon.
But my favourite day in Vietnam was in Tân Châu.
We got off the boat and were met by local rickshaw drivers — pulled by bicycle! And off we went, a parade of about 20 of us, each pulled along in our own bicycle rickshaw. Kids came out onto the street to wave to us as we went past, and I exchanged nods and smiles with the men and women of the the town. And it was SO MUCH FUN.
At the end of our ride, we ended up at the local market, and got to explore the produce of the Mekong Delta.
Fresh fresh citrus with the leaves still attached!
Custard apples, a new favourite for me!
Fresh water mangrove flowers only found in the Mekong Delta (used in salads, a bit peppery, and totally delicious):
And lotus seed pods, which contain fresh lotus seeds (aka. lotus nuts) inside. We got to enjoy the lotus seeds raw (mmmmm, starchy and lightly nutty) and in a sweet tapioca/coconut milk pudding. I am a fan. Most of these lotus seed pods get shelled, dried, and eaten as snacks.
And all the fried things:
Inside there were stalls covered with green herbs and veggies:
Every kind of grain and legume you could imagine:
We finished our market visit at one of the flower stalls, where we grabbed fresh lotus flowers for Solveig’s birthday (you may remember her Pickled Onions!). As the vendor wrapped them in newspaper for us, she also sprinkled them with a shaker of silver glitter. Perfection.