Few things about Vietnam excite me like the food. I do not find the flavors to be unusual or off putting. If I were to describe Vietnamese food in one word, I would say that it is fresh. If you like fresh and locally sources vegetables and seafood, then you might want to make Vietnam your second home. Unlike Chinese food which is oily and often contain parts which are inedible (ex. bones, peppers, woody herbs) for the sake of enhancing flavors, Vietnamese food had lots of raw tender herbs that compliment light tastes.
One of my newest favorite foods is Banh Koht. Banh Koht are griddle cakes. But the cake would appear to be the delivery system for a shelled shrimp which sits on top of the bubbled oily cake. But it isn't. It is a crunchy faux-shell which makes up the double punch of the center of this delicacy. To eat the cake, the diner wraps layer after layer of five greens and herbs in a tight package.
In the video below, Ruby demonstrates how it is done:
The largest green forming the outer layer is mustard green. Upon it you lay green lettuce, two types of mint and then a type of basil. Then you add shredded green papaya that has soaked in a bath of light oil and chili. Then you politely eat it in two bites. As hungry friends break from conversation and each enjoy that private space in their own minds and mouths where the joy of these treats play out a happy dance, no one is going to notice if you eat a bahn kahn in one beautiful mouthful.
Banh Koht goes well with freshly pressed sugar cane with lime which is a popular drink in Vung Tau.
We went here after an early morning hike up big mountain. While not exact a mountain nor very big, Big Mountain is an uphill nature train with all sorts of delights like flowers and little creatures. The shade of the large old trees makes it a wonderful place to come to wake up the senses and build up an appetite which Banh Koht can satisfy.