Happy Holidays from Vietnam!

A quick post to say happy holidays from warm and sunny Vietnam. Last year’s Christmas and New Years was spent in England with my brother, and this year is a big change in weather and in food: I’m heading to Mui Ne tomorrow for a week of beach, waterfalls and sand dunes. Christmas in Vietnam!

Saigon is full of Christmas decorations, with thousands of its residents rushing to take photos in front of the lights once darkness falls. In the bigger parks they’ve set up small-scale Christmas decorations for people to bring the younger kids. Professional photographers stand at the ready, waiting to capture that holiday smile. It reminds me of the pumpkin patches they set up in parts of the USA, perfect for photo ops. Except here the kids are dressed up in Santa outfits, complete with reindeer headband.

While there are many Christmas lights and trees scattered around town, I wanted to post a different tree, one that is right near my apartment and that rises straight up from the main street, watchful and proud. I don’t know why I am compelled to stare up at its branches every time I walk by, but I do. A cyanotype filter on a clear afternoon:

Christmas in Vietnam
Saigon broccoli treescapes

And of course, the food is different than the usual Christmas fare. My newest fun discovery was a roadside fish and seafood soup topped with a cube of beef’s blood and crab and egg ‘meatloaf’. Colourful, delicious and unexpected. The plastic table and chairs were the smallest I’ve seen yet in town, with a woman ladling the soup out from a metal pot at the side of the road. This bowl was free, too, because the lovely Vietnamese woman next to me was so incredulous that I was eating the beef blood in the soup, as well as the accompanying pig ear spring rolls, that she gleefully refused to let me pay. And then she invited me over so she could teach me how to make it myself.

Streetside seafood sweet and sour soup
Streetside seafood sweet and sour soup.

It’s moments like these that stay with us as we travel.

As we move into 2013, I wanted to put up a short post to say thank you for reading, for commenting and for supporting my book as it’s come to market. I’ll be posting a roundup of press and other book-related updates in January. For now, however, I wanted to wish everyone the happiest of holidays, full of loved ones and delicious eats, and all the best for the coming year.

For those who want to spend part of their holidays catching up on interesting reading, I thought I’d also cobble together a short list of some of the better roundups thus far.

Have a great one!



20 thoughts on “Happy Holidays from Vietnam!”

  1. Happy Holidays, Jodi! I’m sure with all the amazing looking food and soups you’ve been posting, your holidays will be delicious ones!

  2. Bun rieu!

    I’m really enjoying your VN posts (thanks to Tyler Cowen for the link). I just moved back to NYC after a year in HCMC. As you might imagine, I’ve been suffering severe food withdrawal.

    If you’re in need of breakfast options, there’s a lady on the Nguyen Trai side of the Cong Quynh roundabout that sells epic banh bot loc, banh uot, and banh beo. Usually there from around 7-10am. Cheap, delicious, and she’s a sweetheart. Never thought I’d one day be craving fish sauce for breakfast…

    If you’re into oc, there’s a great spot not too far from there — Oc Dao. Down one of the hems off the north side of Nguyen Trai.

    …and about halfway down that alley is an amazing cart with banh trang tron!!!

    Looking forward to more posts. Enjoy yourself

    1. oooh! one more :)

      …do yourself a favor and try the Che Chuoi from Cho Tan Dinh (big market off Hai Ba Trung in D3).

      There’s an entrance on the very center of the south side that has the best che you’ll ever find.

      aahhh, I miss it…

  3. What a difference 37 years makes! I spent my formative years growing up in the U.S. with Viet Nam in the nightly news for all the wrong reasons. No little Vietnamese children dressed up as reindeer, posing next to Christmas trees and no Canadian former lawyer travel bloggers eating beef blood cubes in seafood soup washed down with pig ear spring rolls. There’s no question which is a better picture. Peace to all.

  4. You know I adore your curation – thank you for giving me many lovely links with which to spend my vacation. I hope you have a beautiful holiday in Vietnam, and that 2013 finally allows our paths to cross! Until then, all my love!

  5. Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year from Montague Street.

    Loving your book.

    Maybe see you sometime in NYC.

    Nicola & Jon xxx

  6. happy new year jodi! the vietnamese new year is coming up in just a few week on feb 5th.
    i am glad you enjoy your travel in vietnam.
    i hope we can meet someday as i travel to southeast asia just about ever year.

  7. It’s not “beef’s blood”. It’s cow blood.

    One of the many reasons that animals are tortured for most of their lives in our industrial food chain is that we don’t properly identify with the source of our food and all the details of its origins before it landed on our plate.

    1. Hi Margot, while I agree with you generally that people need to understand where food comes from and stop disassociating it from its cute origins, this is actually beef’s blood here, in translation. Vietnamese is an awesomely literal language, so for example the pork and egg and mushroom meatloaf served with com tam is literally called “sausageloaf egg steamed”. This is called beef’s blood. But yes, it comes from a cow.

  8. I can’t wait to go back to Vietnam, it would be perfect for our next film series, especially the central parts around Na Nang and Hoi An.

    Such diversity in culture and food! I can’t help but feel the food should have abetter global reputation, or at least popularity. I might skip in the blood soup though if you don’t mind, vegetarianism and all that :-)

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