Fresh spring rolls – Basil Leaf Asian Cuisine

Fresh spring rolls - Basil Leaf Asian Cuisine
Goi cuon tom thit. Shrimp, rice vermicelli, cucumber, and lettuce wrapped in rice paper. Served with peanut sauce. $4.25
Basil Leaf Asian Cuisine, Fremont CA

There were standard fresh rolls and tasted pretty good. I liked the size of them and that they were open on both ends. I never like chewing through thick overlapping rice paper at the ends.


Peanut adobo – Villa Escudero

Peanut adobo - Villa Escudero
Fried peanuts with fried garlic cloves, salt (I’m sure it’s MSG).
Villa Escudero, San Pablo City PHILIPPINES

Omg, these are SO addictive! I think it’s probably the MSG. Thank god I’m not allergic (to either the peanuts or MSG)! We munched on these and drank beer while watching the Filipino dances on stage at the Villa Escudero.

Bamboo raft and water lettuce
Bamboo raft and water lettuce. We rafted in one of these around the lagoon and it was really fun!

Palm leaf bird
Palm leaf bird handed out during their cultural performance.

Grilled scallops – Hai Lua Food Countryside

Grilled scallops - Hai Lua Food Countryside
Topped with green onions and ground peanuts. 60,000 VND
Hai Lua Food Countryside, Ho Chi Minh City VIETNAM

Wow, these scallops tasted SO fresh, and they were very tender and juicy. The green onions, peanuts, and sauce made for a great topping to an otherwise simple, and straightforward dish. Perfect!

Hai Lua night market restaurant
Cooks at the Hai Lua night market restaurant. It seems like they can set this place up in 15 minutes or less! Pretty amazing.

Chopsticks - Hai Lua Food Countryside

View from the Saigon Skydeck
View from the Saigon Skydeck in the Bitexco Financial Tower.

Beef salad – Nha Hang Ngon

Beef salad - Nha Hang Ngon
Goi bo bop thau. With vegetables and peanuts in spicy sauce, served with shrimp chips. 130,000 VND
Nha Hang Ngon, Ho Chi Minh City VIETNAM

Beef salad - Nha Hang Ngon
Wow, this dish was SO delicious! The bright, sour sauce was great and the beef was so tender and flavorful. I’m not sure what all the vegetables were, but they tasted great and had many different textures. Definitely a wonderful choice!

Puppies for sale
Puppies for sale! While walking down the sidewalk, we notice a guy selling these adorable puppies from the back of his motorcycle. There were probably a dozen of them and I wanted ONE! 🙂

Cabbage salad with boiled duck – Duck Deli

Cabbage salad with boiled duck - Duck Deli
Goi vit. With sweet/spicy dressing, mixed greens, and roasted peanuts. Small 125,000 VND
Duck Deli, Ho Chi Minh City VIETNAM

Wow, this was delicious! I wish I knew what all the stalks and shaved stems were, but they all tasted great with the duck and the gingery fish sauce dressing. The duck had pieces of chopped bones in it, but I didn’t mind at all. I always think that bone-in is more flavorful anyway.

Hotel de Ville de Saigon
Hotel de Ville de Saigon (City Hall) and Ho Chi Minh statue.

Rooftop cocktails – Rex Hotel

Planter's Punch - Rex Hotel
Planter’s Punch: Bacardi light rhum, triple sec, lemon juice, pineapple juice, soda. 220,000 VND
Rex Hotel, Ho Chi Minh City VIETNAM

So this was probably the most we spent for cocktails while in Vietnam. We really wanted to check out the rooftop bar though (and get out of the scorching heat). The Rex hotel is historic and it was quite relaxing up on the roof so I really didn’t mind too much about spending a little more for drinks here. My Planter’s Punch tasted pretty weak and not as sweet and vibrantly colored as those you would find on a Caribbean island.

Gin and tonic - Rex Hotel
Gin and tonic. 240,000 VND

Salted peanuts - Rex Hotel
Salted peanuts.

Table centerpiece - Rex Hotel
Table centerpiece.

Rex Hotel rooftop view
View from the Rex Hotel rooftop.

Chicken pad thai – Sweet Basil Thai Cuisine

Chicken pad thai - Sweet Basil Thai Cuisine
Sliced chicken breast, fried tofu, ground peanuts, rice noodle, sprouts, egg, ordered “hot”. $8.50
Sweet Basil Thai Cuisine, San Francisco CA

I love that Sweet Basil Thai actually packs some heat in their dishes. Other Thai restaurant promise heat, but don’t usually deliver. I think they’re afraid they’ll blow out most Americans’ tastebuds. I’ve spent over a month in Thailand and the food is REALLY hot so I can understand their caution. This pad thai was delicious and spicy. It didn’t get me sweating, but it had some welcomed heat after so many bland dishes elsewhere.

Cliff House
Cliff House historic restaurant, Point Lobos Avenue.

Chicken pad thai - Sweet Basil Thai Cuisine
October 2013. Still looks pretty similar.

Korean bbq skirt steak salad – The Tropicale

Korean bbq skirt steak salad - The Tropicale
With peanut ginger vinaigrette, napa cabbage, bean sprouts, taro root chips, carrots and scallions. $21
The Tropicale, Palm Springs CA

The flavors in this dish were great, but the skirt steak was overcooked and super charred. It’s not fun eating a stick of black ash. 😦

Grandma’s spicy lamb dumpings – Mission Chinese Food

Grandma's spicy lamb dumpings - Mission Chinese Food
Peanuts, dill pickles, green onion, cilantro, chili oil. $9
Mission Chinese Food, San Francisco CA

These dumplings are kind of amazing! I just wish they give you more since they’re SO delicious. The dumplings have a great shape and the wrapper has a nice bite to it. I always love the combination of salty, sour, hot, spicy, and umami in the dishes from MCF. NOMS!

Vietnamese spring rolls – Hula’s Island Grill

Vietnamese spring rolls - Hula's Island Grill
Tofu, peanuts, apple, lemongrass, carrots, basil, lettuce. $5
Hula’s Island Grill, Santa Cruz CA

These rolls were pretty bland and lacked Vietnamese flavor. They needed some mint and fish sauce or something. You really had to dip the rolls in the sauces to get any flavor – kinda disappointing.

Wild radish flowers
Wild radish flowers (Raphanus sativus, Brassicaceae), Pigeon Point, Pescadero.

Shrimp papaya salad – Dinosaurs

Shrimp papaya salad - Dinosaurs
Shrimp with green papaya, carrots, daikon, tomato, and Thai basil. Served with crushed roasted peanuts, fried shallots, and a sweetened lime-fish sauce dressing. $5.75
Dinosaurs, San Francisco CA

Mmm, even the salads at Dinosaurs are delicious! The ingredients taste super fresh and I can’t get enough of those fried shallots and lim-fish sauce. 🙂

Seal Rocks
Seal Rocks, Ocean Beach.

Shrimp spring rolls – Pho Big Bowl

Shrimp spring rolls - Pho Big Bowl

Goi cuon tom. Shrimp, rice noodle and veggies. $4.85
Pho Big Bowl, Seattle WA

Decent shrimp spring rolls. What I was struck by was the thick consistency of their peanut sauce. I’ve never had one so thick! It still tasted good though.

Typewriter Eraser, Scale X
Typewriter Eraser, Scale X, model 1998, fabricated 199, stainless steel and fiberglass painted with acrylic urethane, Claes Oldenburg, Olympic Sculpture Park.