The cuisines of Vietnam and Cambodia may be deliciously diverse, but fragrant spices are ubiquitous throughout the region. Lucy Jones explores how and where you can taste the best of both worlds.
Hanoi holds the title of South-East Asia’s most elegant city, it is also is the home of pho, Vietnam’s national dish. Rich, aromatic broth is filled with slippery noodles, thin slices of beef, handfuls of fresh herbs and spicy chillies. It’s served everywhere, but for the authentic experience, perch on a tiny plastic stool on a street corner and eat a steaming bowl ladled from a large central pot. You’ll see locals doing this at all hours of the day.
Ho Chi Minh City
You can barely walk a few metres without coming across a stall selling Ho Chi Minh’s most famous dish, banh mi. A crusty French baguette is filled with pâté, mayonnaise, three kinds of pork, Vietnamese radish, pickled carrot, cucumbers, coriander and a good hit of chilli. They are deliciously flavoursome and cost around $1.
Phnom Penh was once known as the Pearl of Asia and was one of the loveliest French-built cities in South-East Asia. Many grand government buildings remain, like the Post Office and the Treasury. The city sits at the confluence of three great rivers – the Mekong, Bassac and Tonle Sap – and the riverfronts have become hubs for restaurants, bars and hotels.
For decades, Siem Reap was a sleepy backwater, famous for its proximity to the ancient wonder of Angkor Wat. Recently, the town has reinvented itself and is now the capital of Cambodian cool. Boutique hotels, hip bars and chic restaurants have opened up, giving rise to a vibrant and creative cultural scene.