(If you don’t know what Couchsurfing is, it’s a website that lets you connect with people all over the world who are willing to either host you as a guest in their home for a trade of experiences or goods or who are willing to spend time with you to show you around the area.)
https://www.couchsurfing.com/ comes in pretty handy for those looking for tips and cheap stays other than hostels or airbnbs.
We were lucky enough to meet up with Lan during our 5 day stay in Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam city. This was one of the events that she hosted: a lunch session where we learned how to make a Vietnamese lunch.
Lan from Couch Surfing kindly invited Annika and I to have a Saignonese lunch with her and her family. Because we were staying in a hostel in District 1, we had to wait for a bus to take us to the suburban area. Traffic in Ho Chi Minh, doesn’t exactly stop for anyone, you kind of just have to walk and hope you don’t get hit by all of the motorbikes speeding by. They like to beep here a lot, I guess it’s a form of communication to kind of say “I’m coming through, you better let me pass”.
As soon as we got into the bus and showed the driver where we needed to go, he tried dropping us off at one of the communist government offices one stop later. Luckily, we knew where we were going, so we just kind of sat there for fourty five minutes. With the bus app, we were able to track our ongoing location. That really helped a lot.
With a little more walking and turning, and walking some more, we finally found Lan’s home.
We were welcomed to a nice little home for the whole family (which included three generations).
We went to the market close to her house and as narrow as the pathway already was, motorbikes were trying to pass along with market-goers. It was least to say, a bit hectic.
Our first stop was a shrimp vendor where she sold fresh shrimp (no duh). I don’t think I could sell shrimp all day without remembering that scene in Shark Tale.
By the looks we were getting from locals, we could tell they didn’t typically see tourists. Everyone was trying to sell something, anything! From fresh meat, to clothing, to produce and everything in between, your attention is pulled in every direction.
Our next stop was one of the veggie vendors where Lan hand picked the best carrots for our meal.
On our way back, Lan told us all about what the locals do, including the various dishes and desserts that are made with parts of the coconut.
We also picked up a pretty heavy and dense watermelon/
Back at her home, Lan showed us the best way to pick the leaves off the stems of the herbs.
Cooking (at least in Lan’s home) was very much a family affair. BECAUSE you never know how sanitary the market can be, Lan shared with us that she washes all her veggies thoroughly at least four times before it gets cooked or eaten. Twice under cold water then once with a generous amount of salt and then a final wash.
Here’s Annika helping out with the veggies. She looks very serious. 😛
Once the rest of the ingredients were prepared, it was time to assemble everything.
Our experience with Lan, was nothing short of amazing. Her and her family was very hospitable and welcoming. She also shared with us, some of her starfruit wine that she made herself. It was quite yummy. Lan made our trip to Ho Chi Minh even more memorable.
And this was our lunch with Lan!