Sunday, August 15, 2010

The top 8 reasons Vietnam beats Mexico (for guys). # 1 -- Food

Top 8 reasons Vietnam beats Mexico (for guys): | Food | Women | Beer | Work | Money | Location | Freedom | Safety |

Okay, I've lived in both Mexico and Vietnam now.  I'm pretty much as qualified as anyone to take a stab at this comparison.  This piece is written for guys that have spent time (most likely teaching) in Mexico and are considering coming to Southeast Asia and in particular Vietnam.
If you're not in this category, you may still want to read this, anyway, because, hey, you're already reading this, and you never know.  Seriously, you never know.

First, let me say that although I wanted to come to Asia awhile before I actually came here, I had some confirming conversations with men who spent time in both parts of the world, and one in particular with a guy who had traveled extensively for many moons.  I asked him this very question: Mexico or Vietnam?  And he, in his decades of manly wisdom, just nodded, winked, and said "Vietnam."

Invariably, these guys will agree that Southeast Asia beats Mexico if you're a guy.  So, if you don't believe me, that's cool: I'm just saying I think it's pretty easy to confirm what I'm about to say.

Why Mexico vs Vietnam?  Well, because these two places are stuck in the American historical psyche. In short, the northern part of Mexico is kind of American and the southern part of Vietnam is kind of American. I taught ESL in Austin, Texas, for awhile and 1/2 my students were Mexican and 1/2 were Vietnamese.  It's not just a "psyche" thing: it's about geographical/historical proximity.

Reason #1 -- The Food.


Anthony Bourdaine had it right.  If you're a foody and/or you're the kind of person who wants to try new food, you may agree that the food here (I'm in Saigon/Ho Chi Minh City)  is some of the best in the world.  And cheap. And pretty clean and healthy. People love fresh food here.  They pretty much worship it. I have gotten sick once here so far in seven months and counting (and only "kind of" sick at that) and I've eaten just about everything from just about every kind of vendor there is here.

You may be freaked out by what you find yourself trying to eat here (e.g. snails and duck embryos, for starters), but I just don't see much in the way of food poisoning or even the runs here (unless you go to KFC).  Hint: the choices are endless -- consult your Lonely Planet or whatever, but in the final analysis, eat where the Vietnamese folks congregate.  If you like only Western food, you can do okay here, no problem.

I feel ya, my man.  I feel ya.

I don't know about Hanoi [edit: here is some Hanoi food porn] but you simply cannot get good Mexican (and by Mexican I mean Tex-Mex) food here in HCMC, which is the more cosmopolitan of the big cities.  You CAN get decent  jalapenos grown in Da Lat, but you CAN'T get good Tex-Mex at a restaurant here, no matter how much you pay. Wayne's BBQ is the closest I've seen, but his vision and the execution of it are often lost in translation between him and his staff. He would agree.

But, what am I saying?: you can't get Tex-Mex in Mexico either. You can get a damn fine "big plate of meat" in Mexico.  And you can certainly get some decent seafood on the coasts.  But, for the sake of comparison, let's go with your basic cheap pre/post-hangover food: Taco vs Ban Mi.

The taco first:

But subtlety and surprise is a precious commodity in this world; where Mexico can deliver big, satisfying farts, Vietnam offers thousands of years of colonization and interpolations of tastes.  What the US is for music in terms of Jazz, Vietnam is for food in terms of food being Jazz.

Behold... the Ban Mi:

So, yea, the food here, if this simple comparison holds any water, wins over Mexico, which has some undeniably good food, and probably over the world.  It's so good, you'll often freak out.  You'll get spoiled very quickly and will become difficult to please no matter what. And then you'll be surprised again and go "oh my god, this is the most delicious thing I've ever had." Again and again.

I think that, all-in-all, no matter how much you like Mexican food, you will eventually understand that Vietnamese food beats Mexican food.

Now, the girls.

Top 8 reasons Vietnam beats Mexico (for guys): | Food | Women | Beer | Work | Money | Location | Freedom | Safety |

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