The Japanese visited Vietnam 30 times because of the delicious food

By TravelWiseFeb 19, 2024 18:02 PMNews
The Japanese visited Vietnam 30 times because of the delicious food
Inoue Keiichi rides a bicycle around Hoan Kiem Lake in Hanoi, December 2022. Source: Inoue Keiichi,

Inoue Keiichi has visited Vietnam 30 times in five years. The reason is that every time he goes, he "misses" the country's beautiful and diverse cuisine.

His love for Vietnam began in March 2018, when the 25-year-old Japanese traveled abroad for the first time. On his first day in Ho Chi Minh City, Keiichi was "mesmerized" by banh mi. The sweet and sour chili sauce, grilled meat sandwiches, and pate with pickled cucumbers allowed him to eat three loaves a day and not get bored," writes.

"In the following days, I tried more types of Hoi An bread, milk bread, and pillow bread. Each type was delicious, despite the different sweet and savory flavors," he says.

Since the time on the trip was short, Keiichi regretted not having the opportunity to try many other dishes. However, when he boarded the plane to return home, he did try to take a few more loaves of bread with him.

When he returned home, he looked for places that sold Vietnamese bread and visited more than 20 stores, but he never found the authentic Vietnamese flavor. Three months later, he bought a ticket back to Vietnam.

This time, he decided to travel alone from south to north for a month to fulfill his desire to "eat real Vietnamese food" by focusing on typical dishes from each region, such as noodle soup, mixed rice paper, crab soup or pho, snail noodles, and draft beer.

"Some days I ate 6-7 times. I enjoyed banh cuon (steamed rice rolls) and drank more than six cans of Hanoi beer. I didn't get bored eating three or four cups of sweet chee soup at a time," he says.

Keiichi says that spicy dishes like bun dau mam tom (noodles with tofu and fermented shrimp paste) and durian made him almost throw up the first time he ate them, but now he is addicted to them.

The Japanese visited Vietnam 30 times because of the delicious food
Inoue Keiichi during a boat ride in Ninh Binh, northern Vietnam, June 2022. Source: Inoue Keiichi,

"Now I always eat one durian every month. I can't stand it if I don't eat it," he said. "I missed Vietnam a lot every time I had to leave the place. Sometimes, when I went back to Japan for a few days, all I wanted to do was buy a ticket to go back to Vietnam. I like how Vietnamese people are close and supportive of each other," said Keiichi.

Keiichi said he just celebrated the New Year in Vietnam instead of returning to his hometown to reunite with his family. When he saw people gathering in the city center to watch musical events and fireworks together, he felt that the whole city was one big, happy, warm family.

"I've been in Vietnam for four seasons: spring, summer, fall, and winter, but I've never celebrated the traditional Tet. This year I will stay here to celebrate Tet," he said.

The young man admitted that he was a little worried when he heard that during the Lunar New Year celebrations, people take a break and close their shops to return to their hometowns and be with their families.

However, he plans to join in the Tet celebrations, such as wrapping banh chung (a square sticky rice cake), eating meat with pickled onions, and watching traditional festivals that only take place during Tet.

"Maybe I will ask to celebrate Tet at one of my close Vietnamese friends' houses. I'm pleased to see the busy streets on the eve of the holiday, where people stand in lines to buy peach blossoms and decorations for the holiday," says Keiichi.

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