America, Melting Pot of Food

Pho soup with brisket.

Every country takes the food of their immigrants and makes it their own. In Italy, it’s “Italianized” and mild. In America, it is supersized. But, as the US is a country of many immigrants, the food melds and blends seamlessly across menus.

Half a banh mi sandwich.

Case in point, I recently went to Pho-Cue in Atlanta, Georgia. It is a hipster vibe-y place that could easily be in Oakland, California, or London, England. The staff have tattoos and shaved manbuns. The food is a mix of Vietnamese food, pan-Asian food, and American barbecue.

A pork belly steamed bun, bao, sandwich.

The barbecue was too strong for the pho soup but I like that they tried. The banh mi sandwiches were gigonormous.

Smothered fries topped with jalapenos.

The best thing were the pork belly “chips” — because why not take a fatty pork belly and deep fry it? It’s almost the American way.

Pork belly chips.

After living in Rome, it was nice to get both pho and barbecue of high caliber.

Barbecue with a side of kimchi.

Vietnamese Food in Rome

Fresh rolls from Banh Mi in Rome.

Who knew that this would be a thing? But, just as TexMex is trending, so is Vietnamese food, just in a quiet way. The selection is not great here but this is what I have managed to find:

A small bowl of pho in Thien Kim Roof Garden.

Thien Kim Roof Garden, Via Cassia 927: Located on the roof of a strip mall out to the north of Rome, way too far for me.

Banh Mi, Via Otillia 10: the only banh mi in town. They get their food products (beef jerky, bread rolls, etc.) from Thien Kim. The owner, Mara, is married to a Vietnamese man. The restaurant opened in October 2022, just two blocks from the Coliseum. They serve rice noodle bowls, banh mi sandwiches, summer rolls, papaya salad, and rice ravioli. Check them out. They are delicious. Also many vegetarian options.

Nunu’s egg shrimp cups.

Nunu, Via Varese 38/40: Good food. Not sure what their soup is like. Indoor and outdoor seating. Located near the train station.

Pho 1, Via Meruluna 115-116: I wanted to like this popular place. It was okay but the soup was not soul pleasing.

Mekong, Via Enea 56a: I have not been here. They are only open at night. The reviews show mixed reactions and the owners are aggressive online so I’m too afraid to eat here.

Viet – Vietnamese Food in Lima?

Summer rolls with peanut sauce.

Oddly enough, yes, but that’s not the important thing about this restaurant. Viet, located in San Borja, on Avenida Aviacion 2590, is a nice restaurant, whatever the food. It’s got a nice ambiance, it’s easy to find on Aviacion, and the staff are very friendly. The restaurant is open 12:30-11 Tuesday-Saturday and 12:30-4:30 on Sundays.

Vietnamese coffee with condensed milk.

I’d say to those who have been to Vietnam or know Vietnamese food from the U.S., don’t use those standards (for good and bad). The owners are Chinese Peruvians who decided to open a Vietnamese place. Why not? The place has been in existence for three years and the owners are thinking of opening a new location in Miraflores. I hope that they do.

Pho rolls.

The pho (here they have a pho roll — as in the photo — so you can eat pho soup as a handroll) is not aromatic but it’s still a nice clean broth which can work wonders if you have a cold. That’s how I convinced a sick friend to join me. She got the chicken pho and added some Sriracha to make a chicken soup with kick!

Shaking Beef – their version of “lomo saltado” with egg.

I liked the service as the staff cut up food into shareable portions, recommended child-friendly berry ice tea, and made us feel tended to but not bothered. The tables are stocked with hand fans to cool down your soup or your face. There are coolie hats for selfies, and for those who care, I think I counted ten Asian looking people in there. Plus lots of families.

Vietnamese “crepe” but more like a mango sticky rice/bibimbap.

I’ll be back. I’m still missing a few items on the menu. The crepe, done here as an omelet on rice in a Korean earthenware pot, had coconut rice with mango and shrimp. I think this may have been the hit with my Peruvian guests. I liked the desserts including the sushi style mango sticky rice.

Garlic wings.

Beef on noodle.

Spring rolls, cut up for us to share.

AHmazing taro (a tuber) chips.

A view of the interior.

Mango sticky rice with the coconut sauce on the side.

Not sure of the name but it was cut up fruit with sweet airy cake.

Deep fried banana.

The one dish that I would have liked is papaya salad. I will have to try a Thai place for that, I guess.

Banh mi sandwich with taro chips.

Beef pho and the condiments (sriracha and hoisin sauce not pictured) and summer rolls in background.

Hoi An, the Town of Tailors

This is a typical tailor's shop. I like the t-shirts this lady made for me.
This is a typical tailor’s shop. I like the t-shirts this lady made for me.

Imagine a town where shop after shop is filled with tailors waiting to make you a suit like James Bond’s. That is Hoi An near Danang, Vietnam. Some of the shops (like the one which did James Bond’s suit) are fancy inside as is the other leading shop called Ao Baba. I did not shop at either of these stores. My advice is that if you try several shops, take a photo of the shop so that you’ll remember where you shopped. Also, go to this town in December or January. I went when it was already humid and 93 F at 8 in the morning. This meant that I was too sweaty to try on clothes. Most shops are open from 8 am-9 pm. Most shops can mail you clothes later ($30/kilo) if you email them what you want copied (they will keep your measurements). Some places will let you select material and design online. The pants cost about $25/pair. Shirts cost $20-30. Suits run $140. The shops have lots of material and “samples” for you to get copied (or say that you want that collar with those sleeves etc.) plus many shops have more cloth elsewhere. Just ask. Almost anything can be made. I had sweatpants and a sweatshirt made. There are also shops which sell material including stretch and spandex (something that cannot be bought in Bangladesh). Clothes take about a day to be made but if you have a few days, then you can get a perfect fit at leisure.

A pair of handmade shoes cost $30.
A pair of handmade shoes cost $30.

The town also has shops which will make handmade shoes. Any shoe you can imagine can be copied in your size. They cost $30/pair and take about a day to make.

I also suggest that one stay in Hoi An because the town is a world heritage site (hotels run about $24/night and up) if you are there for the clothes. If you are into the beach, then stay closer to it. The beach is a few miles away from the town of Hoi An. You can also take the bus to the other major sites in Vietnam from Hoi An as the town is geared for tourists.

Again, I would go back. Beautiful town, cheap hotel, 50 cent banh mi sandwiches, strong sweet coffee, and great clothes shopping. But I’d go in January. The humidity made me not care about anything except AC and water. It is not conducive to shopping. The changing room is basically a shower curtain pulled to one side… which led to some comical experiences (standing in a hallway with the shower curtain blowing open while granny, holding baby in arm, tried to yank clothes onto my sweaty back…).

The business cards of the two tailors and show shop that I used.
The business cards of the two tailors and shoe shop that I used.