There is something about sharing a meal that is universal. In every culture and throughout history this simple activity has represented friendship, peace, and hospitality. There’s a beautiful reciprocal nature to it – giving and receiving, generosity and thankfulness, and sometimes, even teaching and learning.
This being our first trip to Vietnam, and a short one at that, we wanted to be sure to meet some new people and share a home-cooked meal with them. It’s always an interesting bit of anthropology to be inside someone’s home and kitchen and to get a glimpse of their every day life.
We found Tiffany’s listing on www.withlocals.com. What stood out for us was, not only her friendly photo, but also the option to accompany her to the market and help her prepare the meal.
We arranged to meet Tiffany and her husband, Anh, at their apartment at 8:00am on a Thursday and then walked with them and their cute little dog, “Kitty”, to the local Tan Dinh market. When you are visiting new countries and climates, you will inevitably find some new fruit, vegetable, baked good, or drink that isn’t available at home.
Our hosts showed us around the market, pointing out items and answering our questions, as we collected our ingredients. It’s always helpful to have a local with you to explain what everything is. Should we peel it first? Is it ripe? Is it supposed to be hard and crunchy? Do you eat the seeds too? Are you supposed to eat it or is it just for flavor?
Shopping complete, we walked back to the apartment and began to prepare the meal. Andrew and I chopped and prepped the ingredients according to Tiffany’s directions and she did the real cooking.
Tiffany and Anh have a lovely home with a great sense of charm, color and decor. The kitchen is very welcoming and there is plenty of space for everyone to get involved. Visitors will notice that they have quite a collection of items throughout the house, because they also run an online business, called Nhà Có Hai Người, selling carefully curated secondhand housewares, home accessories, and decor. They sell mostly to locals that can pick up items in-person, but they will also mail items to those a little farther afield.
We ate our delicious meal together in the living room and enjoyed getting to know our hosts, learning about the food, the culture, and telling them about us and our travels.
Our son, Ethan, particularly enjoyed the opportunity to spend the day with their cute pets, 2 cats and 1 dog. He’s been missing his dog quite a bit and jumps at every chance he gets to pet and snuggle up to animals as we travel.
Overall a truly fantastic experience and worth every penny. If you visit Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), then we highly recommend taking Tiffany up on her offer of an authentic home-cooked Vietnamese meal.