By Katie TerBeest  

Susan and Tam Pham

Planning an international trip can be daunting. Once you’ve purchased airfare, it’s tough to know where to start. How will you get around on your vacation? Where will you stay? How do you decide which sightseeing activities to choose? And a question that all too often comes last in the planning process, where will you eat? 

Tan Pham, a Vietnam native, and his wife, Susan, offer a unique travel experience in Vietnam with “Cuisine Adventure Tours.” Tan and his family, who live in La Crosse and have been traveling internationally for over 15 years, came up with the idea for this tour to help others share in their passion for travel infused with their curiosity-driven love of food. 

“We offer personalized food tours of Vietnam. During the tour, we aim to share with you the food experiences from big cities to small villages, from restaurants to ‘backyard, garden-to-table’ meals. We want to help you build a lasting connection with the understanding of food through culture,” Tan explains. 

With food as the major theme, the standard eight-day tour offers a full-bodied travel experience, immersing participants into Vietnamese culture in a way that’s not offered by many other tour companies.

The tour begins in Hanoi and ends in Ho Chi Minh City, including a day discovering the “floating market” on the Mekong Delta river where participants travel in canoes and float up to vendors selling food from their boats on the river, handing over food in baskets using bamboo sticks. It also includes a day shopping at a local market where restaurant owners shop daily for their ingredients, assisting them in picking products, and then going back to a restaurant to help prepare a meal. Another day is spent traveling Saigon via Vespa scooter to explore many must-see landmarks, avoiding the crowded tourist trail for a peek at the history, streets and sights most visitors never get to see. Guests will be able to visit the Ho Chi Minh Complex, Temple of Literature, Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre, French Long Bien Bridge, John McCain monument and 1000-year-old temples. The tour even includes a “village excursion,” enjoying an authentic meal cooked and enjoyed in someone’s home in Vietnam. 

While international airfare is not included in the price of the tour, once participants book their international flights and the tour, Tan explains that guests could essentially leave their wallets at home. “Everything once you arrive in Hanoi is taken care of—sleeping accommodations, transportation, tour site entrance fees, and, of course, food. 

“We believe that this relationship of rich food and fulfilling relations never has to stop at your own dinner table. We want to help you explore and appreciate another culture’s table and how they celebrate their food, traditions and life,” Susan and Tan express on the Cuisine Adventure Tours website. 

For more information, go to www.cuisineadventuretours.com or email info@cuisineadventuretours.com.

Vietnamese Pho

Vietnamese Pho

During your cuisine tour through Vietnam, inevitably you will encounter some variation of phơ, a beef noodle soup dish. It is a popular way to start the day.

Yield: 4 servings

Ingredients:

  • Phơ rice stick noodles (1 package)
  • 4 lbs. beef soup bones
  • 1 lb. beef (thinly sliced, cooked)
  • 2 large onions
  • 1 bundle green onions (chopped)
  • ¼ cup star anise seeds
  • 2 lemons (wedge-sliced)
  • Cilantro (1 bunch)
  • Mints (1 bunch)
  • Basil leaves (1 bunch)
  • 1 bag bean sprouts
  • Fish sauce
  • Sriracha sauce
  • Hoisin sauce
  • Water

Broth preparation: The key to delicious phơ is the broth, which needs to be clear. Place the beef bones in a large pot and cover with water. Boil for 30 minutes, then drain. Place the bones back in the pot with eight cups of fresh water, adding onions and star anise seeds. Bring to a boil, then turn the heat down low and simmer for four hours. 

Noodles preparation: Bring water to a boil and cook the rice noodles for five minutes. Drain the noodles into a strainer, run cold water over the noodles for one minute, and set the noodles aside to drain the rest of the water out.

Serving preparation: Prior to serving, bring the broth to a boil. Place the noodles in four large serving bowls and top with thinly sliced beef, cilantro, chopped green onion, bean sprouts, basil and mint. Pour broth over the top. Squeeze in one wedge of lemon and add sriracha, hoisin and fish sauce to your preferred taste. Lightly stir the whole bowl and enjoy.