Dalat: Just Desserts

March 1, 2007

We’re in Dalat, in Vietnam’s Central Highlands. It took us 25 hours to get here from Hue via bus, but it was worth it.

With its careful landscaping, pine-encircled lake, and stately French villas, Dalat feels strangely non-Vietnamese. The temperature here is mild (it’s called the City of Eternal Spring), again making it a rarity in a country where February brings on 90-degree weather. Dalat’s climate and fertile soil means that it can grow fruits and vegetables year-round, which makes for some good eats.

Other than produce, Dalat boasts great coffee, tea, wine, and other fruit-derived products. Souvenir shops burst with dried and candied fruits, coffee beans, artichoke tea, strawberry syrups and jams, and the ever-(in)famous Dalat Wine. (Side note: they also have a brand of wine here called Langbian, which makes me double-take every time I see the bottle!)

Also, it’s dessert paradise. On Highway 3 Thang 2, close to the intersection by the market, there are three bakeries loaded with goodies – American-style cakes with colorful icing, savory breads, Chinese cakes, puddings, cookies. I had a mocha cream cheese cake, banana cake, and chocolate tarte (not at the same time!), and all were fab-u-lous.

In the central market, they sell every kind of fruit and vegetable imaginable. At the food stalls on the second level of the vegetable market, I sampled avocado ice cream – a scoop of vanilla ice cream on top of sweetened avocado puree. Surprisingly, the creamy, green goo worked, although after half of a mug, I began worrying about the fat content.Strawberry ice cream

Also, as Dalat is uber-famous for its strawberries, I couldn’t not try the strawberry ice cream. I was a bit disappointed since I had expected big chunks of berry. Instead, the ice cream is made with strawberry syrup, another local specialty, which gave it a sickly, artificial taste. Breyer’s is better.

There’s also sweet soymilk, scooped warm from cauldrons at street stalls. I was surprised I liked it because I normally hate the grassy drink. Just goes to show that I’ll eat anything if there’s sugar in it.

Speaking of soy, today I sampled dau hu, i.e. tofu. Here, it’s soft like custard. Ladled into bowls and topped with a sweet, ginger syrup, you eat it with a soup spoon. Very refreshing (and healthy too!)

Lastly, in the non-dessert, honorable mention category, I would like to mention the paté sandwich. In Dalat’s, there’s a paté sandwich stand on every corner. This miracle food I discovered in Laos and, as Vietnam was also a French colony, I’ve been able to feed my addiction here, too. Yes, a paté sandwich is exactly what you think – a baguette sliced open, spread with paté, filled with other weird luncheon meats, fresh herbs, and pickled carrots and radish, and topped with chili paste and soy sauce. It’s one of those mutant foods – like biscuits and gravy or peanut butter and pickles – which, in theory sounds heinous, but is actually a symphony for the taste buds.

It’s almost dinner here and I’m salivating as I write this entry.

P.S. I have done other things here besides gorge myself.

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2 Responses to “Dalat: Just Desserts”

  1. Keiko said

    I must visit Dalat and eat everything in sight and OD on sugar. Do you remember press toast on bleecker st? Its this totally gross drunk food sandwich place that has nasty sounding combinations of toast sandwiches but are really amazing, even while sober. It’s not totally gross like Mamouns falafel or anything.

  2. sailorjes said

    Sorry, Bleecker St. was out of my territory. You know NYers will never leave the 10-block radius around their apartments. Same w/ Mamouns. Although they were kinda dirty anyways.

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