Embracing The Chaos – Cho Ben Thanh – Saigon, Vietnam

Ben Thanh Market is your typical old-school Asian market, where one can find souvenirs, clothing, drinks, and food. And as with all traditional Asian markets, out in the back there’s a wet market where locals come to buy anything that is commonly eaten…which in Vietnam is just about everything.

During our cooking class we learned that the Vietnamese eat every part of the animal, from the toes to the brain (the toes to the nose has a much nicer ring to it…) Our chef then asked us if we knew why they ate everything. Christine speculated that it was to honor the animal; since its life was being taken, you should eat everything so nothing is wasted. Essentially, the animal’s life was put to good use. WRONG. Our chef joked that the Vietnamese don’t really care about the animals, which probably isn’t a sentiment shared by all Vietnamese people. But they do have a history of eating everything because they believe it will make them “better.” Eating the brains makes them smarter, eating the liver helps their liver, the heart helps their heart, and so on… They now know that this doesn’t work, but the old wives tale lives on, and so does the tradition of eating everything from the toes to the brain.