We were in Vietnam in November 2003, and again in December 2013, and both times we loved our breakfast baguette!
As Vietnamese cuisine does not include dairy items, the French had brought in sweetened condensed milk because it kept for a long time in a warm climate, as did ‘La Vache Qui Rit’ cheese. The cheese was processed Gruyere which beats American processed cheese every time, and the condensed milk was a standard addition to the wonderful Vietnamese ‘French-roast’ coffee, which was served very sweet.
Most hotels in Vietnam included breakfast in the price. Some of the cheaper hotels didn’t have much in the way of kitchen facilities – just a kettle to provide hot coffee or tea, with the rest coming from the market. Consequently, even hotels that were kitchen-challenged managed to scrape together a simple breakfast consisting of a baguette, cheese, a couple of small sweet-sour bananas that were in season in November, and dark roast coffee to die for.
Fast forward to Hanoi, December 2013…
Most hotels still included breakfast in the price, but they seem to have concluded that Western tourists want omelettes together with horrible white bread toast. Skipping the toast, I would stare longingly out the hotel cafeteria window at the vendors outside wandering back and forth with fresh-out-of-the-oven baguettes.
On the plus side, in the last ten years refrigeration has improved, resulting in a couple of new items on the menu: butter imported from New Zealand, and yogurt.
Another new item on the menu was jam made from strawberries that came from Dalat. It was extremely gooey but really tasty, and you could smear several whole plump strawberries on your baguette, if only you had one. (Al noted that the jam and butter really improved the toast…)
Later, when we moved down to Hue and Hoi An, we finally found the breakfasts we had been waiting for!
I think that bananas were slightly out of season but they made up for it by having fresh-squeezed orange juice, from the mandarins that had flooded the market in late December. Mmmmm…