New Experience #3: A Taste of Vietnamese Culture

vietnamese food

We spent the weekend visiting my sister and her family in Northern Virginia.  Usually when we visit her, we venture into Washington, D.C. to see the sights.  However, this weekend the city was preparing for the inauguration and many roads were closed.  We also assumed that the National Mall and its fabulous museums would be crowded.  I wanted to try a new experience with my children and their cousins, so I needed to be creative.

So, we took a trip to Vietnam without leaving Virginia.

How was this possible?  Easy.  We visited the Eden Center in Falls Church, VA.

Eden Center looks like a typical shopping center– except its entrance is covered by an Asian Palace arch and flanked by stone dragons.  Once you pass under the arch, you truly feel like you are in another country.  There are 120 Vietnamese shops and restaurants all in one shopping center.

Vietnamese is spoken everywhere.  English is sometimes understood by the shopkeepers. Luke said he felt a little shy because he has never seen so many people from another country.  We definitely stood out.  The majority of shoppers were Asian.

This was a perfect opportunity for me to remind my children that they just learned about Martin Luther King, Jr. in school.  We shouldn’t judge people by their appearances.  There is no better way to teach tolerance than to expose children to other cultures so they can see for themselves that we are all the same inside.  That is why I am so glad we are doing our New Experiences project again.

eating rice noodlesOur first stop was Viet Royale, a restaurant that is frequently named one of the best places to eat in Northern Virginia.  We ordered crispy vegetarian spring rolls as an appetizer, which we all enjoyed.  Then we ordered three dishes to share:  a vegetarian crepe, grilled shrimp and scallops with vermicelli noodles, and skewered beef with vermicelli noodles.

vietnamese foodAll three dishes were accompanied by lettuce and Thai basil.  We really weren’t sure what we were supposed to do with the lettuce and basil.  The basil was in bunches and the lettuce was presented as a pile of leaves without dressing.  I suspect that we were supposed to make our food into lettuce wraps, but the kids enjoyed eating the basil right off the stems.  I was so proud of how adventurous they were.  Luke is typically picky, but he tried everything.  He loved using the chopsticks.  Once we finished our meal, we were served a plate full of orange wedges.  It was a simple and delicious ending to a great meal.

Next, we wandered around the mall.  Leah was excited to see many Hello Kitty items for sale.  We also saw lots of items to decorate for Tet, the Vietnamese New Year.

vietnamese supermarketOne of my favorite ways to spend an hour in a foreign country is to visit a supermarket.  You can learn so much about the daily habits and regular diet of a people by walking through the aisles of a market.  While the Eden Center may be located in Virginia, we really felt like we were in Vietnam while walking through the supermarket.

Luke enjoyed showing his cousin the entire aisle dedicated to rice noodles.  Leah liked looking at the candies that were for sale.  I was intrigued by the many teas I had never seen before.  While we tried to keep an open mind, none of us enjoyed seeing the whole roasted ducks and pigs hanging by their necks in the window.

bubble smoothieOur last stop was a bakery where we tried bubble smoothies.  These were crushed fruit with tapioca “bubbles” inside them.  All the kids liked the smoothies, but Leah did not like the bubbles.  I agreed with her.  I don’t see the appeal of a gelatinous ball in the middle of such a tasty smoothie, but most people seem to love them.  They are very popular.

We walked back to the car sipping our smoothies and talking about our favorite parts of Eden Center.  My favorite part was spending the day with my children, my sister, my niece, and my nephew.

If you enjoyed this article, you’ll also enjoy:

New Experience #10:  A Taste of India

New Experience #42:  It’s All Greek (Food) to Us!


About 52BrandNew

I am a single stay at home mom who is determined to live life to its fullest.
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6 Responses to New Experience #3: A Taste of Vietnamese Culture

  1. Wonderful experience! We have a place called Southall here on the outskirts of London where the culture is Indian. Different brands, different clothes, different everything. It would be an ideal place to try this. Thanks!

  2. I don’t have a post yet of me enjoying boba tea (tapioca balls), but I have an idea for you to try – a dessert named falooda that contains smaller tapioca balls and vermicelli noodles. I have a picture of my first one when visiting LA, but also no post…yet. Congrats on the success of the introduction to another culture and the enjoyment of their cuisine. I like buying new things (preferably with clear packaging or pictures) from the supermarket and then Googling a recipe when I get home, but that’s for another comment.

  3. nakala1 says:

    Food looks delicious and seems like a lovely way to enjoy your day. In Adelaide, Australia we have what is usually referred to as ‘Chinatown’ but where you can get food very cheaply from so many different Asian countries. The trick is usually trying to decide what you want to eat from the myriad of choices. I’ve always thought the best bet is to see someone eating what looks good and then ask them what it is and where they got it from – how I got onto one of my favourite Vietnamese dishes – I don’t know the Vietnamese name but it is rice noodles with thin slices of beef and lots of fresh veggies in a beef sauce – spiced up with some chilli and coriander – delicious.

    I am continuing with our aim mission here in Australia to also try 52 new experiences. Will have to send you the link so you can follow us as well. On our last experience my children came across a kangaroo which even though we might see them from time to time as we pass by in the car – or in parks or zoos – was very special to come across so unexpectedly. The boys must have thought so too as it was the first thing they said to me. Well done also to my brother who is always on an adventure and recently climbed to the top of Mount Kosciuszko with his seven year old daughter – our highest mountain in Australia. You guys are troopers!

    • 52BrandNew says:

      Thanks! I am so glad you are also trying new experiences! I’d love to see what you’ve done.

      I would LOVE to see a kangaroo in the wild! That must have been so exciting! Climbing a mountain with a child in tow must have been quite the experience for your brother!

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