Buon Ma Thot, Vietnam
As a part of a month's trip we stayed here for several days, and as it isn't a routine tourist route it was easy to avoid such traps. Newly acquired wealth from their famed coffee allowed encounters of red and white german sports cars more than occasionally, and neat and clean streets lined with numerous cafes packed with men meeting up for a potently strong but wonderfully aromatic coffee before heading off to work gave impression of bustling calm.
The best meal here was on the 2nd floor of the city's Cho (market) where food vendors were gathered. We tried a version of bun cha which was average, but this vendor (see 1st & 2nd pic) selling bun ga vit/bun gio heo? grabbed our attention and held us in silence less the major slurping; several varieties of shavings of aromatic vegetables/herbs that included I think banana flowers (shown on the 2nd pic, correct me if I am wrong) were chopsticked along each grabs of the noodle, and on our return visit here the next day we are not sure if we had noodle soup or salad : ) At this point in our journey we were getting comfortable with the flavors and added more nuoc mam or chilli as fit. Both of our visits here were in the mornings around 7-8am, and not all the vendors were open.
Stepping out of the Cho we encountered numerous cafes as described above, and sipping espresso strength local blend amongst them, while lacking in ambience, the sense of dignity among unrushed men sharing half an hour (and more cigarettes) or so of their morning before work amply makes up for it.
A disappointing meal we had that was a very popular breakfast dish for the locals ( see 3rd and 4th pic) was varieties of meats including a poor-grade western sausage doused in ketchup sauce. This particular place (see 4th pic) was packed when we walked in in the early morning.
The 5th pic (bottom) is a salad dish I had in one of many good bia hoi in BMT. It had jellyfish quality with little bite to it without much flavor, but citrus/herb dressing with hot chille went well with beer bathing in ice. Any idea what this is?
The 5th pic looks very similar to what I had at a dark bia hoi place behind the Morin Hotel in Hue in early May. This is the first time I had this dish. When I enquired with the local who brought me there, he replied "very delicious".
In fact, it is pig's ear sliced uniformly and flavoured with spicy dressing. I believe it is an acquired taste. I wont be ordering this mystery dish again the next time.
I've had pig's ear in handful of preparations but this had very little bite to it when compared to pig's ear unless it was soaked/braised for so long that the inner cartilage essentially dissolved. Nevertheless I do agree with you that it was a bit of acquired taste or rather texture as it in itself had very little taste.