My life in Can Tho is a mix between states of manic depression and sky high joy. There are times when a small bowl of rice, fish, and vegetables will do, and other times when I will have nothing of the sort. Unlike Ho Chi Minh City, Can Tho is not filled to the hilt with foreigners, and by extension, international cuisine. During the times when America seems a universe away and loneliness creeps into my home, it is food that takes me to a better place, but finding the food that I am used to and love has not been an easy task in this small Mekong Delta city.
I am terribly thankful for the ubiquity of pizza, unhealthy as it may be. Were it not for this greasy concoction of bread, tomato sauce, cheese, and any variety of vegetables and meats, I am not totally sure that living in Can Tho would be as easy as it has been. Add in the fact that my stomach no longer fully trusts Vietnamese restaurant food the way that it did several years ago in Can Tho, and pizza has become somewhat of a lifeline.
That said, there are some major differences not only between the Can Tho pizza and the pizza from back home, but also the way that Vietnamese people eat pizza. The way that pizza joints tell it, when you purchase a pizza you are to expect at the least bread, cheese, tomato sauce, and oregano. It may be just me, but out of the dozen pizzas that I have consumed in Vietnam over the last few months, not one of them had a suitable amount of tomato sauce. Truly, the tomato sauce on pizzas in Vietnam appears to act as nothing more than a bread wetter and not a team player with the rest of the ingredients.
Perhaps it is due to this utter lack of tomato sauce spread on top of pizzas in Vietnam that Vietnamese people eat their pizzas with ketchup. It is absolutely beyond me why anyone in his right mind would voluntarily request tiny ketchup packets with his pizza, but that seems to be the trend here. Because pizza hasn’t taken hold of Vietnam the way that it has gripped America, I won’t hold it against the locals for eating ketchup with their pies, but my god, the humanity!
Word to the wise: if you ever find yourself in Vietnam for an extended stay and do not wish to leave your home for dinner, simply call up any pizza shop and they will happily deliver. And it’s not just pizza that they will deliver but lasagna, tiramisu, canned sodas, fried calamari, and even ca phe sua da. Delivery service in Vietnam, while not as common as other places, is top notch when it comes to bringing you what you want. Shops at times even pack canned sodas in tiny plastic bags which are filled with ice so that the beverages stay cold on the road. It’s unbeatable.
I’ve been trying to persuade my family members and friends to come to Vietnam since I first arrived. Some of them frantically ask me what they will eat when they come here, besides of course the local fare. I’m happy to report that I have found the silver bullet answer in the form of a pizza pie.