Jollibee in Hanoi, Vietnam

Chilli Chicken at a Jollibee in Hanoi, Vietnam

Counter at a Jollibee in HanoiWe all know how this fast-food giant started. Elders who know the story very well would always use it as an example to inspire. “Look at Jollibee. It started as an ice cream parlor in 1975. Now, the Philippines is the only country in the world where McDonald’s is number 2.”

Just like Manny Pacquaio, Jollibee is one of the Philippines’ pride and joy, so everytime we see a store outside the country, we can’t help but feel proud and happy.

“Jollibee, o!”

Of course, we had to try one of the branches in Hanoi after our Mt. Fansipan climb and one-day rice fields trekking in Sapa. The store was within walking distance from our hotel at the Old Quarter.

The moment we stepped into the store, we immediately felt the familiar-yet-slightly-different ambiance. It was Jollibee, but it was to a certain degree a localized version of it.

We did not order Chickenjoy.

That’s because we had one in Hong Kong and it was the same as in the Philippines, so we immediately assumed that Hanoi’s Chickenjoy also had that distinct taste and crispiness. We can be wrong, of course.

We still went for a chicken meal, though, but we opted for the cheaper version – Chilli Chicken with a vegetable side dish. We don’t think there’s one like it in the Philippines, and we’re glad that Vietnam added this one to their menu.

The verdict?

It wasn’t as spicy as we expected, and we thought the chicken was a little dry. But we loved the vegetable side dish. At least it was two notches higher than the coleslaw offered at KFC branches in the Philippines.

According to a recent report, Jollibee is “expanding its footprint in Vietnam,” and the target is 20 to 30 stores per year.

So there… It looks like the future of Jollibee in Vietnam is bright.

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Jollibee Hanoi Vietnam Menu

Cambodia’s Exotic Food Policy: Pay Before You Click

It’s not just in some stalls in Cambodia‘s Pub Street. Some vendors in Thailand also have the same “policy.”

Apparently, you can’t take a picture of an exotic food without either buying some or paying for the shot.

There are different types of food considered “exotic,” but the pay-before-you-click policy seems to be focused on those that are peddled on famous streets and tourist areas.

These are mostly fried or skewered insects, bugs, and snakes – or food that most Westerners would find disgusting.

If you’re the adventurous type, try eating these insects as appetizers when drinking beer with friendly locals. See if they really do “taste like chicken” as others would describe.

More exotic food: When in Bali, try salak or snake fruit

For now, here are some images.

Skewered Snakes Cambodia

Image below: Frogs

Fried Frog Cambodia

Images below: Exotic food stall along Bangkok‘s famous backpacker street, Khao San Road

Scorpion and Spider Exotic Food

Balinese Snake Fruit

Snake Fruit in Indonesia – Look For It When in Bali

What’s the strangest fruit you’ve ever seen or eaten?

If you ask us, it’s the snake fruit in Indonesia or “salak” in the local language. According to Wikipedia, salak is a species of palm tree native to Java and Sumatra. If you’re going to Bali soon, put this on your must-eat list.

Unlike rambutan and dragon fruit, we don’t think we have snake fruit in the Philippines. When we saw it at a grocery’s fruit section in Ubud, of course, we had to give it a try.

True to its name, the outside of the salak looks like the skin of a snake. It would be nicer if, just like our reptile friends, it had other colors, but the ones we saw only came with different shades of brown. Some were lighter and some were darker.

It reminds us of the rattan fruit, but you can easily tell them apart. The snake fruit is at least two times bigger, has one pointed end, and the inside is similar to coconut meat – white and crunchy.

RELATED: Cambodia’s Exotic Food Policy: Pay Before You Click

Here are some snake fruit images.

Snake Fruit Pics

Peeling the skin of the snake fruit is greatly satisfying. Is that weird?

Snake Fruit Images

After our Mt. Agung hike, we had lunch at a buffet restaurant that overlooked terraced rice paddies. At the back of the restaurant was a nursery of tropical fruit-bearing trees, which included a few snake fruit trees.

Here’s an image of snake fruits that are not yet ready to harvest or eat. Notice how spiky these salak babies are.

Also read: 8-Hour Layover in Singapore? No Problem!

Snake Fruit in Indonesia

Barbecue Train Station Yangon

3 Must-Try Popular Food in Myanmar

We don’t travel primarily to sample the local cuisine, although of course, a delicious meal is always welcome. We ask for recommendations from locals or fellow travelers, but only if they introduce the subject first.

We must admit, not including food in our itinerary is a bad habit. After all, food is part of culture. Traveling to a new place is never really complete without exposing your taste buds to something unique.

That’s why when we got to Myanmar, we promised ourselves to remember to do a food trip, or at least try some of the most popular food in this part of Southeast Asia.

Tea Leaf Salad

“So… what’s good to eat here? What’s the most popular food in Myanmar?” we asked the nice staff at Wayfarer Rest in Yangon.

“Have you tried tea leaf salad?”

We took a moment to process what he just said. It was our first time hearing about this bizarre dish. We’ve been to Sri Lanka – a tea-producing country – but we don’t remember a restaurant in Ella or Colombo offering tea salad. Either that or as we said, we don’t really care about the local cuisine.

Of course we had to give it a try. In fact, we ate tea leaf salad a few times. The best-tasting one was smooth like the tropical vegetables we’re used to back home. The worst was the one we had when we cycled around Nyaung Shwe. We can take a slightly bitter aftertaste, but that one was very bitter.

The image below shows two dishes – tea leaf on the left and noodles on the right. It was only when we were about to finish the salad when we remembered to take a picture – our apologies.

Popular Food in Myanmar Tea Leaf Salad and Shan Noodles

Shan Noodles

Mandalay has the best Shan Noodles,” said the same nice staff at Wayfarer Rest.

Across from Four Rivers, the hostel where we stayed in Mandalay, there’s a restaurant. Unfortunately, what they served us wasn’t the best Shan noodles we tasted. It was good, but what we had in Kalaw before our 3D2N trek was so much better.

Offal Skewers

We normally distance ourselves from eating animal entrails except when they’re perfectly indistinguishable.

But as we said here, two girls convinced us to try the offal skewers in Chinatown. We didn’t know the girls, and we didn’t even talk, but the way they ate the skewers made us believe that they tasted really good. So we went ahead and got us some.

Enjoy authentic Burmese cuisine!

Offal Skewers Chinatown Yangon