I had my first experience with Vietnamese food tonight. I also had my first experience with tripe, and with soft tendon for that matter. We drove up to see my grandfather earlier today and then even farther up to visit with my sister. After some shopping in Macon (finally picked up a copy of Anthony Bourdain's Kitchen Confidential) we drove back down the road to the Air Force base town where she lives to eat at a Vietnamese place she likes for some Pho. I really enjoyed it. Judging from the dishes that we got, Vietnamese is kind of like a mixture of Chinese (at least what we think of as Chinese) and Thai, but I'm fully aware that that is an overly simplistic and possibly misleading comparison. I had the Pho (rice noodle soup) with flank steak, tripe, and soft tendon. I'm not really sure what possessed me to try the more "exotic" cuts of meat in that Pho option, but I'm glad I did. The tripe was cut into really small little ribbons and it had a texture somewhere between the bean sprouts without the fibrous quality and the noodles. There's not a whole lot of flavor in the tripe so it ended up being just a very positive textural element. The soft tendon wasn't quite as pleasant of a surprise, but it wasn't off-putting either. It was a bit like a soft gummy candy in texture, but wasn't anything you wouldn't expect in flavor. The rest of the soup was incredibly tasty.
The best part is that they bring out a tray of extra ingredients with the soups. There were a couple slices of green chili pepper, a lime wedge, cilantro, basil leaves, and bean sprouts. After shredding cilantro and basil and squeezing lime into my soup, my fingers still smell awesome a couple of hours later. I love me some lime and basil.