Chicken Vendor Truong Dinh
A lunch vendor in District 3 in Ho Chi Minh City, specialises in a dish that is described as crack fried chicken. Located on the corner of Truong Dinh and Vo Van Tan, mama Lang runs a tight ship with her daughter Thao. It’s a typical streetside affair. Everything is set up with a couple of large metal tables as their ad hoc cafeteria, complete with no fewer than ten different dishes on offer. At least six dishes are on rotation, depending on what is fresh at the market, but what doesn’t change is a couple of pork dishes, thit kho tau or braised pork in a caramel sauce, and suon ram, or pork ribs in a caramel sauce, as well as two very tasty chicken dishes.
The ga ran or fried chicken is the business. While the chicken is moist and tender, it’s the glaze that puts it over the top. The crisp fried chicken skin holds a mixture of fish sauce with a heavy dose of garlic, chilli and brown sugar, addictive in its combination of sweet, spicy and umami. The other chicken dish, ragu ga, sees a wealth of chicken on the bone, potatoes, carrots and herbs swimming in the punchy tomato and annato infused broth.
The stall gets really busy for lunch because of the proximity of several offices and one TOEFL center located just around the corner.
Sui Cao Viet Nuong
A good place to go for sui cao is in District 5 on busy Tran Hung Dao. it’s a no-frills hole-in-the-wall that dishes out some seriously good dumplings. The English menu is also a plus, as most restaurants in District 5 are strictly Vietnamese or Chinese affairs.
Sui cao refers to anything that is wrapped in rice flour dough. There can be a bit of confusion regarding sui cao and hoanh thanh as both are filled with meat and covered in dough. Hoanh thanh is wrapped in an egg flour dough akin to a pasta while sui cao is wrapped in a dough of rice flour. Sui cao is prepared in a number of ways: boiled, steamed, deep fried or potsticker style and is usually stuffed with minced pork and chives.
Goi du du bo kho
While there is an abundance of noodle dishes, soups and grilled items on the streets of Ho Chi Minh City, salads seem underrepresented and are only found in restaurants. One vendor in District 1 bucks that trend and makes one of the best goi du du bo kho that can be found in town.
The unassuming cart is manned by a trio of sisters and while the setting looks kind of generic the salad they serve is certainly not. Like most vendors in the city, they take the base of the dish and add their own flair to it. And by the looks of the crowd of motorbikes that are usually parked next to their cart, they are doing something right.
This particular salad takes young unripe papaya julienned and this is the base upon which everything is built. Next is succulent bo kho or beef jerky. The meat has a glaze that is equally sweet, savoury and spicy, which paradoxically keeps the meat moist while it is being dried out. Aromatic herbs such as Thai basil and rau ram (Vietnamese coriander) are added along with rice croutons and roasted peanuts. Everything is dressed with a spicy chilli sauce and a slightly sweet, tart dressing made from fish sauce, lime and a bit of soy. The tart dressing melds with the smoky flavour of the bo kho while the peanuts bring a certain earthiness to the salad. The deep-fried croutons add some crunch to round out the dish. Those averse to spicy food should ask for “khong ot” or no chilli as this stall tends to douse the salad with the stuff.
94 Quan Thuy
This restaurant is located on 84 Dinh Tien Hoang and they are famous for their crab, which they offer in a variety of styles. It is a favourite spot for those looking to feast on shellfish. Their most popular dishes include cha goi cua, a fried crab spring roll, and mien xao cua, glass noodles sauteed with crabmeat. They also serve just plain soft shell crab coated in your choice of sauce.
Banh Xeo 46A
This is the go-to spot for authentic street food. Tucked down a tight alley on the edge off Dinh Cong Trang in District 1, to the outside observer Banh Xeo 46a might not look like much, a mostly outdoor restaurant with red plastic stools and generic metal tables. The seating area is covered, and fan cooled, but it’s about as basic as you can get. The kitchen is also without walls, so you can see the chefs cooking on their large frying pans. The restaurant attracts large groups, often drinking and in high spirits, which when mixed with the constant stream of traffic flowing by your plastic stool can make for a uniquely Saigon atmosphere.
Banh Xeo 46a is one of the better-known street food restaurants in all of Saigon, so it’s quite the popular spot, with a steady stream of customers at all hours.
The specialty here is banh xeo, a fried, rice-flour crepe stuffed with savoury meat, generally pork and shrimp, a touch of diced onion, maybe some mung beans and a healthy dose of bean sprouts. A popular spot with the tourist crowd, portion sizes are quite generous compared to more local banh xeo carts.