Every week, the Saigon Meetup crew organize a street food tour in different areas of the city. Always looking for a new food adventure, I signed up on their website and met up with them last Thursday for their tour of Chinatown. Since it was my first time, I didn’t know what to expect but I was hoping for some tasty street food!
The group of around 20 met up at the Crazy Buffalo bar on Bui Vien where we gave our host Mr Lee VND 100,000 (USD $5) which paid for the nights festivities. Not a bad deal since the fee paid for dinner, bus fare and a beer (or soft drink)! After collecting the kitty, our group of foodies headed off to find thee Number 1 bus. While on the walk, we found out that there was a TV crew that would accompany us through the night.
A quick ten minute bus ride later, we headed off in a we took a little stroll to the first stop which served banh bot chien. The group piled onto red stools that are so prevalent to this type of dining and got ready for some goodness.
Along with the standard chopsticks and spoons in a metal container, there were a few very large containers of shredded jicama along with small bowls of chopped chilis. More on the jicama later.
The omelette consisted of plain steamed rice flour cake that is pan fried with scallions, bits of pork crackling, and egg. All of this goodness is tossed in with a bit of fish sauce and soy and is served with a slightly sweet soy based sauce for dipping in a separate bowl.
The rice flour cake was very filling and combined with the bits of pork crackling was a bit of a gutbuster. I was glad to have the shredded jicama which played a welcome counterpoint to the heavy dish. I managed to put away half of the omelette before giving up. I could have finished it but wanted to save some room for the next stop.
Next stop had two different dishes to try out. A quick five minute stroll to walk off the omelette brought us to another stall that served The one mentioned in the image above and bo bia. The last time I had brain was a couple years ago at the famous Badimiya Kebab restaurant in Mumbai. I thoroughly loved the dish (Mutton Bheja Fry) and was excited to sample the soup.
The soup had a definite Chinese influence to it and along with the pig brains had a few quail eggs, pork meatballs, bits of sliced pork and was garnished with fried scallions and cilantro. My unfortunate allergy to shellfish kept me from finishing my whole bowl. I did however have the quail eggs, the lone meatball and several bits of brain. Definitely the highlight of the night.
Similar to goi cuon, bo bia differs by bringing chinese influences to the table. Chock full of lettuce, egg, roasted peanuts, dried shrimp, and lạp xường (chinese sausage), they are rolled in rice paper and served with a peanut sauce. A nice little snack but I have had better in town.
The last item on the menu was a dessert.
I was feeling a bit stuffed by now and didn’t know if my stomach could handle anything else. Usually I am the first person to grab a sweet but when they put down the deep fried ice cream in front of me, I just groaned at the deep fried cholesterol bomb they just put in front of me.
However, when I took a bite, it was lighter than I expected and I managed to put away half of it before pushing it away. During that time, a huge ice cream sundae was being passed down the line of foodies. It made it down to the end of the table practically unscathed. I thought maybe everyone was full but after taking a spoonful found that there was quite a bit of durian ice cream in it. I am a big fan of fresh durian and like Anthony Bourdain hope one day some crazy avant-garde chef will craft a world changing durian based dish. However, it wasn’t this and I was glad that I had the rest of my deep fried ice cream to get that taste out of my mouth.
This was the last stop of our foodie tour and we headed back to Bui Vien where we had our final drink at Cafe Zoom. It was a great time to be had and would gladly come back to sample some more of the city’s street food.
If you are interested in checking out where the next Saigon Street Foodies meetup is going, head to this website here.