Before we left for Vietnam, I knew that I wanted to try the street food but first impressions were not good. The place looks grubby and busy and you don’t see spare tables and chairs. AND the tables and chairs that you do see are kiddy size plastic tables and chairs perhaps not terribly suited to large paddock workers.
But some careful observation will reveal much more. The place looks grubby because the sanitation system is different and for me, superior. Firstly, there isn’t a lot of rubbish as most food is not packaged. There are markets everywhere which operate twice daily. Fresh food comes in from farms to these markets twice daily. Any rubbish that is generated is just put on the street – that’s why you will always see it. Then people wander around sorting out whatever they can recycle. People in building frequently sweep their footpaths, then other people come around with bins on wheels to clean up anything else. It is constant motion of rubbish being put out or dropped, swept and collected. Much better than our system of creating lots of rubbish by packaging then storing our rubbish for a week waiting for a truck to take it to a big pile somewhere else.
Next, a full house is good. It means that lots of people eat there so the tucker must be OK. And no worries about your table and chairs. Just stand there for a minute or two and someone will bring out another table and chairs. If someone leave, their table and chairs are removed so the place always looks full.
So, you will be getting very fresh food and somewhere to sit, even if it is a little chair. Having said that, I’m including places that have an indoor area with grown up chairs under the heading of street food. Now a bit about the grub.
It seems that most places just sell one or two different dishes. It isn’t an a la carte style of dining. Also, the cooking process is very public so you can see what raw ingredients are being used and how it is prepared. You may find a bit of DIY is involved where you are served spring roll wrappers or green leaves to use as wrappers and you choose your own fillings. Much hilarity as it unravels somewhere between the plate and your gob, but you end up getting it down.
If you’re a meat eater – good news, there is meat in just about everything. I ordered Vegetable spring rolls one night. That meant there were vegetables in with the meat. If you like chicken – bad news, they don’t seem to breed chickens for meat so you are likely to get tough stuff – try duck. If you don’t eat meat, then the Vietnamese word for vegetarian is Chay. Try to find somewhere with this word on a sign, but they aren’t many. If you like seafood – great news, the seafood is sensational.
The food is really, really good and no need to panic when the bill comes. A meal will cost between .50c and a couple of dollars. Beer will be around $1.50 so you can eat out on loose change. If you aren’t full and want something more to eat, just wander around until you see something else to try. Anyway, enough words – here’s some pics.
1. Grilled meaty thingys – very common around the streets. I’m not a meat eater at home, but it’s pretty hard to avoid meat in Vietnam. So I just relaxed about it and these were pretty tasty.
2. Dessert drinks – pretty bland – a combination of gelatinous rice and sago. The Responsible Adult was appalled when the owner put her hand in the bowl to grab some for me. But it seems to me that the people are keen on personal hygiene. I drank the mug of stuff mainly because it was cold and I was hot.
3.Sensational rice thingys. If you see these, have a go. They brush yellow stuff on half of them and put a prawn or quails egg on the other half to make a sandwich. Fabulous with dipping sauce.
4. You don’t even have to wander off – just sit still and food will come past you. These ladies carry everything in their baskets – even a couple of stool so you can sit and eat your fruit or nuts or whatever.