Classic street food moves indoors. By Michael Tatarski. Photos by Christian Berg.
It’s no accident that Duck Deli’s menu resembles one you would see at a street food cart. It’s a perpetual reminder of the chef’s humble beginnings serving up bird on the sidewalk. In 1990, Ms Phuong, the chef, set up a cart where she sold cabbage salad and boiled duck on the corner of Mac Thi Buoi and Dong Khoi streets. It was here she built up such a loyal following that two years ago she joined forces with a local entrepreneur and brought her time-tested recipes to a larger, sit-down restaurant.
The restaurant now has two locations, one in the food court of the Parkson mall on Le Thanh Ton, and one on Nguyen Thai Binh. We ate at the latter, where wooden benches and chairs, along with cheery décor, fill out two floors. During a recent downpour typical of this torrential season, Duck Deli was the perfect place to spend an afternoon.
As expected, the compact menu is entirely devoted to duck, with most dishes ranging from VND 65,000 to VND 130,000. Desserts such as ice cream by the scoop and flan are available as well.
We went for three of the specials, beginning with the famed cabbage salad with boiled duck (VND 125,000 for small, VND 240,000 for large). Even though we ordered the small, the helping was still big enough to split between two people. Chunks of duck sat atop a pile of cabbage, and spicy nuoc mam was doused over everything. Like most cut up meat in Vietnam, the duck was a bit bony, but that didn’t make it any less tender.
Our second dish was the duck curry (VND 75,000), served with a loaf of bread and a helping of mint leaves. The brown curry was beautiful, and the pieces of duck so soft they could be taken apart with a spoon.
With our hands covered in curry sauce, the final dish arrived: the boiled duck soup (VND 90,000) with noodles and bamboo shoots. Once again the duck was excellent, and its milder broth made for a good finish after the first two spicier dishes.
Duck Deli’s portion sizes will leave anyone satisfied. It’s a great place for those who want to try some classic street food, but in a cleaner and less-hectic atmosphere.