Driving past the corner of Cach Mang Thang Tam and Suong Nguyet Anh the other day, I chanced upon an old favourite eatery that I had forgotten about. I remember when I first came to Vietnam and visited this place back in 1994. This is an iconic family-owned place that has been open for over 30 years. It was filled with customers and my first thought was that I needed to re-acquaint myself with it.
Inside the open-front eatery you will find different individual street food carts serving bo bia, goi du du bo, nuoc mia and bun rieu. Tables and plastic chairs are tightly packed next to the motorbike parking, and the traffic noise creates a classic indoor street scene.
Bo bia, one of the most famous southern Vietnamese dishes, is a type of Vietnamese summer roll with Chinese sausage (lap xuong or lap cheong), eggs, cassava root (cu san), dried shrimp, basil, mint and lettuce. Cassava root is similar to water chestnut and jicama, or yam bean, as it has a crisp and clean taste, even after being cooked. It is tightly rolled in a banh trang (rice paper) wrapper then dipped in a hoisin sauce and seasoned with roasted peanuts and chilli paste.
The other popular dish here is goi du du bo (green papaya salad with beef jerky). This dish reminds me more of a slaw done Vietnamese style, rather than a salad. You can order it without the jerky if preferred. The salad is made up of shredded unripe papaya with roasted peanuts, chilli, basil and rau ram (persicaria, or Vietnamese coriander).The shredded papaya is served with a soy sauce that is seasoned with garlic, palm sugar, lime, chilli, and topped with a deep-fried shrimp cracker.You can find similar dishes from Laos, Thailand and Cambodia, the differences being in the sauce and type of toppings
While bo bia and goi du du are famous in their own right, in my mind their nuoc mia is legendary. Freshly-squeezed sugar cane juice with a slice of citrus over ice is the best thirst quencher, bar none. It was amazing when I first tried it nearly 20 years ago, and it is still good now.