Ruben Luong finds that street food and unique boutiques reign supreme on Vo Van Tan in District 3.
Vo Van Tan, spanning almost three kilometres from Cong Truong Quoc Te circle, is home to commercial businesses in the east, administrative businesses toward the centre, and the War Remnants Museum in the west. At all hours, there are food hawkers, blue- and white-collar workers, and tourists who regularly cross paths.
It’s perhaps one of the most underrated streets, but it does compete with traffic-heavy main streets Nguyen Thi Minh Khai in the north and Nguyen Dinh Chieu in the south. Vietnamese culture still dominates in terms of street food here, and there are a number of popular spots that everyone should visit.
Lunch Lady at Vo Van Tan
Corner of Vo Van Tan and Truong Dinh
Office buildings populate the centre of Vo Van Tan, and with them, plenty of com binh dan, or worker lunch stalls. More than 10 dishes of the best authentic street food, like Vietnamese chicken curry, pork-stuffed tomatoes, steamed bamboo shoots, sour catfish soup, caramelised fish or pork, and tofu with boiled egg (VND 26,000-50,000), are served by this lunch lady every Monday-Friday around 11am-2pm, attracting locals, but also tourists who want to try new dishes.
Tofu Dessert Lady
Corner of Vo Van Tan and Truong Dinh / 97 Vo Van Tan
Dau hu duong gung va nuoc cot dua, a sweet tofu, ginger and coconut milk pudding (VND 5,000/serving), is always served warm from the tofu lady, who is just as friendly and sweet. She sets her don ganh tre, or Vietnamese shoulder pole, at the corner of Vo Van Tan in the afternoons to serve her tofu recipe to workers, but moves down the street around 2pm to Open University, where students regularly visit her for their after-school comfort food.
Banh Uot Lady
In front of 57 Vo Van Tan
If you want filling street food without a plate of rice, the banh uot lady has a stall outside Banana Leaf restaurant with steamed rice noodle sheets served with cha lua (Vietnamese pork sausage), fried shallots, bean sprouts, cucumbers, an herb mix of basil and perilla, chilli, and fish sauce. It’s a popular breakfast dish, but is excellent for quick lunches. Depending on the day, she also serves bun thit xao, noodles with grilled meat and crunchy egg rolls. Both dishes cost VND 15,000-20,000.
Grilled Banana Lady
Outside Hem 376 Vo Van Tan
Locals love the banh chuoi nuong, grilled banana cakes (VND 12,000/piece), near Hem 376, especially around rush hour and twilight. Many make a pit stop on their way home from work to the grilled banana lady’s makeshift and fragrant grill, almost like a corner drive-thru for the cakes, which are later eaten with a creamy coconut milk sauce that’s packaged separately. Other treats can be ordered, like homemade keo dau phong, or Vietnamese peanut candy (VND 30,000).
255 Vo Van Tan
Linh Tinh, a women’s accessories shop enshrouded in a small, but well-merchandised space, is literally a gem in the road. Affordable but dazzling jewelry in mod or classic designs are organised, colour-coordinated, and branded in cute, bespoke packaging (and its business cards are customised in the shape of a vintage bow). Clever ear cuffs, bejeweled earrings, boho bracelets, beaded statement necklaces, and dainty rings range from VND 230,000-400,000.
353 Vo Van Tan
As more expats decide to settle here long-term, cats, and perhaps dogs, gradually become more feasible pet options. But within urban livelihoods, dogs probably require significantly more care here. Little Dog, a “spa and everything for dogs,” is a boutique with every imaginable accessory to take care of puppies and bigger dogs. Specialised (even whitening) shampoo, auto pet feeders, dog strollers, and spinach and fruit treats are all here, but dogs are also pampered and groomed by appointment.
Nick Dragon Boutique
362 Vo Van Tan
Vo Van Tan encompasses a large swath of fashion stores that get lost in one another toward the east, near the end of the road at Cao Thang. You can’t miss Nick Dragon Fashion Boutique, however, as its current collection features cut-out, body-conscious neon dresses and a range of T-shirts and dresses featuring a signature parrot print, which are surprisingly well-tailored and emulate the aesthetic of global brands H&M and Mango. On hangers, they are bold designs, costing several million VND, but are marketed beautifully on the store’s mannequins and fashion editorials at Nickdragon.com.vn.