Commoner's Cuisine

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The first pin stuck in our map of Saigon finds us out in the hinterland of District 10 at a Com binh dan restaurant at 264 Hoa Hung street. This stall is two steps and a hop up the road from a large prison and around the corner from a soldier compound. Com binh dan is a 'type' of fast-food restaurant. It translates roughly as 'Food for workers'. These shacks are more plentiful than Mickey D's in Manhattan - not to mention healthier and cheaper. I've covered a similar spot in District 1 before and it's no surprise to find another offering near my number one pin. It's midday, and the two Pho restaurants along this street are closed, so it's a 'worker's lunch' for me. This joint doubles up as a Pho shack from 4pm onwards, but it's the standard rice, meat and veggies on offer from the glass cubicle shop front come lunchtime at number 264.

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The Saigonese are early scoffers - 11am on the dot - and even though it's only midday, the selection is sparse. Fish, tofu, pork chops and sautéed beef. I plump for the caramelized pork chops and a slab of minced pork stuffed tofu, pickled greens, a bowl of cold pondweed soup called Canh rau bo ngot and a Nuoc Thit Kho dipping sauce which is a sweet chili fish sauce dipper. The earthy Canh (soup) gets its flavour from the bo ngot leaf. This set is as basic as it gets at these cozy-up-to-the-pavement-lean-to's. It won't win any gourmet competitions, but it's a quality fresh filler that'll see you through to the next scheduled stop, which without fail is at 7pm for Saigon's eight million-plus stomachs. As with other lunchtime lean to's the tucker at these kerbside truckstops is rustled up that morning. In the heat of Saigon, where fridges are still a luxury for many restaurateurs, freshness must come first. This lot'll set you back 8,000 dong or about 50 cents.

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Comments

What can I say. I have to try it. Thanks,

 

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