Am I cheap? Or is it just the food I eat? If YOU are cheap and/or you like cheap food you could do worse than Ben Thanh night market. The central market shuts up shop around 5:30-6pm and the night market stalls spring up along the two minor side streets alongside the main building. In a city where waiters start shuffling their feet and hovering with “finish yer bloody coffee, grab yer coat and f*** off” looks from 9pm onwards Ben Thanh night market is a boon. You can stay and scoff your way round here until 2am(ish). And there’s heaps to choose from. Sea snails, live crabs, chao long (offal porridge), spring rolls, pancakes and octopus.
The night market opened in 2002 and judging by the number of eager scoffers – it’s a big hit. I’ve only ever pigged out on the Phan Boi Chau street side, but I liked the look of the fresh scallops I spotted on the other side of the market, so I’ll be over there sharpish. On this night I stopped off at Huong Nam Binh Thuan’s stall to grab some Banh xeo(8,000VD – a pancake filled with beansprouts, shrimp and pork) and 1 round of Banh Can (1,000VD – and egg flour savoury, not to be confused with Banh Canh which is a thick noodle soup – more of which soon).
The Banh Can are a pleasant enough snack food, heated in a small clay dish (see below) and dipped into a pretty bland sauce. Light and airy, nowt special but they do prepare the way for the main attraction. I have only tried maybe 7 or 8 different Banh xeo and I need more study time (recommendations please…) From my limited experience they seem to come in two different types; the slightly soft crepe brand and the crunchy, edging towards taco territory type. Banh xeo demand dipping sauce of the fish sauce variety which was passable on this occasion. they also come with shrubbery; basil and lettuce leaves tonight. At this spot, the bean sprouts were fresh (so far, so easy), but I’m a crunchy fan and these Banh xeo had crepe aspirations. They weren’t bad, and they certainly weren’t a grease-fest (which is truely a Banh xeo catastrophe in the making) I just wouldn’t go out of my way for more of the same from here.
It’s well worth stopping by this night market, order a Saigon beer and enjoy a pleasant evening nibbling your way around. I haven’t finished with this place yet.