Start pounding the pavement of Saigon from 6pm onwards and you’ll see clandetsine culinary classics of every shade hogging the street side. It’s unlikely you’ll need to travel far for a taste of the nightime nosh scene. Darkness brings out a few distinct dishes that are missing during the day. This stall in District 12 doles out one of them, Chao trang (Rice porridge). There’s no sign telling you what’s on offer, and don’t even think ‘menu’. Locals know what it flogs, most Vietnamese would know too, foreign folk – even with a smattering of pidgin Vietnamese – are left clueless.
Most chao dishes come with various carnivorous nibbles inside, some veggies and seasoning, but Chao trang is nowt, but mushed up rice. According to this story, some diners add salted Chinese eggs or white radish. This stall had the eggs, but I opted for a side dish of shredded dried pork. It looks like knackered string and tastes pretty salty, but you do need something to catapault a chao trang out of bland-land. It’s healthy, it’s hot, it’s a snip at 3,000VD and it’ll fill you up, but that’s about all it’ll do. If you’re not into food that fills-with-no-frills, forget it. Move on to the next stall. Check out the Chao trang photostream and Download chao_trang_movie.mov