If the notion of a zoo in Vietnam brings horrific visions of scraggy animals and sweating penguins (well, it might…) think again, it’s really not that bad. I’m not a zoo person, but in Saigon there’s very little in the way of strolling space. Saigon zoo is one of the only areas of relative calm in a city of 8 million ++ noisy nutters. At 8,000VD per person, it’s also cheap. The zoo authorities do have at least one eye on conservation. They were heavily involved in the successful reintroduction of the Siamese Crocodile to Cat Tien National Park. Although I’ll have to admit, zoo animals are fine, but there’s only so many I can look at before I want to eat one…
Carnivorous conscience pricked, I took my lead from the Hippopotamus above and ditched carcass lust for the street herbivore experience. Nguyen Binh Khiem street, which runs adjacent to the zoo, is as good a Saigon street as any to nibble your way along. Last time I blogged this area I scoffed the savoury Khoai My and the sweetooth-tastic Che dau van.
Today, this frying frauleine had switched tack from her previous gutter menu to bring on the banana fritters and sweet potato chips, or Chuoi chien and Khoai lang chien. ‘Chien’ means fry… I think. Chuoi means banana, Khoai is potato, Khoai lang is sweet potato. The sweet potatoes were what you would expect – ummm… hot, fried, slightly sweet carbohydrates, that’s it. Not unpleasant, but… so what. Snack food, for lard boys. Not a great fan, to be honest, but what the hell, it’s worth a nibble.
Fresh out the fryer, the blazing hot fried banana was another story. Sweet, moist & crispy all at the same time. The bonzer good batter firms to a frazzle on the outside, but retains a gloppy buttery batterness below before your teeth drill into the sweet ‘n’ sloppy banana kernel. Herbivore heaven for sure. Next time I’ll bring one for the Hippo, although he looks like he could do with a stretch on Atkins. 2,000VD a piece at number 25 Nguyen Binh Khiem street.