Jim’s still not snuffed it. He’s keen on live and dried larvae, hogs down eggy bread, chirps incessantly and looks like he’s gonna make it. Sadly for him, his novelty value has decreased and the days of the desk perch are long gone. Now he sulks in an empty, newspaper lined beer box on the floor and his persistent chirping attracts an increasingly savage barrage of navy language. However, I think Jim’s biggest problem in life won’t be linguistic. His arrival at Pieman towers coincided with a recent street food discovery which is fast becoming a top fave.
To Hien Thanh street stretches between airport artery Cach Mang Thanh Tam street in District 10 to the main road heading into Cholon (Chinatown). I cruise here to score nibbles from Big C Supermarket (Roquefort, live fish, veal and beef, a crappy Vietnamese fruit cake I’m quite partial to and Halida beer which is rare in Saigon). The street itself is a long, crowded, noisy mess. Nothing unusual there.
However, around 4pm two or three stalls sprout streetside all selling the same stuff – Chim cut chien bo (Deep-fried bird). While Jim with all the trimmings does sound tempting, he’s still way too small and young for anything more than the lightest of afternoon hors’ dourves. His time will come. While the clock ticks I’m happy to tear into some of his more rotund relatives lodging at this stall.
It’s simplicity itself. One tray of marinated chim, one of cucumber, dipping sauce bagged up and ready to go, a basket full of banh my and a well hot wok. I order two birds from this stall outside 134/A7 To Hien Thanh street.
This feathered friend flogger slings my snacks into the fat, while she prepares the rest of my take home box. I tell her to hold the cucumber, go easy on the sliced crinklecut pickled raddish/carrot combo and throw in a banh my. She obliges as my birds spit, fizzle and crisp.
Each chim costs 5,000VD, the executive sized banh my is 2,000VD. The whole deal comes to a hefty 12,000VD. I’m not entirely sure what bird species I’m eating. I didn’t major in bird taxonomy, but we could be squarking sparrow, small pigeon, dove or possibly quail. I used to eat Chim quay (pigeon) a lot in Hanoi. That was bigger, but this is better. The meat is extremely tender, juicy and it falls off the spindly bones.
The sweet marinated seaps through the entire carcass. You don’t really
need the sugary nuoc cham dip this comes with. The bird tastes
good enough tout seul. However a classy, Anglo-Saxon dip twist I
recommend is shoving one chopped up chim inside your banh my and then proceed to dip and scoff.
This is a fabulous street dish. You don’t see it all over town and where it does appear it’s only after 4pm, but it is definitely worth checking out. Add a salad back at your gaff and you’re all set for a quality dinner. I’ll be honest and say the pre-4pm bird drought is troubling, but so long as street birds taste this good, Jim is safe… probably.