America’s beefiest blog – A Hamburger Today – hit Blogdom a few short weeks ago and is fast becoming a fave here at Pieman Towers. What it offers the burger-interested is a fascinating account of fast food exoticism from the land of lard. Beyond Mickey D‘s, Burger King and Wimpy I very much doubt I’ve ever experienced a truly authentic hamburger and after reading A Hamburger Today I’m more than a little keen to get my laughing gear round an all American pair of buns. During our last attempt in Saigon, the Lotteria came up with a bumper loada burger bollocks. Ever since I’ve been meaning to snout out better. The expatmungus Al Fresco’s and Mogambo in District 1 have both been recommended to me, but I’m… you know… more street.
I find this silvery shack at 24 To Hien Thanh street. It’s been here for just one year and seems to be part of a mini-chain of Saigon burger carts called HP.
I think we’re talking family run franchise cart here. Dad flips the burgers at the rear and junior assembles the hamburger kerbside. In something of a first for me, I see that the meat is housed in a streetside fridge. No, not an icebox, but a real fridge, on the street, plugged in and working.
Big shame they don’t grill their burgers. That’s one lard heavy frying pan you’ve got parked at the rear of the stall there.
Burger girl keeps an impeccably clean stall and wears a HP embossed apron. There’s a menu out front too. Inside the sesame bun we have sliced tomato, cucumber and a trio of sauces. I’m too busy snapping to tell her to hold off on the various sauces before I have the chance to inspect the bottles from whence they came. None of the three bottles have any decipherable words on, but from the taste alone I think we’re talking crap mayo, crap chilli and crap ketchup. The three craps.
Don’t let that put you off though. This is a lot better than you might expect. The burger tastes freshly made, the salad bar extras create a reassuringly healthy option feel. The bun is slightly, and oddly, a bit sweet and unfortunately the sauce trilogy does raise some serious taste bud issues. Any future purchase will get the condiment treatment at home.
Vietnam is quite the mishmashmosh of the food world, innit? It’s quite odd eating something so un-Asian in a very Asian environment. But, surprisingly streetburger stalls like this are not that rare and seem to be quite popular. I’ve scored similar bites in Hanoi. The French left their baguettes, the Chinese dumped their dumplings and the US Armed Forces left the humble hamburger in their wake. Saigon style streetburgers. Not great, but definitely not total bollocks either.