I’m sure half the trick of a successful streetfood hunt is knowing how to look, not just what to look for. Much like a beachcomber scopes what appears to be a barren stretch of shoreline only to spy an edible species of kelp, enough clams and razorshells to feed a family of four and a washed up, half-submerged crate of ripe pineapples from Jamaica. It takes time to see your surroundings as forage. The same goes for streetfood in my current universe. Take the guy above on Nguyen Du street in District 1. He sells banh trung chien – slabs of fried sticky rice and ground beans – from his bicycle pan, scolding hot and wrapped inside a banana leaf.
Now how come I’ve never seen this peddled on the streets before? Well, I have. But only over the last month or so. And there’s no way this is a new street dish. It’s a bit of a slap in my own face to admit I’ve only just spotted this. Clearly some work is needed tuning up my beachcomber instincts. One slab is 5,000VD. It’s skin peelingly hot. Fried sticky rice must have some killer heat retention quality to it. I had to let mine cool off for nearly an hour before I could attack it. It was still warm, salty, rather greasy, but not over chewy or gumstickingly annoying. This is not bad streetstodge, so long as you’re not looking for an immediate nibble. More snaps here. We also covered the similar, but seasonal, banh Tet before.