Nuts. Roasted chesnuts to be exact. The commoner’s Christmas streetsnack of choice on the streets of London a hundred years ago or so. For all I know the 21st century FairTraded, EU stamped, bearded treehugger version will be this season’s hit with the hip back blighty-way. In Saigon Hat de, as they’re known, are seasonal and a snip at 5000VD per 100g. I’m useless with weights. Never quite know what 100g, 500g, 1kg etc. means in hard numbers i.e. whether we’re talking 4 oranges, 20 strawberries, 4 dried camels, a couple of fillets of cod or whatever. Turns out 100g of Hat de, during this controlled experiment at least, results in 13 chesnuts in old money. Enough for one, pathetic for two.
This guy sells his nuts on Hai Ba Trung street opposite the market at the junction with Nguyen Huu Cau street in District 1, not a million miles away from the ‘famous’ Banh xeo, a Cock tai streetstall, a very decent Chao ca and a respectable Com ga. If you look at the snap above you can see this seller’s ample nuts are spread out on the 3-wheel barrow tabletop for passers by to fondle, stroke or buy as they please. He roasts each nut in a hot pan full of rock salt, which you can just see on the right, for thirty minutes, or by clicking that link. Which one? this one. After half an hour his nuts are steaming hot and fit to burst. Quite a handfull I imagine.
They’re salty and sweet and nutty (oh really? you don’t say). The heat cracks open a few of them allowing the salt to seap in. Those that don’t crack need a bit of mouth to nut action to get at what’s inside. If you also tongue the nuts on the outside, you get a not unpleasant rough, rustic, salt sensation. Not for everyone I guess. But I found it quite yum. So, to recap. Nuts. Not bollocks. More snaps here.