This end of District 1, at the junction of Mac Thi Buoi Street and Dong Khoi Street, isn’t a streetfood mecca. It’s far too classy and the punters are far too up their own arses to scoff at street level. Maybe that’s a bit harsh, but despite the appearance of a motorbike clogged thoroughfare this is prime real estate in Saigon, where the dollar dollies like to come spend. In among Mango, Gianni Versace and Ralph Lauren is the wee stall to the bottom right of the picture above. She sells Banh bao (Steamed pork filled dumplings) which I think are Chinese in origin. She’s been in the dumpling game at this street junction for 17 years. Now get this for a working day – she doles out the dumplings from 6am to 12pm every day. Ouch. On average she sells (I think she said) around 100 Banh bao a day (or did she mean there’s 100 in a pot??).
One dumpling costs 7000VD. Rammed with chili spiced pork and a quail’s egg. The outer white, kinda scary looking, rice flour meringue layer provides a soft lunge into the meaty middle. I’ll admit, I’m not really a fan of this Hue dish, but I’m a sucker for the street steam hit whenever the lid comes off one of those pots above. This is snack food and far, far lighter than it looks and it looks like a rock. Not sure what that dusting on the Banh bao below is, but I’m guessing it’s purpose is decorative only.
I suppose my biggest gripe with these is pretty pathetic. They just don’t look like something you should ingest. More like something a clown would throw in a circus. If you like your meat with rice flour, give it a whirl. It’s an interesting bite.
UPDATE: See comments. Visit Maki for a comprehensive rundown on how to make these. I even commented on her post way back. Yet I still managed to call this Banh bao – Banh beo (until I edited this post) after a sharp eyed commenter pulled me up – cheers;)