I’ve always liked this place, but this is the first time I’ve eaten from here. I like it because it’s the only scoff-shed on Cach Mang Thang Tham Street I smell before I see. The eight Banh xeo wood burners and the two large Bo la lot barbecues belch out thick, perfumed, barbecue fumes across a one hundred metre radius. It’s the heavily scented, charring, sweet, la lot leaf sticking it to my nose. It’s a quality Saigon pong. One you’ll find at the junction with 01 Bac Hai street, Phuong 15 in District 10.
Shedfront, and we really are talking shed, it’s hot, very hot. The young female chef above was sweating like a Narwhal in Namibia, poor thing. But, Banh xeo and Bo la lot are dramatic dishes. Fire, fumes, meat, grease, sweaty chicks. Vietnamese food prep. doesn’t get much better than this. Watch the cameraphone film (4.4MB)
to see what I mean. I thought the photos were gonna be wicked from this, but they came out a bit blurry and unfocussed which is a shame. What is it with digitals and nightime? Maybe it’s just me? More snaps here.
The Banh xeo are mini. More Ben Thanh night market-esque than the utterly gobtastic Dinh Cong Trang street number. Just the pancake batter, beansprouts and pork. No prawns included here. Bit greasy. And served with fresh lettuce, basil, riep ca (fish mint), cai be xanh (mustard leaf) and a very sweet, hot nuoc mam (fish sauce). The Bo la lot, pictured cooking here, consist of scraggy, fatty beef, la lot leaf and a sprinkling of chopped peanuts. It comes with slices of starfruit, cucumber, green banana, bun (cold vermicelli noodles), rice paper to wrap everything in and a sweet/sour mam nem (pongy fermented prawn sauce with pineapple). More on mam nem in these comments.
I won’t prattle on about either dish too much, just to say sometimes the place is more impressive than the food. This is just such a place. The food is average. I did order a takeaway which maybe took some of the edge off, but even allowing for the non-street experience, I think this is a wee bit weak in comparison to the classic Banh xeo and their way good Bo la lot – hit the links to learn more about those and read the comments to find out more on the la lot leaf. Here’s a pic of the Cach Mang Thang Tham Bo la lot spread.
Even though the food ain’t stella, I would recommend tripping along to this joint. It’s fun, firey and cheap. Three Banh xeo and two orders of Bo la lot cost 25,000VD (about 80 whole new pence). I cadged a Chao trang with pork strips for the toad on the way home bringing a family dinner for three in under a quid. Nice. Oh, and incase you didn’t catch that – yes – the toad eats streetfood. He’s mad for it. Now go watch the film again – yum.