You’ll find this seller of goi cuon outside Ben Thanh market in central Saigon. She occupies the same spot alongside a Bun rieu seller. Goi cuon are small rice paper rolls filled with vermicelli noodles, des herbes, cucumber, shrimp and pork. They have wee (he) Chinese garlic chive handles poking out the end and come served with a pungent
mam nem tuong dip. You’ll find them all over Saigon from late morning and particularly from 4pm onwards. 4pm seems to be the beginning of prime Saigon street snack time. It’s not just a case of throwing things inside a rice paper wrap, as Sticky Rice realised after moving to Hanoi. You need a bit of snazzifery to make a goi cuon sing. That said the street rendition isn’t always top drawer.
Here’s the same dish served at Cafe Terrace on the ground floor of the Saigon Tower at 65 Le Loi boulevard and just 5 minutes walk from Ben Thanh Market. It comes with those wanky sculptured sprigs you find in all the wannabe posh places in Vietnam. And there’s a nuoc mam (fish sauce) dip, not the stinky ol’
mam nem tuong you’ll find on the street. It’s a bit bigger, bit fancier and a shedload better. And so it shlould be. The street deal costs 5,000VD a roll. The version at Cafe Terrace costs… more… definitely more. Can’t remember the price, but we’re in the 50,000VD region for the plate you can see above. Much as it pains me to say it, but when it comes to street vs. chic in the goi cuon wars – in this one particular battle – chic absolutely wins hands down on taste, if not ambiance. Fresh, light, fab, weightwatcher’s friendly and quite nice to look at too. Mucho to likeo. More rice roll snaps.