Yesterday morning, shot into the old quarter with a two-fold purpose. Get some stitching done on some strides and get some breaky in the eating orifice. Outside the tailors, I eyed a little side road that wasn't so familiar. Even after almost four years, this section of the capital throws up surprises.
When on the lookout for a new meal in a strange street, it is best to edge along so as not to miss a whiff on the air or a crack in the wall restaurant. Not far up, sheltered under a jerrybuilt tarp arrangement, I caught this woman's eye. She was steaming rice pancakes.
I winked. She motioned to pull up a pew. That was good enough for me. A nod's as good as a wink to a blind bat or......whatever! Anyway, pants were in for the stitch, bike was parked and food was coming.
Walled in by blue plastic and her steaming machinery, pancake woman is a one-person assembly line. A ladle of thin riceflour batter is smothered evenly on a fine cloth steaming pad, the lid is whacked on for about half a minute, and the resultant skin-like crepe is carefully peeled off with a cook's chopstick. On an upturned metal tray, the skin is laid and plied with the filling, predominately a mix of minced pork and finely chopped tree ears. Flat out on two steaming pots, it takes her about three minutes to get a six crepe serve together, expertly timing the rolls, pours and smothers.
It's a one table affair, this street lean-to, and on it she's deposited fixings of fresh chili, lime wedges, some hacked up herbs (coriander, Asian basil, Vietnamese balm and purple perilla) and individual bowls of dipping sauce (nuoc cham).
Three minutes are up and, after cutting the pile of six crepes up the middle with the ubiquitous blue-handled scissors (best bloody kitchen utensil ever!) and dumping a fistful of dried shallots on top, they're mine.....all mine! After my first half is munched, the order goes in for a repeat. Texture is the star here: the crunch of the shallots and the silky slip of the pancake almost start my involuntary turettes-like food moaning happening! MMmmmmm!
Later, pancake woman cracks an egg atop the crepe, leaves it on for an extra shot of steam and it slides down nicely thankyou. Banh Cuon here starts at sparrow's fart and runs to about 11am. In other pockets, pancake steamers operate for lunch and dinner. It's a grand snack at any hour.
two serves of crepes, two eggy ones - 20,000VND (USD$1.25, AUD$1.70)
Banh Cuon, on the footpath outside 9 Hang But St