Not far from Nha Trang's main market, in an alleyway adjacent to a big old French colonial house, tables and chairs are set out and food's being knocked out. It's early evening, the boys up the alley are kicking a football about, a mother's jigging a baby on her knee and folks are biking home from work.
The proprietors of the roadside pancake shop are just hitting their stride. A frantic repetitive process of flicks, pours, fries and flips is in progress out front amongst the patrons' wheels. Banh xeo (fried rice-flour pancake) is made-to-order fare worth waiting for. Three battered, blackened cooking contraptions with coal braziers providing heat from below sit on the footpath. Each has four hotplates which are being worked overtime keeping the cakes up to the steadily growing crowd in the house.
The smoking plates are oiled up a touch, the freshest baby squids and little shrimps are flicked on for a fraction before the rice-flour batter is poured and starts to spatter. At this point, a handful of beansprouts are piled on and the dented tin lid is banged over the lot. It's lifted a couple of times for flipping and folding and, finally, the spatula gets under the browned, crisp flat cake for despatch to plate and then table.
This is one of the ultimate snacks in Vietnam, not so prominent in the north unfortunately. It's eaten with the standard southern side plate of lettuce and herbs and dipped into nuoc cham. Other snacks in the mix at this joint include tom bao mia (minced shrimp grilled around sugar cane) and some bite-sized spring rolls.
Beers, cakes and rolls for two big eaters amounted to about 70,000VND (USD$4.40, AUD$5.40).
Thong Nhat St