Valerie Luu and Katie Kwan, the duo behind San Francisco’s popular Vietnamese pop-up cafe Rice Paper Scissors, recently spent a month traveling around Vietnam researching new recipes. Vietnam’s street food vendors were the inspiration for their pop-up café, which appears on front porches, in garages, and on sidewalks around the Mission neighborhood. On their trip, Valerie and Katie spent much of their time visiting the homes of Vietnam’s street food vendors. “We watched them cook and in some cases ate a family meal together,” says Katie. “We left feeling we understood their legacy.”
“Vietnam’s street vendors are mostly women and they are assertive, hard working, and skilled,” says Valerie. “Some work in teams of ten and deliver over 300 orders a day. Some are solo acts and carry their restaurant on their back, and some band together to co-promote dishes.” They documented their trip and will soon be launching a web video series featuring their favorite eats, including some of their picks below.
Bach Tuoc (Grilled Octopus) “Chi Tưởng cooks up caramel-marinated baby octopus on charcoal, served with rau ram and a sauce of salt, pepper, and young kumquat.” Near the intersection of An Duong Vuong and Nguyen Van Cu Street in District 5, Ho Chi Minh City, open 5pm-late
Sup Cua (Crab Soup) “Crab, quail egg, and corn soup, served with steamed pig brains and fried chicharrones. We helped Di Dung peel hundred of eggs before service and had pruney hands to prove it!” Hoa Binh (between Ly Tu Truong and Nguyen An Ninh), across from the STS Tower, open 2pm-10pm
Cao Lau (regional Hoi An dish) “This is the must-eat dish in Hoi An, which includes handmade rice noodles, served with braised pork, rice cracker croutons, and herbs. We chilled and ate lunch with Chi Hien while she prepped her pork, and scarfed down one of her bowls along the river later that night.” Near Bach Dang and Nguyen Thai Hoc, to the right of the bridge, open 5pm-10pm
Pho Cuon (Hanoi-Style Rice Noodle Rolls) “This is a restaurant with plenty of little red stools to sit on outside. It’s a nice departure from the tourist district. Here, they take fresh pho sheets (the same ones they use to make noodles) and roll them up with sauteed beef, herbs, and a proprietary chili sauce.” 26 Phố Nguyễn Khắc Hiếu, Quận Ba Đình, Hà Nội