Ben Thanh Market
A Street Food Grand Tour of Ho Chi Minh City
We spent our last day in Ho Chi Minh City with Geoffrey Deetz, a restaurateur and foodie from Oakland, California, who has lived in Vietnam for the past decade and operates the wonderful Black Cat Cafe. He and his Vietnamese girlfriend took us on a street food tour that included stops in District 4 (down a boggling maze of alleys); at a stall behind the giant Ben Thanh Market; at a bustling corner in District 1; and to a remote outpost in District 5. The food tally, in order of consumption: bun khot, dollar-size spongy rice-flour pancakes topped with shrimp and minced pork; luscious fresh corn milk; bun thit nuong, noodles with imperial rolls, BBQ pork, herbs, greens, and a good drenching of fish sauce; xoi ga, sticky rice topped with shredded chicken, chicken livers, gizzards, and crisp fried shallots; and finally, in a crowning explosion of flavor, tamarind crab, stir-fried in a giant wok with pork belly, garlic, tamarind, sugar, and salt, and served with crunchy-soft banh (Vietnamese baguette rolls) and cold beer.