Photo: Burning incense at a Cholon pagoda.

Banh trang nuong

Quick food on the go

Banh trang nuong

Something that I particularly love about Saigon is the fact it is a very walkable city. As you meander through town on your tour of the various sites you may work up an appetite, but you don’t always want to stop for a proper meal. If you’re looking for quick food on the go, stop and grab one of Saigon’s favourite snacks, banh trang nuong, a rice paper treat so delicious and cheap you might be back for seconds… or thirds.

Banh trang nuong, or banh da to those up north, refers to a large rice cracker served with different toppings. Many variations exist, but the most popular form is found all over parks in Saigon, especially 23/9 Park on Pham Ngu Lao and Con Vien Van Hoa park, directly in front of the Reunification Palace and adjacent the Notre Dame cathedral.

A mixture of pork, scallions, and red peppers are placed in the centre of the rice cracker. Next, a quail egg is broken and added to the mixture, which is followed by the cracker being placed on the grill. The egg cooks while the rice cracker is slightly tenderized by the flames. Once it is done, it’s removed from the heat, smothered in hot sauce and folded in half. The end product is a small, spicy and crispy treat.

Carts that make banh trang nuong can be tricky to find. On your walk through the park, you may find yourself passing unmarked cooks, who grill the rice cracker over small clay pot grills on the ground, or watching mobile food slowly peddle past. The easiest way to spot a banh trang nuong food cart, marked or unmarked, is by the colourful assortment of toppings, which stand out next to the small grill. The makers of this dish usually set up streetside, instead of in the centre of the park, as they can then easily serve motorbikes as well as foot traffic.

This crunchy piece of goodness has been a staple of my Saigon walking diet regardless of the fact that I am a notorious lightweight when it comes to spicy foods. You’ll probably want to grab yourself a drink to go with your snack and luckily there’s usually someone close at hand. And don’t feel bad about getting more than one — I can’t help myself either.

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Last updated on 10th January, 2017.

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