The Lunch Lady
Hoang Sa Street ̣
(across the street from 25 Hoang Sa)
Literally for years, I’ve been reading about The Lunch Lady whenever I would read backpacker online discussions about Saigon Street Food.
For reasons I can’t really explain, even after living in Saigon for over 4 years, I simply never quite got it together to go search for her. But today when my friend Tan asked me where we should have lunch – without hesitation I said “let’s go see The Lunch Lady.”
In Saigon, in fact, there are a thousand Lunch Ladies (probably more). But, only one seems to have captured the internet by storm. So I wanted to see why?
Surprisingly, we had no problem finding her. Tan met me at the Cho Ben Thanh bus station as I got off my bus – #13 from District 10. I jumped on the back of his motorbike and we headed down Le Loi Street, turned left on Pasteur, and then right on Nguyen Thi Minh Khai until we got to the Thi Nghe Channel. Unfortunately, just before the Thi Nghe Channel bridge, some recently installed street barriers prevented us from making a left turn to the area of the Lunch Lady. So we were forced to cross the Thi Nghe bridge, do a quick U-turn on the other side, and head back to the District 1 side of the waterway. Returning back into District 1, we took a right onto Hoang Sa running beside the Channel and then the second left to find a large “Lunch Lady” sign greeting us!
Both the large sign in English as well as a table full of western tourists gave me pause! Not the typical Saigon Street Food setting, I thought.
But, let’s eat!
I read that The Lunch Lady features a different food item each day. Today’s lunch would be Hủ Tiếu Nam Van – one of my favorite Saigon dishes. (I always order it saying, “không hành chiên” (no deep-fried onions). An aside – they bother my tummy.
Today was one of the hottest days so far this year in Saigon. At lunchtime it was a 35 C – that’s 95 F. So, the biggest treat of my lunchtime visit with The Lunch Lady was enjoying the beautiful large tree shading the dozen tables surrounding the cooking area.
In any case, the noodle dish was fine. Not extraordinary by any means, but okay. The 3 shrimp in the bowl were fresh and firm. The slice of pork liver was large and flavorful. The broth itself, however, was a bit on the bland side and left me overall, disappointed with my lunch.
I have found several great (multiple YUMs on our Yum meter) eateries in Saigon to enjoy Hủ Tiếu Nam Van- both as Saigon Street Food and in a sit-down restaurant.
But, todays’ lunch at The Lunch Lady left me with an “it’s OK meal” – just a YUM on our Eating Saigon! Yum meter.
UPDATE – February 2016: Hai and I enjoyed a Bun Mam lunch treat with Tung of XO Tours fame. Great to see Tung and enjoy together a very nice bowl of soup filled with fresh, delicious ingredients.
THE LUNCH LADY
Hoang Sa Street ̣(across the street from 25 Hoang Sa)
View The Lunch Lady in a larger map