Bánh Tráng Trộn in the Alley
Imagine my surprise when, during Hai and my recent Escape from Vietnam holiday travels, we were challenged by a young woman in the middle of the Aegean Sea on the Greek Island of Santorini, as to why we had not yet discussed bánh tráng trộn on Eating Saigon!
“Well, Hai and I have been busy,” I defensively answered her. (That should have been obvious from the photo below.)
Actually, we had a fun time discussing Saigon street food with the young American doctor with whom we shared our Greek isle hotel’s cliffside jacuzzi. She had just completed her travels in Vietnam and now was exploring the island of Santorini with her friends. She raved that her favorite food in Saigon was bánh tráng trộn. She loved it!
Of course, I’ve enjoyed bánh tráng trộn, one of Saigon’s most ubiquitous street foods, many many times – at roving street food vendors and in personal living room-based vendors in small alleyways. It’s usually very yummy and sometimes it’s just excellent!
But, last week when we spotted an old woman sitting on a short blue plastic stool at the front door of her Saigon alleyway home (with her bare feet ankle-deep in quả quất and mango peelings), serving up bánh tráng trộn to a line of waiting motorbike-mounted young couples, I knew it was time to honor the request made to me by that young woman on the Greek island.
The bánh tráng trộn began with a mound of thin, very dry rice paper, cut into strips (the bánh tráng) – almost plastic-like in its feel – placed in a large mixing bowl. From there, the combination of various flavor ingredients began in an artful assembly.
Tossed together – tiny dried shrimp, bits of dried and barbecued squid, peanuts, spicy chili oil and a bit more chili powder, a beef-based sauce, MSG (of course, it’s Vietnam), sugar, fresh ran răm (Vietnamese coriander), shredded green mango, pork fat (again, it’s Vietnam), a squeeze of quả quất juice (similar to tangerine juice), and a few other not-easy-to identify herbs and spices (secret ingredients). Oh yes, and then a quail egg!
The old woman who has been serving here from her living room for the past 11 years, subtly taste-tested her creation. She made a last minute flavor adjustment, scooped the entire concoction into a small plastic bag, inserted a pair of chopsticks, and handed Hai our alleyway culinary treat.
What an amazingly complex mixture of flavors and textures sensations – MAJOR YUM! The dry, plastic-like rice paper strips actually absorbed all the flavors and moisture of the various blended ingredients and became a chewy flavor burst!
Another YUM YUM winner on Eating Saigon!’s Yum Meter.
OPEN FROM 3:30 p.m. TO 11 p.m. [CLOSED SOME SUNDAYS]
CAUTION: Quite a challenge to find. This one is for the real street food adventurists! The Google Map alleys simply don’t line up with reality?! Good luck
Bánh Tráng Trộn in the Alley
* address on the house corner of this house eatery = 285/145A Cach Mang Thang Tam
* address on the house directly across the alley = 252/32 Cao Thang,
View Bánh Tráng Trộn in a larger map