PHAN VAN HAN STREET
A long, narrow street connecting two of Saigon’s biggest arteries, Phan Văn Hân Street is lined with cheap food stalls frequented by locals and students from nearby universities. Just across the Thị Nghè Channel from the glitz and glamour of Saigon’s central District 1, Phan Văn Hân Street has a very local, unpretentious atmosphere. The street is densely packed with food vendors, shops, homes, businesses and motorbikes, creating an intimate environment where space (which is in short supply) is often shared. Snail and shellfish eateries – lit by naked fluorescent light bulbs – set up on the pavement next to the peeling plaster of old homes; bánh xèo stalls occupy local people’s doorsteps; soup vendors serve customers at tiny tables on a slither of sidewalk not more than a few feet wide. The scented smoke from all these food vendors drifts into the street, where their aromas mingle with the exhaust fumes from passing traffic.
This is a very lively little neighbourhood where all the classic Vietnamese street food dishes are well-represented. Come between 6.00-8.30pm to experience it at its busiest. Bột chiên (fried rice flour cubes that I like to call ‘Vietnamese French fries’) is a street food staple: find it at the corner of Phan Văn Hân and Xô Viết Nghẹ Tĩnh streets. The vendor here has been serving bột chiện for 20 years and has gotten pretty darn good at it. One of the most famous noodle joints in the area Lương Ký Mì Gia (1 Huỳnh Mẫn Đạt Street) is right at the eastern extreme of Phan Văn Hân Street. They sell all sorts of noodles but the dish that made them famous is mì vịt tiềm (fresh yellow noodles with marintated aromatic duck) – get here early because they run out of this dish fast.