VINH KHANH STREET
Apparently one of the favourite haunts of the notorious Vietnamese gangster Năm Cam (executed in 2004), today Vĩnh Khánh Street is one of the most popular places for street food in Saigon, especially seafood. Every night young people throng the sidewalks sporting trendy hairdos, tattoos, and the latest fashions from South Korea – you rarely see anyone over the age of 25 here. The atmosphere is electric: hundreds of small and large groups of friends hunker down at tiny red and blue plastic tables, splitting shells, cracking crab legs, clinking beer glasses and having a really good time. As if the thundering cacophony of laughter, traffic, and orders being shouted wasn’t enough, some enterprising teenagers pull up on the curbside with giant amplifiers strapped to the backs of their motorbikes and proceed to blast out karaoke for the ‘entertainment’ of all street food customers. There are fire eaters and street dancers too. To say that the food scene here is vibrant is an understatement: it’s choatic, loud, busy, oppressive, unrelenting and a glorious celebration of food, fun and youth.
Head to Ốc Oanh (534 Vĩnh Khánh Street) for seafood and shellfish. This is the most famous of all the seafood joints on the street. In Vietnam fame often leads to apathy and a decline in quality, but this is not the case at Ốc Oanh where the portions are big, the seafood fresh, and the service brisk and efficient. Try the ốc hương ràn muối ớt (fried sea snails with salt and chilli) and the sò điệp nướng mỡ hành (grilled scallops with spring onions and peanuts). Prices are a little higher here than elsewhere but it’s worth it. Be prepared to wait a few minutes for a table, and don’t be shy to shout over the din when it comes to ordering. Near the intersection with Hoàng Diệu Street is Quán BBQ Lúa (33 Vĩnh Khánh Street). The speciality here is grill-it-yourself barbecued meat. A small coal-fired stove is placed on your table onto which you lay chunks of marinated beef, pork, goat and fish. The sườn heo ngũ vị (pork ribs in five spice marinade) is delicious.