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Simply Saigon: Ten snacks to satisfy your street-food cravings

By Trang Bui   December 6, 2017 | 05:01 pm GMT+7

What to do when mid-afternoon hunger strikes? Step out onto the street with this list.

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3 p.m. is the perfect time to find middle-aged vendors pulling their chè carts on the streets of Saigon, loaded with tapioca, mung beans, black peas, sesame, lotus seeds, longan, mango, jackfruit, and sometimes, even durian. 

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Don’t like the tapioca-based chè? You can pretty much try anything with this iced flan, from jackfruit to lotus seeds, and longan to jelly.

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It’s not a sin to get a mid-afternoon sugar hit, and if chè is not your cup of tea, try a small jaw exercise with grilled corn braised with oily scallions.

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Can pizza be an afternoon snack? Yes, if you replace the pizza crust with thin rice paper, cheese, ham, eggs, butter, sausage, scallions and pulled smoked beef. Grilled Vietnamese super-slim pizza is the star for mid-afternoon hunger, if you don’t mind a little grease and oil.

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Want something heavier? Xôi can fill you up until midnight, but might leave you craving for more. Xôi is glutinous rice and everything savory that goes with it: fried scallions, pulled chicken, smoked sausage, groundnuts, pork floss and pate. It’s on-the-go, cheap and hard to resist.

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The reason for mango salad addiction is simple: you have one bite, and you have to have another. The recipe is even more simple: sliced mango sprinkled with lime juice and a whole lot of dried, crushed chili.

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Stop in front of a highschool in Saigon at 3 p.m. and you’ll see vendors selling small bags of a spicy salad with tiny wooden sticks. That’s rice paper salad, mixed with quail eggs, pull smoked beef, Vietnamese coriander, and yet again, a lot of finely crushed chili.

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Pennywort juice is the perfect sidekick for greasy food, but it’s reviving alone too. Don’t expect much out of the taste, drink it for the vitamins and minerals you need mid-afternoon. It’s a decade-old home remedy, your Vietnamese grandmother would say.

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If you are no fan of anything green, opt for sugarcane juice. It’s everywhere on the street and very soon, you’ll be back on your feet.

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Duck fetuses are certainly not for first-time wanderers, but if you're feeling adventurous on your 100th afternoon food quest, dive in.

Photos by Phong Vinh, Ma Lum