The favorite afternoon snacks of Saigon

By Ma Lum   April 4, 2017 | 11:28 pm PT
The favorite afternoon snacks of Saigon
Clockwise from top right corner: bot chien, banh trang nuong, banh trang tron, bap xao and bo bia. Photos by VnExpress and Ngoi Sao
Who needs second lunch when you can snack?

It's 3:30 in the afternoon and somehow your tummy thinks that you skipped lunch, even though you did not. Here are the favorite snacks you can easily find on any Saigon street.

Bot chien (fried rice cakes)

This is a street dish originating in China but made and loved in Saigon. It can't be simpler: you fry rice flour on a large flat pan, cut the batch into bite-size cubes, break an egg on top, and top with green scallion.

It is served hot and crisp with a mixture of sweet rice vinegar and soy sauce. Add some shredded green papaya to balance out the oil.

Banh trang nuong (rice crackers)

A specialty of the Central Highlands city of Da Lat, banh trang nuong has now stood among the kings and queens of street snacks in Saigon. It is dubbed as the “Vietnamese pizza."

On burning charcoal, a thin rice cracker is grilled with butter, scallion and egg before minced pork, sausage and dried shrimp are added on top.

Locals love to add a lot of chili sauce on top for some extra heat. (And you should know by now that many Vietnamese love their pizza with a lot of chili sauce and ketchup.)

Banh trang tron (rice paper salad)

This simple dish has been loved by so many generations of teenagers in Saigon. It is made of shredded rice paper mixed with dried shrimp, roasted peanuts, boiled quail eggs, shredded green mango, fried shallots and fresh herbs.

The salad should appear next to the definition of "savory" in all dictionaries. You can't find a better snack that can give you a perfect blend of heat, sourness, sweetness and saltiness.

Bap xao (stir-fried corn)

The corn is quickly fried in butter, with added dried shrimp and green scallion, then served hot.

Watching a vendor conjure up a delicious dish in just seconds is an experience itself.

Bo bia (fresh jicama rolls)

A sibling of the more popular goi cuon (spring roll), bo bia is what many locals think about first when they think about afternoon snacks. You are more likely to find these colorful rolls at cheap eats than in fancy restaurants.

Thin strips of jicama, together with Chinese sausage, dried shrimp, fried shallots, fried egg and herbs, are freshly rolled up. The jicama should feel a bit warm, coming right out of the pan. Pair the rolls with a peanut-based lightly sweetened sauce.

Interstingly, there is a dessert version of the dish called bo bia ngot, or sweet bo bia. The traditional rice paper is replaced by a wheat flour wrap, and inside you will find coconut flakes. Both versions are must-tries.

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