Open-air Evenings

Smack in between slimy succulent street food and indoor, air-con restaurants lies the genre of Vietnamese eateries known simply as 'quán ăn'. At these establishments you're still sitting on plastic chairs of varying heights (ranging from 1 1/2 to 3 feet off the ground), but you have a menu to order from and a waiter or waitress who'll attend to your every need throughout the evening.

The basic 'quán ăn' usually centers around drinking, with middle-aged Vietnamese men making up the majority of the demographic. The food accompanying the drinks is mostly seafood- cooked in a no-frills fashion.

My new found love for baby mussels had me ordering none other than 'Hến Xào Xúc Bánh Đa'. A dish of stir-fried baby mussels with peanuts, sesame seeds, lemongrass and chili. You're given a large toasted rice cracker to scoop up the mussels. Just divine.

Saigon Red beer with ice cubes- an absolute necessity on a balmy evening in Southern Vietnam. A good 'quán ăn' (such as this one) will have servers constantly replacing your beer's slowly melting ice cubes with new ones- keeping it chilled to perfection.

Don't expect to sit down for dinner here without at least one slightly intoxicated diner asking you to (making you?) pound beer with him. 'một trăm' means 100 in Vietnamese but is also a call to down your icy mug in one go. Who am I to reject this friendly offer of intoxication?

On the left stands a street artist who'll sketch your mug for a very reasonable price. He actually didn't try to sell me his services but..

He did ask for my autograph. No charge buddy.

* There's a clutch of well known 'quán ăn' restaurants on Nguyễn Tri Phương street, south of Ba Tháng Hai street (District 10), although just looks for sidewalk plastic tables with groups of inebriated men cheersing every happening of the night.*

Stay GlobaL.


Ravenous Couple said...

Glad you liked it! We like to recommend things you might not find so easily here in the thui is the other item you should try if you get a chance. it's veal, roasted rare...fantastic!

Judy Lee said...

Awesome!!! I love your posts!

Rock Portrait Photography said...

I eat at those particular restaurants at least two or three times a week, as I work at two of the schools in the area.

It can be impossible to hear yourself think with the combination of noise from both the diners and the traffic, and I've seen some fairly ordinary drunken behavior (throwing up at your seat, then continuing to drink and eat as if nothing happened, then throwing up again).

Still, the food is usually marvelous, and I enjoy banter with the more friendly of the waitresses.

A. Rizzi said...

True, what the food may lack in finesse it definitely makes up for in soul. The other night I tried "Chim Se Nuong" for the first time- Grilled sparrow. Tiny little things which you eat bones and all..the head is especially interesting. Do try next time.


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