Rice paper salad

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Often soldby bicycle vendors, the street food snack has become a signature dish of the southern city.

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Bảo Hoa

A trip to hcm City wouldn"t be complete without tryingbánh tráng trộn, also known asrice paper salad.

Often soldby bicycle vendors, the street food snack has become a signature dish of the southern city.

Made of shredded rice paperand a number of other ingredients including beef jerky & green mangoes, its taste is a mixture of sweet & sour.

Nguyễn Thị Phương Thu, 54, is one of those vendors và she has sold the dish on a corner ofBầu cát Street in Tân Bình Districtfor decades.

BICYCLE VENDOR: Nguyễn Thị Phương Thu (far back) has been selling rice paper salad và other snacks on her bicycle on sài gòn City"s bầu Cát Streetfor years. VNS Photo Đăng Nguyễn

"I’ve been doing this since 22, now I’m 54," she said.

"I normally get up at a quarter to lớn 7am, wash và prepare my plastic bowls, và get all my stuff out here. I’ll get here at 8, 8.15, or 8.30, depending on how long it takes to prepare everything.

"I’ll be here until midnight. When I finish cleaning up it will be one in the morning. Then I will park my tricycle at thai Cát market, which costs me about VNĐ150,000 (US$6.3)a month, và go back to the place I rent."

Being affordable is part of whythe salad is so popular in the cosmopolitan city.

"The living cost in thành phố sài gòn is high, & labour workers don’t get paid much, only VNĐ2-3 million ($84-123) a month," Thu said. "So snacks lượt thích this salad are convenient for them."

MAKE DO: Thu uses a small plastic bowl khổng lồ mix the salad. VNS Photo Đăng Nguyễn

Every day is a long day for vendors like Thu. But over the years she has secured someloyal customers.

"I have customers who had had my rice paper since they were small, now they have gone khổng lồ study abroad & still missit.

"Those who have moved khổng lồ live in other countries also missit, and sometimes asktheir mothers to buy it from me & send khổng lồ them."

With rice paperas the main ingredient, the salad can be as simple as having shrimpsalt and cooking oil as the only other components, or it can have a dozen ingredients & become a delicacy, like how siêu thị owner Diệp cố gắng Viên does it.

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STREET FOOD ELEVATED: Diệp nắm Viên (left) prepares rice paper salad for delivery at his shop on Nguyễn Thượng hiền Street in District 3. VNS Photo Bảo Hoa

"This snack is unique. It tastes sour, sweet, nutty, spicy and rich at the same time, và people never get fed up with it," the 51-year-old said.

"It’s been around for a long time. I had it since I was a student. But it was not elevated then.

"When I opened my own siêu thị I added several spices khổng lồ create my own unique flavour và make people remember it.

"My salad has shredded rice paper, shrimp salt, dried fried onions, shredded chicken, kumquat juice, cashew oil, beef jerky sauce, shredded green mangos, và quail eggs. Eleven ingredients in total."

Viên owns a small cửa hàng on Nguyễn Thượng hiền lành Street in District 3, which is considered the "rice paper salad street" of the city.

His staff work inan assembly line, witheach of them in charge of adding certain ingredients to the salad.

"We địa chỉ salt và the dried ingredients first, but will only địa chỉ oil, kumquat juice & mix them together when the customers order," Viên said.

"For those that want to lớn take it away on trips I will put the laska leaves, green mangos & quail eggs in a separate bag to keep the rice paperdry."

A FEAST FOR THE EYES: Rice paper salad portionsat VIên"s shopthat are made up of shredded rice papers, beef jerky, dried shrimp, peanuts, green mangoes, & laska leaves. VNS Photo Bảo Hoa

His thoughtful preparationshavewon the hearts and stomachs of many customers.

Đặng Tấn Quốc Triều, 21, from Thủ Đức District, said: "I’ve had rice paper here several times & I think it’s delicious.

"Vien’s rice paper has a variety of flavours. Delicious. Indescribable."

For those like Nguyễn Huỳnh Ngọc Bích, 28, from District 3, rice paper salad is not only a daily essential but also a favourite childhood snack.

"It has been my favourite dish since I was young," she said.

"There"s a cửa hàng close lớn my house, it is clean, và their salad suits my taste, so I have it almost every day.