Meet Nguyen Thi Thanh, or better known in these parts as the “lunch lady.” Due to the relentless coverage of television (Bourdain visited her last year on No Reservations) and the blogosphere, Saigon’s own Nguyen Thi Thanh has become the David Chang of Ho Chi Minh, creating legions of foodie followers and elevating her little street corner stall to Momofuku-like stature with her rotating cast of soups, from Monday’s bun Thai to Sunday’s smorgasbord of bun thit nuong, bun nem nuong and bun cha gio. Today, a meal by the lunch lady is a required “to-do” for all visitors to Saigon.
Located near 23 Hoang Sa Street (down the alley on the right side), this little stall run by Thanh and her family is usually mobbed by patrons, and it is not unheard of for a line to form as she begins serving at 11:00 a.m. This is due to the fact that all her ingredients are bought fresh that morning from the market, and when she’s out of food she’s done for the day. As Gastronomy Blog reports (this is the blog that turned the world onto her), Thanh has kept her prices below 13,000 VND, despite rising costs, and refuses to raise them out of loyalty to the local workers who frequent her.
Eatdrinknbmerry.com was fortunate enough to visit Thanh on a Friday when she was serving up piping hot bowls of bun bo hue, made of a broth the color of “fiery red, a sign of dense chili sauce and probably annatto seeds,” and filled with beef and cha, or pork sausage patties. Topped off with congealed pork blood (huyet) and noodles, this soup has been known to make travelers, in just a matter of minutes, reconsider ever leaving. Something tells me, Thanh would be just fine with that.
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