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I remember sitting in Quan An Ngon, sipping my iced coffee, eating a variety of grilled meats and rice rolls... and watching an old lady on her stool, making her golden yellow duck egg omelet in a mini wok. And she did it so fast it was mesmerising to watch.

They were paper thin, and I think used as an alternative wrap for their rolls. The tower of omelets next to her kept rising, and it was as tall as she was (sitting down) before her daughter took the whole lot away. When I left, she was still at it. A ladle of beaten egg. A swirl of the wok. Peel. Stack.

It was awesome.

William Leigh

Sounds fantastic and looks incredible.


It is spelled as Com Tam (with a M) not Com Tan (with a N) .
Tam means broken rice.


Oh, I have such mixed feelings about this project, Robyn. Not about your excellent and honest work, of course. But street food! Inside! Sigh.


You write so well. You've both captured and conjured up such a brilliant atmosphere in this piece. All your pieces are consistently top quality (not to mention the photos too), but this one still manages to stand out even amongst them. Have enjoyed your blogs for so long - thank you.



Thanks for the post. Com tam and cafe sua da were my morning staples when I lived in Saigon. By the end of your post I was nearly salivating and strangely even missing the traffic.
A tip: when you're next in Saigon find Nguyen Trai Street in District 1. It's across the park from the backpacker district. The Zen Plaza is located about midway down the street. If you start with your back to the Plaza, cross Nguyen Trai Street and head left. You'll eventually run into the best banh mi stand in Saigon and quite possibly all of Vietnam. A gentle-faced middle aged lady sets up shop daily at this spot for the evening rush hour. Next to her stand she grills these deliciously spiced patties on a bed of hot coals, stuffs them in a crusty baguette, drizzles a barbecue sauce concoction over the sausage and crowns the masterpiece with pickled vegetables. Needless to say I was a steady customer on my commute home. That was nearly five years ago so she might have moved on or been driven away by the periodic "crackdowns" on street vendors. If you find her, let me know. It'd be nice to know she's still serving up those amazing treats.


Now you got me thinking about old culinary haunts of mine in Saigon. Around the corner from my house on the edge of District 1 was a row of seafood restaurants. I poked around on Google Earth trying to pin down a street name until an internet search revealed that my old roommate had already done the hard work for me. Here’s his post.



Nice one Robyn...we root for the same team!

You are so right about it being about more than the food! So many lessons about culture and human behaviour to be learnt from that crouched position streetside.


The February 28th Splendid Table was all about Mexico (especially Mexico City) and had segment that might apply to the street food dilemma. In some restaurants in Mexico City, there is a woman who is responsible for ensuring that traditions are followed -- any changes to the menu or recipes must go through her. She doesn't cook, but only advises about traditions and enforces them when necessary. Perhaps some "keepers of tradition" are needed for street food, people who learn the techniques and pass them on to new establishments, food archivists and so on.

Link to the Splendid Table show (which is also available from podcasting services like iTunes): http://splendidtable.publicradio.org/listings/shows09_02.html


Thank for all posts about vietnamese food. They are all amazing, amazing even a Vietnamese-it's me.
I have studied abroad for 4 years. The longing for a little bit of sunshine and home town dishes on a gloomy winter day in a foreign country was sometimes so sad that I wished I could burst into tears.
It is very nice to know, about the world there are always people, who have an insatiable thirst for knowledge of foreign culture and one of its representations- the art of cuisine.
At last, an apology for my English.


thank you for evoking in me the delicious times i had in vietnam. :)


oh good one.
But i'm a light eater, so hanoi pho at 7am will help me fight any cold winter.
If you dont' like pho, how about bu'n cha ca' Nha trang. you must try nha trang fishcake bun soup. these meals is actually light like a milk cereal but the taste is memorable all day.


Great pics as always thanks!

Robbie Becklund

Very nice work, I to love street food and would be concerned about eating in shopping malls.


Found this very spot last week on my trip to HCMC. Fantastic food, probably one of my top meals there. The banh mi lady that shares the same corner isn't bad either. I enjoyed watching the environment in the morning, watching people going to work, and the Mai Linh drivers saluting the flag in the morning before work.

Thanks for the address, love the blog

Account Deleted

It's really delicious!

Sandra Turner

I agree! The experience one can get from eating street food is far different from falling in line at the food courts. Though we cannot assure of the health, street foods are still unique!

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