2. Sư Vạn Hạnh Street
In general, Sư Vạn Hạnh is a long, lively street but the section between Ngô Gia Tự and Nguyễn Chí Thanh streets is frenetic and jam-packed with excellent street food. The area is dominated by some run-down, Soviet-style apartment blocks. The area’s street-life is exceptionally vibrant since there are so many people living so closely together in this neighborhood. Vendors, casual eateries, food stalls, cafes and bars line the street, all in the shadow of the dilapidated apartment complex. Families and couples, young and old, take their seats on plastic stools at metallic tables and get tuck into the various street treats on offer. The contrast between the energy and color of the street food scene and the grim, grey, concrete bleakness of the apartment buildings is extreme and compelling.
Sư Vạn Hạnh street’s speciality is bánh xèo (savory crepes that are filled with pork and bean sprouts). There are dozens of places serving small bánh xèo cooked on circular trays over coal-fired barbecues. One of the most favorites is at 004 Lô H (literally ‘Block H’), where the family have been taking their bánh xèo business on the same spot for more than 14 years.
There’s also a good Chinese-style noodle outlet called Tai Phát at the corner with Hòa Hảo Street, where you should try the mì vịt tiềm with egg noodles and duck in a deeply aromatic broth. The noodles are sold from a classic noodle trolley decorated with painted scenes and dragons from Chinese mythology. Right at the southern end of Block H, there is an outstanding Vietnamese dessert stall, the place where is rammed with young Vietnamese gathering around the tiny tables in groups to enjoy some of the 16 different kinds of dessert sold here. All of them are colorful, gooey, sweet, and involve sticky rice, green bean, and coconut milk or something else. Although the textures and flavors may be unfamiliar to many foreign palates, the sheer variety and youthful energy of this stall make it a popular place on this street.