Sunrise and roosters stirred me out of bed at the crack of dawn much to my ire, and a refrigerator largely devoid of food greeted me. And yes, even living 14 floors up in a highly urbanized environment is no escape from the annoying daily barnyard alarm clock. I wish they would just eat those birds already. My breakfast choices were yoghurt or more yoghurt, and the cup of yoghurt now resting on my coffee table just wasn’t doing it for me. I looked out the window at Binh Thanh district’s dense sprawl and soon received inspiration for a breakfast walk.
About ten minutes away at the top of the long meandering street market is a pushcart with a simple handwritten sign advertising súp cua or crab soup. Jackpot! I love crab as do a ton of other people I observed. This battered little stand seemed to be the hottest drive through in town as a steady stream of motorbikes tried to outmaneuver each other in rolling up to the head of the line. One advantage of being on foot is that my two feet proved highly adept at outmaneuvering them all.
Of course in a former life I would have never ever ever have even contemplated eating takeaway from such a joint of dubious sanitation, but Vietnam has a funny way of numbing our senses to that which once gave us great pause. I am thankful for reverse evolution as dropping my inhibitions has opened up a whole new delicious side of Saigon with new discoveries such as this one.
Any guesses what will cause a huge commotion and grind the market wheels to a halt?…a white dude inserting himself where westerners usually dare not venture and speaking Hanoian Vietnamese in a street market in Saigon. My crowd loudly parroted all my Vietnamese words such as “one crab soup,” “yes,” and “thank you.” One lady even got so excited that I could say the word for “one” that she got in my face and started saying “one, one, one, one, one, one” just one too many times for my liking. I just chalk it up to a most annoying cost of doing business over here.
The soup was worth all every cent and then some. The tapioca starch thickened broth’s texture reminded me very much of hot and sour soup that has sat too long at some lackluster Chinese takeaway back in the US, but it was good nonetheless. Strands of crab filled every bite while mushrooms, carrots and omelet added a perfect earthy contrast. Hot peppers, cilantro and a dash of soy and fish sauces spiced it all up nicely with each bite was a taste pleasure. I saved the two hard boiled quail eggs for last and debated whether to down them or not. Though I finally sucked them down, I still can’t get past the mental image of a baby quail pecking around. I think eating the fertile duck eggs has forever ruined my perceptions of what that yolk actually is.
A measly half a dollar bought some deep immersion into the local scene that is so unlike anything I could ever find back home. Both the soup and my surroundings were delicious additions to this journey across Vietnam one bite at a time.