The Tweet in response to my recent meal at Ba Xi in District 3 at 135 Vo Van Tan Street was simple…”Next time try the banh trang phoi suong at the same place – best dish in Saigon.” I dragged a friend who is a quite squeamish about eating Vietnamese food to the restaurant to give this one a try. How someone manages to subsist in a country without even eating the cuisine is beyond me, but that is a story for another day. Recommendations from people in the know rarely disappoint, and this one was no exception.
First to arrive was a giant silver basket stuffed with every herb known to Vietnam. Had this been bought at an American grocery store, I can easily see spending $20 on the contents jammed in there like some sort of herbal flower arrangement. Double that price at Whole Foods! We had no clue if proper herb protocol dictates whether one is allowed to gorge on the entire basket, but we did. No one seemed to bat an eye as its contents were whittled down one stalk of leaves at a time.
Next came cucumbers along with pickled miniature onions, carrots, daikon and garlic. And just an observation here…A pickled vegetable has yet to cross my path in Vietnam that I haven’t liked. Herbs, pickles, hot pepper paste and a dip made from fish sauce. What other flavors could a guy possibly ask for with a meal?
The pork was soft, moist, and truly good, but much to the chagrin of the waitress I peeled away the fatty edges and quickly discarded them like yesterday’s trash. Yeah, I know. The fat is from where all the flavor is supposed to burst forth. But the fat is also what waistlines suck in first, and of course turning into a seething mass of blubber the size of Jabba the Hut is not in my plans over here. So far so good in that area I am happy to report. I have actually lost a bunch of weight since starting this food journey. Maybe I can market the Vietnamese Diet and make millions one day. Move over Hollywood and Atkins Diets. But I digress.
Each piece of rice paper is a blank canvas for piling on this gluttony of ingredients. Just as I was admiring my handiwork of herbal ecstasy stacked to new heights, the wall mounted fan’s breeze made its sweep and blew it all over the floor. Oh man. How could I make such a rookie mistake? I saw two waitresses snicker and point. Oh well. I am glad I can at least provide this joint some entertainment.
I could eat bánh tráng phơi sương over and over again and I assume it maintains some modicum of healthiness with all the various greenery ranging from purple perilla to coriander. At least I keep telling myself it was healthy. Aren’t green leafy things what they keep telling us to eat more often? I stuffed my food hole with the recommended daily allowance and then some. Actually the waitress glanced over at our now depleted basket and said, “Choi oi!” which means “oh my God” in her vernacular.
I say choi oi as well in terms of just how enjoyable this one is.