Gỏi Cuốn Tasty Street Food Snacks – 23 of 365

Gỏi Cuốn

The 68 story Bitexco Tower rises 861 feet above District 1.   So what does a gleaming new skyscraper complete with a Jetsons worthy heliport have to do with food?  Lots actually.  I was wandering around the base of the skyscraper and couldn’t help but notice what a clash of worlds the Bitexco is with the surrounding streets.   Little mom and pop shops and restaurants carry on with their trade in the tower’s shadow, and I got to thinking that many of these traditional places once stood on the land where this new face of Vietnam rises.   I wondered to myself what used to be here and noted all this new construction is eating up everything that gives District 1 some character.

I am all for progress but do hope all we now enjoy is not lost in the future’s wake.  A Hog’s Breath Saloon occupies the base of Bitexco and how many pho joints gave way to this new place few Vietnamese will every go to buy expensive sandwiches.   Lucky for us food lovers some old Saigon still remains on the sidewalks surrounding Vietnam’s second tallest building.   I happened upon a narrow storefront selling gỏi cuốn, or Vietnamese spring rolls, and wanted to sample this place before a skyscraper devours it, too.

I stood out on the sidewalk with no clue about the place other than seeing a metal food cart stuffed full of the rolls and a huge vat of soup boiling under a striped awning listing the address as 48 Ngo Duc Ke.   Most every Vietnamese shop and restaurant has an awning with the address on it such as this joint.   It’s a nice little touch that makes finding places easy and many places have the street number in their shop name.  What’s the worst that could happen?  It won’t taste good or I get sick for a week?  I ordered three and minutes later had a small plate of them accompanied by a plastic bowl of warm hoisin sauce.

Making Gỏi Cuốn Out On The Street

A gỏi cuốn tastes largely the same whether in Salt Lake or Saigon.   There’s only so much one can do with lettuce, prawns, mint and chives rolled up into a white piece of rice paper.   So it’s all in the sauce…and much to my delight not just any sauce but a fiery sauce as hot as the temperature inside this joint.   Warm hoisin with peanuts, birds eye peppers, and sliced daikon and carrots adds some texture, heat, and sweet to the brown paste.

The crunch of fresh herbs, the springiness of vermicelli, the toughness of the rice paper shell, and the softness of the shrimp all meld together in each bite.   If only for a few minutes I was in food heaven deep in the traditional Vietnam I seek.   And at three for 18,000VND, or about 85 cents, the price is definitely right.  Of course triple the money buys the same gỏi cuốn in the more corporate chain setting of Pho 24 or Wrap and Roll.  Thanks, but I will pass.  Let the tourists gawking around District 1 think the chains are the real deal.   I just hope little places like 48 Ngo Duc Ke don’t go the way of another 60 story building with a chain place  in its lobby place offering up a fast food version of the hoisin.

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Categories: Vietnamese Food

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