Lunch Lady on Tuesday – 110 of 365

Tuesday's Hot and Sour Soup

The fetid stink rising off the murky, presumably sewage laden canal separating Binh Thanh and District 1 envelops the short concrete bridge stretching across it.   Quick passage across is usually the only thing on my mind as our hot days stir up a maladorous air only possible in Vietnam.  On this very bridge I crossed paths with a guidebook clutching tourist obviously lost as not many westerners venture towards the direction from which I was fleeing.   This woman asked me if I knew of someone called the “Lunch Lady” and if so could I point her in the right direction please.  Of all places to get flagged down…

The Lunch Lady was actually within spitting distance and I quickly tried to explain the easy directions to my new friend who turned out to be from Switzerland.  My instructions to turn right, left and then right were causing some sort of agitation to spread across her face, so I just offered to walk her there.  She curtly thanked me with, “No, I can find it. I don’t need your help.”  I didn’t say it but of course I did think she was the one walking while lost and flagging me down for help.  She must have realized her dream of eating at the Lunch Day was about to crap out like the canal below so reluctantly she set off a few steps behind me.

The Lunch Lady's Food Cart

Five minutes later I entered the Lunch Lady’s domain with my new friend in tow.  Each day of the week brings a specific meal to her street food cart tucked away in a District 1 alley neighborhood along my normal walking route, and I hadn’t really thought to stop by again until now.

Tuesday at the Lunch Lady seemed promising with her mobile food cart piled high with shrimp, hard boiled quail eggs, fried fish balls and mounds of banana leaves stuffed with a pork like sausage.  Are you noticing a trend here?  I can’t seem to escape eggs lately.  Pinkish udon noodles both round and fat lined a wicker basket, and I watched as she tossed these into the reddish liquid along with mushrooms, black pepper, and chopped green onion.  My Swiss friend appeared totally disinterested and I can only wonder why someone would walk all this distance seeking out a meal only to ignore the full experience.

As if I couldn’t tell with my taste buds, my bowl’s china pattern had the word “delicious” imprinted over and over again in the ceramic.  Trust me, I didn’t need this visual reminder telling me this combination of hot and sour is some savory goodness, and the meats add a welcome sweet and salty contrast.   Lunch Lady properly executes Fung Shei in a bowl, and this seems to be a recurring theme in the best dishes I find on this food tour.  I vaguely remember Swiss Miss going off on some diatribe about the United States while I enjoyed my lunch.  But I didn’t care.  I was more interested in enjoying this bowl of soup in a gritty neighborhood far off the tourist trail than anything she had to say.

Yes, we never know the path our walks will lead us down.  The Lunch Lady is a very pleasant Tuesday surprise.  This soup is a winner indeed and several more days of the week beckon exploration at her tiny little sidewalk shop.

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Categories: Vietnamese Food

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