Bánh Tráng Trộn Rice Paper Salad – 174 of 365

Bánh Tráng Trộn

Imagine five full size western guys cramming into a subcompact Toyota taxi like it was some sort of clown car, and you’ve got the journey to this most interesting meal.  In fact, this is one of the more memorable meals to cross my path in a long while.  My friend and coworker, Mike, suggested a group of us head to a bar at the foot of the Saigon airport’s runways to spend an afternoon hanging out and watching planes.  Some heavy rain cooled things down perfectly, too.

Diem Hen at 97 Quang Trung Street offers a roof top patio with a bird’s eye view of the airport and a steady stream of planes low overhead.  I know 99% of the world couldn’t care less about 747s and A340s skimming the rooftops but for five of us pilots this was heaven with cheap beer.   The only thing missing was a menu full of food, but being that this is Vietnam an unorthodox solution to life’s shortcomings is never far away.

A group of young women eating some noodle like product right from clear plastic bags whipped up my hunger even more, so of course I had to ask from where this food had magically appeared.  The bar staff shook his hand back and forth in the ubiquitous symbol meaning “cannot” and I saw any form of sustenance slipping away.

Our View

Out of the blue one of the girls offered me a bag of this stuff since they had one extra.  It had come from “down at the crossroad” which was a hand gesture off in the distance.  Her kindness blew me away, and a couple of us dug in.  These dry strips so thin as to almost blend in with the air are tossed with tiny dried shrimp, cilantro, oil, quail eggs, peanuts and what I can only describe as fire.  And when I say fire I mean this mess lit my lips up and a can of Heineken only spread the burn.  This is good stuff.

After a few minutes the peppers turned anesthetic to suddenly numb my lips.  I could have eaten three bags of this stuff the burn was so insane.   Yes, I love spicy food.  Using Google translator on an IPhone we later asked one of the bar staff to identify this food.  They debated amongst themselves and finally decided upon bánh tráng trộn which translates literally as cake mix.  Whatever it is, it is delicious and I hope to once again find it.

What I love about Vietnam is how the days just so randomly unfold.  All you have to do is keep an open mind here and just let things roll.

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Categories: Vietnamese Food

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