Cheeseburger in Paradise – 207 of 365


During my morning jaunt deep into the hot, humid, sticky, smelly, noisy, simmering, awesome maelstrom beyond the guidebooks otherwise known as Binh Thanh District, I spied two western women drinking coffee at a sidewalk shop.  Even though apartment towers such as mine are full of westerners, most venture no further than the driveway to catch a taxi to points far beyond this area.   Their one way flight out is a shame really because this patchwork of chaos to me is the true Saigon in its purest, rawest form.

The women seemed totally consumed by their Lonely Planet guidebook, and I thought good for them that they have landed beyond its pages where the average person dare not venture.  But then again, I selfishly want to keep this area pristine and all to myself.  People need to take their backpacker junkets elsewhere!   Why can’t I be the sole beneficiary of the stares and utmost surprise by the locals that westerners do indeed dirty the soles of their shoes outside of District 1?  I’m kidding of course, as I do want everyone to see this more authentic side of Vietnam.

Western Food in Vietnam

Much to my surprise the women flagged me over to their table.  They bitterly complained the taxi driver had set them down here in this neighborhood and the lines on their guidebook map didn’t match up with anything surrounding them.  They were looking for the Lunch Lady of all people, and I gave my nod of approval before sending them off in the right direction.   Rarely have I ever seen two people high tail it so fast which is a shame for slowing down would have allowed them to soak in such a new experience.

Talking in German to these two women in a fully Vietnamese neighborhood snapped me into some sort of weird place where suddenly I craved Western food.   Just how good can American food be deep in Binh Thanh at a tiny takeaway joint called Yummy Bread at 252 Xô Viết Nghệ Tĩnh Street?   For sure this is no McDonald’s, but I did appreciate the air conditioning and the fact that my sous chef wore gloves while slapping together the food.  But someone please forward her the memo to change the plastic handwear after handling money or vigorously rubbing nose and hair.

Baby steps I guess.  Baby steps.  Not that it matters what she did as this sort of behavior doesn’t faze me in the least anymore.   Yes, as my taste for all foods Vietnamese sharpens, my standards continue their slide over an abyss not even the hand sanitizer I used to carry could degerm.

A slather of ketchup and slice of processed yellow American fromage melted into every nook and cranny of a piece of lettuce transported me back 30 years to the elementary school lunch room.  The tiny hamburger tasted exactly like one of those served on the light green plastic trays by the lunch ladies wearing their funky white hairnets.  Remember those thin spongy patties that clearly could never be accused of being 100% all beef?  Even the sesame seed bun had that squishy white bread quality so familiar to carboholics all across America.

And please note the cheese, lettuce, and tomato were strangely placed under the “beef” rather than on top as is customary in the West.  All that was missing was overly greasy fries, milk from a tiny carton stinking of rotten cardboard, people shooting spitballs out of straws, and Mrs. Neely blowing her whistle and yelling we were too loud and rambunctious and to knock it off.

School food and post traumatic food disorder flashbacks to fifth grade right here in Vietnam.  Who would have ever thought!

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Categories: Vietnamese Food

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