Lunch Lady on Saturday – 335 of 365

Saturday’s Soup

The Lunch Lady made famous by Anthony Bourdain serves a day of the week specific meal deep in a residential neighborhood off Nguyen Thi Minh Khai Street on the fringes of District 1.  Almost six months have passed since one of her soups has passed between my lips.  My how time flies.  Suddenly I realized I only needed a Saturday lunch to complete her menu.

With only a few weeks left in Vietnam, I am so glad a friend had asked about the Lunch Lady to get my butt in gear to once again revisit her tiny squat stools under a small awning.  Off we went in search of a Bourdain worthy lunch, and arriving at 11am sharp meant we’d have first chance at the freshest of meals.

What kind of soup this was I have no idea, and showing a picture afterwards to a couple of Vietnamese friends got me no further than shrugs of the shoulders and nervous giggles.  One did ever so helpfully mention whatever I ate was “good for health,” but what exactly made it good for health remained elusive even to him.

While this bowl of spongy sausage, tender roast pork, perfect shrimp, and onions was not quite a food experience that knocked my socks off, I can report I pushed away from the tiny plastic table with a smile on my face and contentment in my belly.  The rich, yellowish broth was sweet, salty and spicy all mixed in one and adding a few squirts of lime rounded out the delicious harmony with a hit of acid.  The ropy pink noodles kept sliding from the clutches of my chopsticks, and I am sure our table must have looked like amateur tourist hour.

The Lunch Lady

Conversing with the Lunch Lady in our broken Vietnamese seemed to garner a bit of respect from her, and I wish we could have told her we weren’t the average tourists sent here on the coattails of Bourdain.  Heck, I’d have settled for being able to ask her what kind of soup this was which I did try most unsuccessfully.  I’d have loved to have thanked her as well for seven different lunches over the past year, all worth the trip to her corner of the sidewalk.

That’s OK though.  Even after several years of living in Vietnam the place remains a riddle to me cloaked in mystery and intrigue.  This final lunch is much the same.  I may not know exactly what it was called, but its visual image and tastes will linger in my memory long after my time is up here.  Awakening my senses with such tasty food is a far better memory than any black and white words slapped together to form the dish’s name.

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Categories: Vietnamese Food

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