Is of having a homebase is getting known by the local vendors. Whenever I return to Saigon after some time away I make the rounds
My first month in Saigon I found a market at the end of the backpacker area. There is a stall that serves a mean bun nem nuong, and next to them is a juice lady. The first time I went there the lady put her hand up to wave me in. I was close enough so without thinking I gave her a high five.
It was kind of awkward at the time, but now it’s a thing we do every time I go back. I’m there at least once a month, if only to collect my high five, and she smiles and put her hand up ready to high five, then makes my orange juice with no sugar.
Sweet tofu lady
I never would have thought you could say sweet and tofu in the same sentence, but that was before I met the sweet tofu lady. This concoction of tofu, ginger, and coconut sauce is a delicious street snack that satisfies my sweet-tooth after lunch.
This is a common dessert across Asia, and in Saigon it is known as dau hu. I was an immediate convert and the sweet tofu lady knew it. When ever she sees me she gains an extra spring in her step knowing that she has an easy sale coming up. She sometimes sees me on the other side of the street and she will call out when she sees me. It’s like she has a sixth sense and knows where I am.
The coconut ladies can be found in the heart of Saigon, next to the Ben Thanh Market. I try to avoid the market as it is the one place in the city where people try and sell you stuff, but I can’t resist the charms of these two ladies. I don’t know where they are getting their coconuts from because they are consistently the freshest coconuts I’ve had in the city. As an added bonus the coconuts are always served cold.
Banh Mi Lady
When I was staying on Nguyen Thi Minh Khai Street I would visit this banh mi lady almost every morning for breakfast. I get an egg roll without meat and I would have to say it’s as close to perfect you can get for an egg roll.
I don’t don’t want to say perfect because that sounds hyperbolic, but every time I have one I can’t find any fault. The eggs are cooked just right, the bread is always crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside, and it is topped with chilli’s, seasoning, cucumber, coriander, and pickled carrots and daikon radish. She is around 18 Nguyen Thi Minh Khai in the morning (with Mr Banh Mi) until around 10am, and in the afternoons around 4pm.
Dragon fruit lady
Technically I should be listing her as fruit lady, as she has a fine array of tropical fruits. I come here for the dragonfruit, so dragonfruit lady she is. The great thing about being a regular is that I don’t even have to think about fruit selection. She sees me coming and picks the best two dragonfruit for me, and I don’t have to pretend that I am going to buy anything else.
Orange juice ladies
Another orange juice vendor makes the list, this time near where I used to live. These ladies have a great juicing operation going on and you can’t go wrong with a large cup of ornage juice for approximately 50c USD.