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Street Food in Da Lat, Vietnam (long)

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Street Food in Da Lat, Vietnam (long)

cheyenne | Jun 25, 2002 01:44 AM

We ate in a couple of restaurants but the Chow prize in Da Lat went to the street vendors. I think they were so numerous for such a small town because (1) the town is hugely popular as a tourist destination among the Vietnamese themselves (there was a profusion of clearly non-outsider touristy knick-knacks to buy here) and (2) it's a relatively small place so you can conceivably find each and every one of the street food vendors during a day's wander..

Terra Cotta Pot Cooked Rice Things with Egg. Unfortunately, we weren't able to communicate our wish to know what they were actually called in Vietnamese (we communicated instead, evidently, that we also wanted to purchase some Green and Yellow Gelatinous Things, sigh...) But back to the TCPCRTEs. They are best described as a sort of dumpling/mini pancake. A woman made them on a special lid of a large terra cotta pot (w/coals inside). The lid was slightly convex with about 25 little 3-inch diameter cup-divots built into it (about 1" deep); each cup had it's own cute little lid. She ladled a bit of creamy white rice batter (about the consistency of half and half) into each little cup; then, into the center of the pool of rice batter, she spooned a dab of raw egg scrambled w/chives. Then she covered it with the little lid. None of them finished at the same time so she was constantly covering and uncovering, ladling, spooning egg, checking on which were done yet, and finally scooping out the finished dumpling (imagine a three-armed woman playing 'memory' over hot coals). The final product resembled a egg with the white & yellow and she served them in small bowls of a sweet/tangy clear sauce. She started you out w/the sauce and a couple meat balls, then as the rice dumplings cooked, plopped finished dumplings into your bowl continuously until you (with much dramatics) signed to her that you were stuffed! Then she charged you about .30 cents. Amazingly, she began with about a 5-gallon cauldron of the rice batter and went through the entire lot each morning (we were repeat customers, much to the amusement of the woman and her Green Gelatinous Thing selling buddies). Did I mention that they were maybe the best things we ate the entire trip? silly me. I can only give vague directions (if you have an English speaking hotel, they may be able to direct you): From the traffic circle (facing towards the market; lake is behind and on your right), go up the long skinny stairway to your left. turn left on the street at the top and follow it as it curves away from the town center. After maybe 1/2 km, there will be a wide (shorter) stair going down into a neighborhood area on your left; there is also a small market and then a bridge. The TCPCRTE woman is here around the foot of the stairs in the mornings (there are lots of stools and tables set up and some other vendors).

Other street food we tried included: Deep fried blobs of cut up sweet potato (very good, but only if fresh). Crepe-ish batter skillet fried, stuffed with bean sprouts, shrimp, some paste, folded over in half, and dipped in a sauce. It was in Da Lat we finally broke down and tried the Vietnamese sandwiches (which of course always looked great, but are sketchy when you see that they've been sitting in a window all day in the heat w/fresh cilantro, cucumber, etc. that may be washed--but that also may be your problem because we're cautioned not to drink the water), scary-looking meats, and various mayonnaises that are obviously NOT refrigerated, etc. But damn are they good. And hell, even the Green Gelatinous Things were pretty good.

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