Getting all tastes gather in one dish

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Thanh - a small and very thin man - stands behind his glass shelf with different glass bowls containing ingredients to make bánh tráng trá»™n

The ingredients tell you right off that this is a dish that will hit the palate in several right spots - rice paper, green mango, shrimp salt, beef jerky, peanut, chili sauce, fried shallots, quail eggs, flagrant knotwed and kumquat juice.

Over the last decade or so, bánh tráng trá»™n has duly established itself as a highly popular Saigon street food specialty, one that is found just about everywhere in the city, from big avenues to small alleyways.

Like many people, I had taken to the snack in a big way, and enjoyed it very often, but the passion petered out after sometime. Moreover, some of the eateries where it was served did not look very clean, and I had become a bit more concerned about my health.

Then a man called To Tien Thanh rekindled the passion and made me fall in love with the snack again.

Thanh's small eatery located in the middle of a market on Hoa Hao Street in District 10 takes some finding, but the effort is well worth it.

Thanh, a small and very thin man standing behind a glass shelf with different glass bowls containing ingredients to make bánh tráng trá»™n, is busy, and not ordinarily so.

I first though he was listening to music on a pair of earphones, but he was using them to take orders from customers who would call in early and come to his shop to collect their dose of bánh tráng trá»™n for the day.

This was certainly a first for me. In my admittedly short history of eating bánh tráng trá»™n, I'd never seen a vendor have customers order the snack on phone. I found it even more surprising that he strictly followed the "first come first served" rule, always remembering exactly whose order came first even when the shop was very crowded.

Compared to the usual prices for a "bag" of the snack, VND7,000-10,000, Thanh's shop charges VND20,000.
But that does not put off people from waiting in line for their turn.

"I like the bánh tráng trá»™n here because it is very clean. I feel safe

when I eat it here. It is also very delicious compared with other places," a girl told me as she and I were stood in the middle of a line of motorbike-mounted young couples, all waiting patiently.

 
 Bags of bánh tráng trá»™n made by Thanh
Thanh never use his hands to touch any of the ingredients. He has spoons or large picker on each bowl to take them.
"Cleanliness is the priority here. I make all of these ingredients
myself. I can assure you of their quality. Only the rice paper is not from me. But I get it from a reasonable source," Thanh said.

"If any ingredient is left, I throw them all away. I never reuse them the next day."

Thanh had arrived in Saigon ten years ago from the Mekong Delta province of Ben Tre, seeking a new life.
He had no job then. "I just stayed at home and looked after my two nephews."

"Then I saw the older boy buying a bag of what he called bánh tráng trá»™n to eat, almost every day. I tasted it and found out that it was really delicious. But I think the ingredients were not very clean. That was the moment I decided to open a small stall to sell the snack."

A bag of bánh tráng trá»™n made by Thanh, except from its large size, i

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026, Block S, Ngo Gia Tu tenement, Hoa Hao Street, Distrit 10, HCMC

not very different from a usual bag found at other street vendors. However, he does not directly put squeezed kumquat juice and beef sauce into the mixture but keeps it separate in a small nylon bag along with a kumquat so that  "customers can keep their bánh tráng trá»™n for as long as they want to eat without worrying that the rice paper will all become wet and soggy."

Bánh tráng trá»™n is a snack to be savored with a lot of attention paid to the sourness of kumquat and green mango, the sweetness of the beef sauce, the crunchiness of roasted peanuts, spicy chili, and the natural sweetness of rice paper.

So I have started eating bánh tráng trá»™n again, and this time,
I think there is no stopping.

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