Keeping it simple and yummy

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One of bánh tráng nưá»›ng varieties with sunny-side up eggs as its stuffing

Many young people in Saigon call it the Vietnamese style pizza.

To some extent, the reference is correct, given the fact that since it was introduced in the southern city a few years ago, bánh tráng nưá»›ng has been modified, if not upgraded. Many sellers have added sausages, shrimps, beef, chicken, and even cheese. All these fillings are placed in layers on a rice paper before being grilled.

Even though the modifications are hailed by many for making the snack more delicious, there are those, like me, who lament that they have lost the dish's core values of simplicity and economy.

However, the original version of bánh tráng nưá»›ng is difficult to find in Ho Chi Minh City. The modified versions have taken over almost every street corner in the city, where it is sold.

But, I have some good news. I recently stumbled upon on a street stall on Luong Dinh Cua Street in District 2 that serves the original, basic versions.

Located in front of the Binh Khanh communal house, the stall serves the dish in three varieties.

First comes the bánh tráng nưá»›ng hành with shredded spring opinion as the only ingredient. Second is bánh tráng trứng, in which eggs are mixed with minced pork and spread on the rice paper. And, finally, the bánh tráng trứng ốp la with eggs, sunny-side up.

These are the basic versions of bánh tráng nưá»›ng in Da Lat, Nguyet, who runs the stall, informed me.

Compared to the new Saigonese versions, her grilled rice paper dishes are simple and cheap. But, they have gained many fans over the past six years. The stall was first located near the former Thu Thiem ferry station, and moved to the current location when the station closed in 2011.

According to Nguyet, the secret to the popularity of her servings lies in the sauce she spreads on the rice paper before adding other ingredients.

The sauce is made with finely ground tomatoes, minced pork, sugar, nưá»›c mắm (fish sauce) and corn flour, she said.

(grilled rice paper)

The Binh Khanh communal house, Luong Dinh Cua Street, An Khanh Ward, District 2

Open hours: 1 p.m. 9 p.m.

Prices: from VND8,000 to VND15,000

She gets the rice paper from Da Lat so the dish's authenticity is maintained, she added.

Nguyet also attaches importance to the way the rice paper is grilled. She said it must not be grilled in any modern oven, but on grates over charcoal. And, the grate should not be too big or too small, because its size can affect whether the rice paper is grilled evenly or not.

I placed my order at Nguyet's stall and ate the rice paper just as Da Lat people, with rau răm (Vietnamese coriander) the only accompaniment, and the dipping sauce made of ground tomatoes and red peppers.

As I felt the hotness of the newly-grilled rice paper and the spiciness of the sauce, I was suddenly seized with the desire to have the snack in Da Lat, next to a charcoal oven, feeling the chills of the foggy town. 

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