#067: Another Banh Trang [Vietnam] Part IITak's dispatch released on 4 May 2016

Vietnam Street Food

You peer out onto the street from your perch atop the small plastic chair, the same used for children back home. You hardly even notice the chair, it is far beyond the immediate sensory overload present. Smoke tumbles off of charcoal fires atop mobile stainless carts. The delicious smells of roasted meats and betel leaves ride the smoke through the air. The buzz of motorbikes, a constant at all times, merges with the occasional horn and the merciless thwacks of a vintage kitchen tool chopping.

You order one. What it is, you have yet to discover, but it matters not. Nothing that typically matters, matters here. Your brain is too preoccupied with the smells, the sounds, the sights.

A large plate, an assortment of greens, white spongy squares, banh trang—an edible paper made of rice flour or tapioca starch—and of course the charcoal-roasted beef wrapped in betel leaves. You pick up the circular banh trang. Your chopsticks grab a piece of the beef and drop it on the rice paper, followed by the greens, some bean sprouts and the sponge squares. You pour chili sauce over the spongy squares, which instantly absorb the stream. Tightly wrapped, you bite into it as chili sauce blasts in several directions. The flavours, a polygamous marriage beyond imagination, excite and impress.

You glance to your side, hands sticky with nuanced drippings, noticing the gentleman dipping the roll into the sauce for each bite. Another banh trang translucently shows your palm facing skyward, as your chopsticks once again transfer the desired items into place. The chili sauce is absent, patiently awaiting below. The rice paper is tightly rolled, and then dipped. No more mess, just intense satisfaction.

The smoke continues its dance from the charcoal piles, enveloping you in a mystical fog. The chaos of the street is somehow peaceful. Another banh trang, another collection of flavours, another dip, and another, followed by another banh trang. Who is truly rich in this life? Can wealth be measured with numbers. Another banh trang slips off the stack.

Thịt Bò Nướng Lá Lốt (Grilled Beef in Betel Leaf) Banh Trang
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