Breakfast in Sài Gòn
Sài Gòn is by far the craziest place I’ve ever seen. Having only travelled to the U.S. and Mexico, that isn’t saying much. But based on what I’ve seen the past couple of days, I can’t imagine a more amped-up, wild and woolly, free-for-all street scene. Thousands upon thousands of motorbikes and scooters drive by blithely flaunting virtually every traffic rule…sidewalks are expressways if your lane gets too clogged. An hour ago my taxi driver pulled a u-turn amidst several dozen bikers. No screaming, a bit of tooting…no big deal. It’s all very surreal. From afar it appears like utter chaos. When you’re in the midst of it (at least from the backseat of a chilly taxi) it’s almost serene.
The worst thing here, aside from the heat, the sheer amount of traffic and noise that comes with it, is the humidity. Being a rather big lad doesn’t help a bit (I’m on my third shirt and it’s not quite noon!). Just opening my hotel room door invites in a hot, muggy wave of moist air. The rooms, lobby and even the elevator are air-conditioned, just not the hallways. There is no respite at any time of day. On Day One I figured on an early start to beat the humidity. I took this shot of a street vendor’s brazier just before dawn. It’s not out of focus – just severely humidified.
My mission that morning was to have Op La at Hoa Ma Quan. I first read about this Vietnamese take on bacon & eggs at Eating Asia. A somewhat fortunate coincidence, they’re located only three blocks from my hotel. I’ll take that as a good sign. As I was up and about way too early and breakfast wasn’t quite ready to be served. Luckily a few street vendors were already in action. I needed me some coffee and on the next block a kind lady was serving up cà phê sữa đá (iced coffee with condensed milk).
About a quad of rich Vietnamese espresso infused with a big, thick glob of super-sweet condensed milk. Coffee so strong it’s almost chocolately. Hot water is served alongside to diffuse things a bit. For me, the best way to start the day. Time for breakfast!
Op La comes from the French for Oeuf la Plat. A couple of sunnyside-up eggs, fried gluten, some Vietnamese ham and bacon with fried onions and scallions. Served alongside are tomato, cilantro, cucumber, pickled daikon and carrot and a toasty baguette that was pulled out of the oven 30 minutes ago. Ask for a side of pâté and some rich mayonaisse and get to work. Rip off a chunk of bread, slather it with pâté & mayo, cram it full off veggies, pork, a big, runny yolk, fold, dive in. Best. Breakfast. Ever.
Coffee: 5,000VND = $0.25
Breakfast: 28,000VND = $1.50
If you ever happen to be wandering round Sài Gòn in search of a great, dirt-cheap brekkie, be sure to pay the friendly folk at Hoa Ma Quan a visit.
Hoa Ma Quan, 53 Cao Thang, District 3