One-cent shrimp pancakes sizzle up Saigon street food scene

Deep-fried savory shrimp pancakes at an eatery in Saigon's Tan Phu District have been a favorite street food staple for nearly two decades.

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Deep-fried savory shrimp pancakes at an eatery in Saigon’s Tan Phu District have been a favorite street food staple for nearly two decades.

Photo by Phucvo98.

Pancakes are one of southern and central Vietnam’s most popular street foods. Photo by Phucvo98.

Deep-fried until a crunchy golden color, served with sweet and sour fish sauce and fresh herbs, the shrimp or mung bean pancakes (banh khot) have tickled Saigon tastebuds for 18 years. The eatery is hidden at the end of an alley at 25/55 Van Cao Street, Tan Phu District.

The owner, stationed at a small table at the front door amid several jars of ingredients and piping stoves, sells her freshly made pancakes at only VND2,000 ($0.09) a pop. Her menu consists of only shrimp or mung bean pancakes.

Every day, the shrimp are cleaned, decapitated and stir-fried with salt and pepper, while the mung beans have their shells removed before boiling. Pancakes are made from a rice-flour mixture, with a few shrimp or mung beans placed on top, before being deep-fried till golden in advance of serving.

On the table is a jar of sweet and sour fish sauce, next to some pickles, from which the customers could serve themselves.

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The shrimp pancake tall at 25/55 Van Cao Street, Tan Phu District. Photo by Thi Thi.

To best enjoy the dish, customers are advised to put a pancake inside the small bowl, sprinkle with a few herbs, before putting the sauce inside. The crunchy pancake would absorb the sauce this way, making the flavors blend more finely.

As the pancakes are small-sized, an average eater could have up to 10 a time, while big eaters could easily guzzle up 20. Despite having eat-in seats, the stall focuses on serving takeaways due to limited space. Next to the pancake stall is a refreshment stall, providing a drink to the needy.

The pancake stall opens from 11:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily, with breaks on the 1st and 15th of each lunar month.

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