Jordy Comes Alive, an American living in Ho Chi Minh City for three years, has developed a passion for local food. He has spent time exploring alleys and markets to discover the city’s culinary scene. His experiences and insights have been captured and edited by Tuoi Tre News.



A video by Jordy Comes Alive showcases the making of ‘bột chiên’ at a stall in District 3, Ho Chi Minh City.

Over three years ago, I relocated from Cambodia to Ho Chi Minh City. My first month was spent exploring different neighborhoods in the city. On my third day, during dinner time, I stumbled upon Phan Van Han Street in Binh Thanh District. This quarter-mile-long street is filled with shophouse cafés and food carts, creating a local food paradise that caters to students and workers.

The street instantly captivated me with its enticing Vietnamese aromas. One particular woman caught my attention as she fried cubes resembling fat French fries in a circular black skillet. The sound of the sizzling tempted my taste buds, and I couldn’t help but feel excited. Intrigued, I decided to try the dish, regardless of its name or price. I eagerly paid the cook and received a pancake-like meal topped with fried green onions, daikon radish, carrots, and a mysterious black sauce with chunks of red peppers.

I sat down on a small plastic stool to enjoy the dish, documenting the experience with my phone. Later, I discovered that the dish I had eaten was called ‘bột chiên,’ a delightful combination of fried rice flour cakes and scrambled eggs. It was love at first bite.

Unfortunately, my enthusiasm got the better of me. As I indulged in the dish, I lost my balance and crashed to the ground, causing laughter from the crowd. Embarrassed and hungry, I quickly left the scene but not without learning three important lessons: the incredible taste of ‘bột chiên,’ the limitations of Vietnamese street eating accommodations for someone my size, and the meaning of the phrase ‘Trời ơi!’ which translates to ‘Oh my God!’

A supplied photo shows Jordy Comes Alive enjoying 'bot chien' at a stall on Dien Bien Phu Street, District 3, Ho Chi Minh City.

A supplied photo shows Jordy Comes Alive enjoying ‘bột chiên’ at a stall on Dien Bien Phu Street, District 3, Ho Chi Minh City.

Although originating in China, ‘bột chiên’ has become a staple in Vietnamese street food cuisine, especially in Ho Chi Minh City. It can be found in various interpretations across Southeast Asia, including Thailand, Singapore, Cambodia, Malaysia, and Vietnam. The beauty of ‘bột chiên’ lies in its simplicity with a dough made from rice flour, tapioca starch, water, vegetable oil, and salt. This dough is steamed and cut into small cubes, which are then fried on a skillet with eggs. The dish is complemented by a special sauce made of black soy sauce, sweet white vinegar, sugar, water, and red chili.

A dish of 'bot chien' served at a stall on Dien Bien Phu Street, District 3, Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Jordy Comes Alive

A dish of ‘bột chiên’ served at a stall on Dien Bien Phu Street, District 3, Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Jordy Comes Alive

During my time in Ho Chi Minh City, I have had the pleasure of trying ‘bột chiên’ in various locations. However, my favorite spot is a small cart in a back-alleyway oasis at 335 Dien Bien Phu Street, District 3. Run by a talented cook named Chau Nam, this cart has been serving ‘bột chiên’ for the past 30 years.

Watching Chau Nam cook is mesmerizing with her ballet-like movements and expertise. The aroma and taste of her ‘bột chiên’ are unmatched. The crispy exterior and creamy inside of the rice cakes, combined with the flavors of the eggs and green onion, create a harmonious and satisfying mouthfeel. The dish is elevated by the side of special sauce, which adds tanginess, sweetness, and a hint of heat.

Sitting on the street, I savor each bite of the delectable dish. Despite my previous mishap, ‘bột chiên’ remains an irresistible snack that leaves a lasting impression. I conclude my meal with a saucy decision, whether to pour or dunk the sauce, and always feel satisfied. Grateful for the fantastic food and Chau Nam’s culinary skills, I express my appreciation before heading back to my residence on Phan Van Han Street.

A supplied photo shows Jordy Comes Alive posing for a photo with the owner of a 'bot chien' stall on Dien Bien Phu Street, District 3, Ho Chi Minh City.

Jordy Comes Alive poses for a photo with the owner of a ‘bột chiên’ stall on Dien Bien Phu Street, District 3, Ho Chi Minh City.

After experiencing ‘bột chiên’ and discovering its rich history and flavors, I have developed a deep respect for the dish and the talented cooks who prepare it. It is a beloved part of Vietnamese street food culture, enjoyed by people from all walks of life. I feel grateful to have embarked on this gastronomic journey and will continue to savor the delights of ‘bột chiên’ during my time in Ho Chi Minh City.

(US$1 = VND23,185)

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