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Ben Thanh Market Eats

5:45 PM 2 Comments

clock tower ben thanh

Ben Thanh Market is one of Ho Chi Minh's famous attractions, given its strategic location in District 1. The other wholesale markets include Bin Thay Market in Chinatown and Saigon Square also in District 1. While many reviews point to this as a tourist trap, prices are generally the same acrossboard with marginal differences. For the record, I purchased my fried lotus seeds here cheaper than Bin Thay market! The point to note is, getting ripped off is but a mandatory cultural experience regardless where you are...not knowing a word of the language does not help either.

In the companion's words "let them earn...the difference after conversion is so marginal!". I suppose that's how differently a bargain getter like me sees things - cheapest pricing always.

To put things into perspective, I was quoted 60,000 VND for a packet of gourmet coffee powder at Bin Thay Market. The price was accorded because I was brought there by another shop owner that I bought lotus seeds from. Upon realizing I could speak Chinese, he promptly halved the price quoted. There you have it, you'd never quite know the floor price. Cheap thrills, I say.

inside ben thanh market

As with wholesale markets, the stalls are one too many...and too mind boggling. Whatever A sells, probably B-Z also sells.

shoes

Ching chong shoes and flats and what have you that are obviously not that cheap as compared to Bangkok or Hongkong even. Perhaps it was my tourist face that got me such price quotations...the lane near Ben Thanh market offers footware at cheaper prices but once again, no bargaining allowed. I'm not sure since when prices became "fixed" in a wholesale market but things seem to be moving in that direction.

Shopping in a wholesale without bargaining has no satisfaction, honestly. The shopkeepers bat their eyelids, flick their nail filers and ignore you should you attempt to bargain. Not even 1% off the prices. Such hostility throughout makes you feel out of place.

The wholesale market is not only home to souvenirs and accessories, there's also a wet market and food stalls! While I did not have guts for roadside food, these within Ben Thanh market were acceptable.

stall

Those ruddy red prawns stopped me in my tracks. How about some Vietnamese Prawn Mee?

hae mee

Soup base was sweet, in a sugary manner. Prawn was incredibly fresh...but this bowl needed some getting used to. Not a fan of sweet noodles somehow. We were probably not giving "face" to the shopowner for being the only customer who left without emptying the bowl like the rest of the customers did.

Somewhere hovering in the shadows is a plate of raw beansprouts and leaves which the locals would empty into the broth. By the time I reached this meal...I was kind of scared of them.

ben thanh rice rolls

My yardstick of choosing what to eat...

1) Whether the shopowners hussled for business. Those who did were usually tourist traps complete with translated menus and prices.
2) Ratio of locals to foreigners at the stall.

This met the criteria.

deft hands

The granny nifty handiwork.

rice rolls in the making

Chee Cheong Fun in Ho Chi Minh!

rice rolls, fritters and fried onions

QQ bouncy rice rolls stuffed with black fungus, mushrooms and minced pork. Crunchy prawn fritters and a generous topping of fried onions.

YUMMY. If only the chee cheong funs back home had such a chewy texture! For once, I actually adored the crunchy fragrant fried onions...unbelievable find in the market I say.

See that plate of raw vegetables? I totally gave up touching it.

signs

I was bent on tracking my Ban Xeo (Fried crepe pancake) down but to no avail. Had to settle for the Ban Cio (fried spring rolls) instead.

cha gio stall

Spy them grilled thingie things?

chilli

Freshly cut chilli padi.

menu

See what I mean by a fully translated menu with graphics? Perfectly translated too!

the bowl of everything

When you don't know what to have, just have a mix of everything.

Rice vermicilli tastes exceptional when dipped in the chilli sauce but by this time I was quite sick of the raw vegetables and vermicilli and chilli. I had my fill of grilled shrimpcake, fried springroll and grilled pork from this bowl of everything. Satisfied but not in a fulfilling manner. 

dessert stall

Time for dessert! I lost count of the number of times I checked out Ben Thanh market over 4 days but I knew exactly what I wanted - Dessert from the only stall. There were fleeting moments of stallholders carrying bowls of soyabean with lots of ingredients but I failed to track it down. Yes, they do make their rounds in the market in a bid to sell off their bowls of food to random hungry people.

rows of neverending sweets

They seem to love to mix abit of everything in one glass or bowl.

yam

I was tempted by ginger glutinous riceballs, banana kueh and yam paste. Ultimately, it was the yam paste with gingko nuts and coconut gravy that triumphed. All too sweet this yam dessert but it was a more homely version of orh nee.

Prices are not dirt cheap as per roadside where bowls of food could cost cents but here, prices are comparative to our regular kopitiam. As a gauge, bowls of noodles would set you back by SGD 3-4 and dessert was SGD 1 for the measly portion.

Ben Thanh Market

A foodie born to eat, shop and travel. Forced to work.

2 comments:

  1. Awesome. This is literally like an episode of No Reservations in Vietnam.

    ReplyDelete
  2. @ice: haha! :) Was one of those days I felt so adventurous and spotting.

    ReplyDelete