Tuesday, November 25, 2008

what I brought back from Ben Thanh (Saigon)

continued from Ben Thanh, part 1 in colloidfarl.blogspot.com

There were several things I originally planned to do at Ben Thanh. I wanted to wake up early and shoot a long exposure of the facade at dawn – which actually is easy as Vietnam is late an hour versus Cebu time – but work got in the way. I also thought of eating at one of their food stalls which are simply brimming with steamed seafood, rice paper concoctions (a decidedly Vietnamese specialty) and fresh herbs and vegetables. Eventually, I ended up either having breakfast with a friend or elsewhere.

But busy or not, I did not miss buying pasalubong (giveaway gifts in Filipino) and souvenirs in Ben Thanh. Of course, I bought the requisite touristy stuff which my friends back in Cebu have asked me to buy- Vietnamese shirts and caps. I chose the machine-embroidered varieties over the plain ones so they were a bit expensive, ranging from $2-3.

Once I ticked the basic ones off my list, I scoured Ben Thanh for my personal favorites.

lacquerware. This is a must-have. Who can resist the shiny and colorful practicality of tempered and melded wood? I can’t. For my wife, I chose 6 pairs of ruby red bowls with matching sleek black saucers, curled elegantly at the corners. Three large nesting flat trays completed the ensemble. Although the trays are supposed to be a set of a singular color, we were able to convince the vendor to get a different tray colors for our set. I chose a combination of 2 red trays and one black. The pieces come with a dainty pair of dragonfly design inlay.
haggled prices: bowl and saucer for 80,000VND (4.7USD) a pair and a set of 3 nesting trays for 330,000VND (19.4USD)

Canon EOS 5D, 0.60s, f/1.8, 50mm, ISO 50

For gifts, I then proceeded to the food and candy sections. I live off exotic sweets. A plus is that the packs often have price tags already and there is practically no haggling involved. The prices are cheap!

rice papers (banh trang). If there is one item that I identify always with Vietnam it is rice paper. It is the basic and ubiquitous wrapping material of many a Vietnamese dish. The thin round paper is made of rice flour, tapioca starch and salt. Dry and brittle when packaged, it is easily moistened with water to make all sorts of food wraps.
price: 20,000 VND per pack (1.2USD)

Vietnam goodies 1108_023-1
Canon EOS 5D, 0.40s, f/2.8, 100mm, ISO 50, -1/3EV

sesame-sprinkled peanut flatcakes (keo me xung). One of my favorite sweet and nutty treats. They look like soft pancakes, only way much thinner and taste like peanut brittle. As a plus, each cake is individually wrapped in plastic. They are made of peanut, sesame, sugar, rice flour and malt sugar.
price: 30,000VND (1.8USD) per pack

sesame-sprinkled peanut flatcakes (keo me xung)
Canon EOS 5D, 0.40s, f/2.8, 100mm, ISO 50, -1/3EV

sesame-sprinkled candy squares (me xung vung). These peanut-laden sesame-sprinkled sweets are on the tough and chewy side but they are fast becoming my favorite dessert munchies nowadays. The candies are made of rice flour, barley, sugar, peanut chips, sesame seeds and flavored with vanilla.
price: 13,000VND/pack of 6 candies (0.8USD)

sesame-sprinkled candy squares (me xung vung)
Canon EOS 5D, 1.00s, f/2.8, 100mm, ISO 50, -1/3EV

Vinamit peanut candies (keo dau phong). Individually packaged in bright red foil, the candies have a thin white flaky crust which crunches deliciously to reveal a sweet peanut confection that is almost powdery. The brand is Vinamit and ingredients include barley, malt, sugar, peanut and salt.
price: 35,000 VND/500g pack (2.1USD)

Vinamit peanut candy (keo dau phong)
Canon EOS 5D, 0.80s, f/2.8, 100mm, ISO 50, -1/3EV

sesame-sprinkled crispy wafers (me xung don). Another crunchy delight that comes in a compartmentalized plastic package. The biscuit could have been made sweeter but delightfully, it is not. The sugar is tempered by the chewiness of the peanut paste enveloped between the rice flour wafers. Ingredients include sugar, peanut, sesame, rice flour, barley and vanilla.
price: 10,000 VND/pack (0.6USD)

sesame-sprinkled crispy wafers (me xung don)
Canon EOS 5D, 0.40s, f/2.8, 100mm, ISO 50, -2/3EV

rice papers with banana (banh trang chuối). I saw them being made in Cai Be (Mekong Delta) so I made sure I bought some in Ben Thanh. These are really thin ricepapers covered fully with fresh bananas slices, which when sundried, result to thin brittle pancakes. They can be fried in hot vegetable oil but I would suggest lightly tossing them in butter on both sides so that they would come out soft and “rollable” like crepes. The rich butter brings out the aromatic amyl acetate goodness of the sun-dried bananas. They are made of rice flour, tapioca starch, banana and salt.
price: 30,000 VND/pack (1.8USD)

rice paper with banana (banh trang chuối)
Canon EOS 5D, 0.25s, f/2.8, 100mm, ISO 50, -1/3EV

Stumble Upon Toolbar


Manz said...

Thank you for the very good photos and helpful descriptions.

Manz said...

Thank you for the good photos and descriptions. Very helpful indeed.