[Ho Chi Minh City] A store which piqued my interest while I was researching for Vietnamese street food was The Lunch Lady, which came up as one of the common search results.
Many bestowed her with the title of “legendary” street food vendor in Ho Chi Minh.
The Lunch Lady (known as Nguyen Thi Thanh) propelled to fame after being featured on No Reservations. It is a food and travel programme hosted by American chef and TV personality, Anthony Bourdain.
(Many street food stall owners in Vietnam shared that their lives took a 180 degree turn for the better after being featured by Anthony Bourdain, and were finally able to support their own families.)
The store has since then been patronized by many other food influencers from various countries and garnered them a wide following of international visitor ship. I looked around and noticed a few more tables with foreigners.
Her specialty is noodle soup and interestingly, she has a daily rotating menu which serves only one type of noodle soup every day.
Seven days in a week, she can whip up seven kinds of noodle soup such as Bun Thai, Bun Mam and Banh Canh Cua.
Totally unheard of to me, and the most common Pho is not even on her menu.
I wondered would the idea work in SG if I sell Bak Chor Mee Soup on Mondays, Wanton Mee Soup on Tuesdays, Hae Mee Soup on Wednesdays and etc. The amount of logistics and ingredients to buy!
I visited the store on a Friday, and the noodle soup of the day was Bun Bo Hue, which translates to Spicy Vietnamese Beef Noodle Soup (VND 40k, SGD$2.40).
The bowl of noodle soup felt visually intimidating at first with its bright orange hue, which resembled chilli oil from Mala pot.
However, I took my first mouthful but it was nothing like that. I didn’t even found it spicy.
A case of being hit with confusion while trying to adapt to the foreign palate.
The clear broth came with distinctive meaty flavor as well as had refreshing zesty lemongrass fragrance, which overall felt like a slightly sweetened beef broth.
The noodle used was our thick rice vermicelli.
Other than beef slices and brisket, I dug deeper into the soup and found accompany ingredients such as pork sausage and bits of coagulated pork blood.
Hmmm, no wonder I felt confused. But I still enjoyed the robust flavor and ended up slurping down almost the last drop of soup.
It did felt a little thirsty after that. Too much usage of MSG maybe.
If you wish to learn the art of Vietnamese noodle soup cooking, her recipe book is also available for sale.
Not too sure if it was because they viewed us as tourists.
Upon settling down, our table was automatically served with side dishes such as Goi Cuon (Fresh Summer Roll) and Cha Gio (Fried Spring Roll), even though we didn’t ordered them.
I rejected them politely as I did not have stomach space for more food, but perhaps they weren’t too happy about it?
This kind of behaviour can get slightly intimidating though, especially when there was language barrier.
The Lunch Lady
Hem D Chung Cu Nguyen Dinh C, Da Kao, District 1, Ho Chí Minh City, Vietnam
Opening Hours: 11:00am – 3.30pm Daily
Goggle Maps – The Lunch Lady
* Written by Lewis Tan @juicyfingers, a self-proclaimed coffee addict. Daniel’s Food Diary pays for food reviewed unless otherwise stated.