Pork skewers on the grill - Banh Uot hawker
Temptation comes in many forms in Vietnam. Tired after a day's walking in the relentless heat and humidity, we head back to the comfort of our air-conditioned hotel room. On the way back, my senses were drawn to the fragrant smells of pork and lemongrass on charcoals!
Without bothering to ask the price, I sat down and waited patiently as the lady served a queue of customers on motorcycles, each grabbing a dozen skewers of pork, hot of the make-shift bucket brazier and a stack of bánh ướt and other accompaniments.
Finally, my turn came and I was motioned to hold out my hand, as the lady placed a moistened sheet of rice paper, topped it with a few herbs, a wad of silky bánh ướt and slid the glistening skewer of pork off it's stick onto the growing pile. She made several hand motions and she handed me a small saucer of thick peanuty sauce, which was obviously to dip and eat.
The pork was sublime. Smoky from the charcoal and the sweet marinade with earthy garlic and lemongrass. The tangy peanut sauce probably had tamarind paste and coconut milk in it. If the pork wasn't enough give the parcel flavour, the sauce certainly did. The bánh ướt was silky smooth and served to add another texture. I was surprised how enjoyable the crackly, slightly moist rice paper was. A few chews, and it seemed to disintegrate into nothing.
Of course giving into temptation comes with a price. Each little parcel cost me VND10000, peanuts when converted to about AUD0.60/USD0.50, but it was impossibly expensive! Surely a dozen skewers would only have cost the locals around VND20000 / AUD1 / USD0.90? How rude.
At least the drink stall beside it only charged VND5000 / AUD0.30 / USD0.25 for a glass of 凉粉 grass jelly and 石花 "rock flower jelly".