It’s the middle of a 10-hour workday at 4:05 in the afternoon on a Sunday. I’m a little hungry and can’t wait until dinnertime at school at 7:15. So, I join all of the students who are also on a quest to satisfy their taste buds. Just outside of our school are about seven to ten different food stalls selling snacks, drinks and smoothies. Ladies in conical hats and bicycles with a makeshift kitchen, set up shop for all these students only during the 20-minute break time.
Among all the different snacks, such as banh mi (sandwiches), fried square potatoes, sausages and fried spring rolls, I have found my favorite – bánh tráng trộn. This healthy little snack consists of strips of rice paper mixed with spices such as paprika, pepper, strips of mangoes, diced peanuts, spicy chili sauce, soy sauce, hot oil, green mint leaves and a quail egg. What makes it even more unique is that you eat it with small sticks – not chopsticks but more like large toothpicks. The little lady, who mixes each individual bag of bánh tráng trộn, attracts the most students at her bicycle. Students love it. However, when I asked them if they think it’s healthy, they said that it is in moderation, as is anything. But they also said that because it’s a street food, then it might be a little dirty from the pollution and dust that surrounds the schools. Nevertheless, they always buy it.
It’s a delicious pick-me-up on those long days and it’s only 5,000 VND! Bánh tráng trộn leaves my mouth still kicking with spice even when I begin teaching again.