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Kaleidoscope (08-07-2012)

Update: July, 10/2012 - 11:42

by Van Dat

After banh mi, another prize dish

After the Vietnamese people learnt to make bread from the French, they showcased their culinary creativity by making a sandwich with pate, barbecued pork, crunchy pickled vegetables, fresh herbs and soy sauce and a spicy chilli.

The Guardian says that the world's best sandwich isn't found in Rome, Copenhagen or even New York City, but on the streets of Viet Nam where it is called banh mi.

The humble banh mi, sold at street stalls in Viet Nam, was recently named as one of the best street foods in the world.

While the world is slowly becoming aware of how good Vietnamese street food is, the culinary artists have not stopped coming up with new dishes, including desserts. Street vendors in Ha Noi and HCM City have been wowing local residents with a new dish – fried durian. The pungent fruit, which people love or hate with passion, has now become the main ingredient in a brittle cake that draws durian lovers with its unique fragrance.

It is not sure who came up with the idea first, but it looks set to become another bright star on the pantheon of Vietnamese street food. Dipped in rice flour batter and deep-fried, the new dish looks and tastes yummy.

Beside the street stalls, the Che Xinh eatery on HCM City's To Hien Thanh Street in District 10 is a popular choice for those who have already fallen for the latest addition to Vietnamese street food. Best eaten when served hot, the dish also looks set to win over durian fence sitters.

Kindly bridging the gender gap

While most male bastions have been stormed by the modern woman over several decades, there are some professions that do not lend themselves easily to gender parity. Driving a xe om (motorbike taxi) on Vietnamese streets is one of them.

However, some young students are showing it can be done.

Pham Hong Nhung, a third-year student with the HCM City University of Natural Sciences, who is used to having her father driver her to school on his motorbike, has turned a big corner.

Beginning early in the morning and stopping only at eight or nine in the night, Nhung has been volunteering as a xe om driver for students from rural areas who are in the city to write their university entrance examinations.

She is so busy with this work these days that she's not able to have lunch till well past noon, at around 2pm.

Nhung, who has volunteered for this arduous task for the second year in succession, says she is happy to have the opportunity to know the city's streets better and make new friends.

Nhung takes more than ten people every day to outlying districts like 12, Go Vap and even further, having to stop and ask for the way very often.

At first, Nhung only thought a volunteering stint and certificate would look good on her CV, but on seeing tears of gratitude in the eyes of students and parents that she has helped, the job has become very meaningful.

She decided to opt to become a xe om volunteer after noticing that few people (and fewer women) were opting for it, knowing it is more difficult than proffering advice and guidance.

Amazingly, she is not alone. Nhung is one of 20 female volunteers in the motorbike group that is about 100 students strong. Together the xe om volunteers make 800 trips a day.

According to Pham Thanh Nhan, head of the xe om volunteer group, his team had around ten female students last year, so this year marks a 100 per cent increase. — VNS

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