Price quote took place in 2011. Exchange rate was 1 USD =$20,000 VND at the time.
My 5th aunt lives in Đà Nẵng city, the Capital of the Quang Nam/Central province. After spending a few day in the village with my maternal grandparents, we headed out to the city for some “better dinning” options. The main market in Đà Nẵng is called chợ Cồn, pronounce as chuh cone (aka cone market). This is a smaller version of the Saigon central market, obviously as it is in the province.
Flowers lovers: Hear this out! One (1) dozen of long stem, yellow roses, cost around 10,000 VND = $0.50 USD, which is way cheaper when comparing to the price of food. I’ve seen very nice and beautiful flowers like yellow, red long stem roses, star gazer, oriental lily, etc…I would have bought the flowers in a flash if I was staying at a hotel or somewhere else but since it’s our relative’s home, somehow it didn’t seems appropriate, just my gut instinct, based on the cultural context.
Fresh flower stands
Fruit stands: I guess most tropical fruit lovers will die for the fruits. I bought none as I craved none because I’m not a fruit person, especially tropical fruits which are high sugar content. Mom has been eating mãng cầu dai (tropical soursop), vú sữa (caimito/star apple fruit), xoài (mango), mận (rose apple), basically all in season fruits, non stop, since landing in VN
Sạp nón lá: handwoven conical hat stall
Shoes shopping, anyone?
You can get some semi-custom made shoes at most stall by choosing the platform/sole, then pick your ribbons, etc…After I was done with my browsing around the market, I nose led me straight to the food area of the market.
Dried fruits and crystallized fruit candies, sold by the weight
Walking back and forth the food court, I couldn’t make up my mind on which stall to sit down since every thing were eye candies to me and there were so many choices, yet so little time. Mind you, everyone in the province or the entire country was bundling up in their winter layers, but I was just happy in my thin Jcrew tshirt and capri because of the “cool to me” weather.
I finally sat down to one of the stall that has a few more folks sitting on benches around the stall. When in strange land, follow the local and you can’t go wrong, in my opinion.
The stall feature a local dish called Nem lụi, pronounce as Name Luhz, aka a version of pork kebab.
Aha…….market and food stall in this Đà Nẵng’s market have price posted on the menu vs. the Saigon central market. Although I can more than afford most fare, it certainly helps guide me in making choice and avoiding the hassle of price haggling. Wow….I am impressed with Đà Nẵng, its culture and tourist friendly attitude so far.
The Nem lụi, pronounce as Name Luhz, aka a version of pork kebab here are skewed through a half split wooden chopstick. This is different and I certain appreciate the uniqueness of the skewing. I think using the bamboo chopstick skew, would allow the charcoal to grill the chopstick, and give out that woodsie bbq smoke aroma…which is a YES, YES, YES in my cuisine book.
Each pork kebab stick cost only 3,000 VND = 15 cents, including the dipping sauce, rice sheet wrapper, fresh herbs and garnishments. Central province is considered very poor and lack of resources comparing to the South of Vietnam and also colder in climate. To enhance the flavor, they have a much more heat intense palette comparing to Southern folks through the use of chili or red hot peppers.
Garnishment includes: sliced green banana, pickled green papaya, carrots, fresh garlic and chilli
All dinning place in Central province will have condiment like fresh hot chilli or red peppers on the table like ketchup and mustard in the States. This is fantastic for those of us who have the “hot for the heat” palette and not have to flag down the waiter like we do in Saigon, the South. By the way, the chilli here are intense and beyond dynamite or atomic level like in the States so diners beware.
Tip: In Đà Nẵng, the default dipping sauce will be that pungent pickled fermented fish, with the whole fish (tiny ones) sauce called mắm nêm. This is NOT for the faint of hearts, even myself. Make sure to ask for the alternative, which is the peanut/hoisin sauce based, like mine above. In my case, I didn’t even have to ask for the alternative sauce as I don’t look native so the stall owner automatically gave me the 2nd option. Phew…saved by the bell.
Seems like the Đà Nẵng folks don’t use your average mill type of rice sheet wrapper. The wrapper of choice is milky in color, flexible, soft and needed no water to moist it. Heard that it’s a regional specialty from one of the village, nearby my grandparents. Guess it’s must be a different way in producing the wrappers. The above is my portion/share of the mixed salad and herbs to stuff and roll the the kebab with the rice sheet wrapper.
How to eat:
Think of this Vietnamese/Đà Nẵng wrap and roll type of food as the distant cousin of our Tex/Mex burrito. You built your kebab roll how you like it with all the fresh ingredients, less the pork kebab.
This is how I did it: (copying the local)
- Rice sheet wrapper
- Layer on the mixed salad/herbs
- Stack the pork kebab on top of the salad/herbs
- Garnish with any of the pickle stuff for the crunching texture
- Wrap and roll, then dip it in your sauce bowl
- Take a bite, then bite a piece of fresh garlic and chilli, if you dare (less the garlic for me). Goes well with beer, if you do drink!
I ate all 8 sticks of the Nem lụi, pronounce as Name Luhz, aka a version of pork kebab included the above garnishment for a total of $24,000 VND = $1.25 USD.
Now, that’s a bargain lunch right there.
I must have called this roasted liver with green papaya salad but for the life of me, couldn’t find the price but it did belong to the right day sequential in my album folder. In any case, even if I did ordered this, it must have been nominal or an insignificant amount to me. I bet it wouldn’t cost more than $20,000 VND or $1 USD based on the other items ordered.
Now that the EAT part is taken care of, up next is my search for the drink companion 🙂 OK, so it’s not drink in alcoholic consumption perse, but drink the oriental style.
I spot these build your own dessert/smoothie type of stand.
Looking at the drink menu, I am delight to finalized my choice of drink/refreshment in this humid weather: the assorted sweeten beans, tapioca pearls and agar shaved ice in coconut milk sauce.
Pretty refreshing and tasty in my opinion. Kinda like how the sweet dessert shop back home in San Jose or the Filippino halo halo. This sweet treat cost $7,000 VND = 35 cents.
Total spent: $1.60 USD for both lunch and the sweet treat.