During my first few months in Vietnam, I developed an obsession with street donuts. Whenever I saw a cart frying up some sweet and savory balls of dough, I just had to have a couple. Perhaps my donut addiction existed even before I moved here, but it used to be suppressed by knowledge of the outrageous trans fat levels in each pillowy ball of joy. In Saigon, nutrition facts are not available, and it turns out ignorance is bliss.
Although nothing quite matches banh cam for pure sugary goodness, I also love Bánh Tiêu . These hollow, roundish pastries are nothing like Krispy Kremes—their primary flavor is salty rather than sweet, and they make for a relatively subtle but satisfying snack. Most Bánh Tiêu vendors pair the donut with a strange, gelatinous cake called Bánh Bò. At first this didn’t seem all that appealing to me, but the combination is perfect. The Bánh Bò is sponge-like and mildly sweet, and it provides a wonderful cooling contrast to the salty Bánh Tiêu . If you’re ever walking around Saigon and see a man slicing open donuts with scissors, you can be sure you’re in for a treat.