I was reminded of my street grubbin’ days in Vietnam this past weekend when Grandma and I ventured to Vien Dong Supermarket in San Diego. Just like in Saigon, the cement pathway leading from the parking lot to the market was lined with pajama-clad vendors hawking their various wares.
One lady was selling bootleg Pringles from the trunk of her minivan, while another was selling herbs that most likely came from her garden. There was even one woman peddling Người Việt newspapers.
With similarly keen sweet tooths, Grandma and I were tempted by the woman offering chuối chiên (deep-fried bananas) and nước mía (sugarcane juice). Grandma purchased two bananas for a buck; we’d return another day for the sugarcane juice.
Made with ripened finger bananas that are battered and fried in hot oil, chuối chiên is something like a molten banana-filled doughnut. The best part of chuối chiên is the contrast in textures and flavors between the crisp, caramelized dough and the sweet banana mush.
Street food is soul food.