“Vietnam is a country very well known for its food. Here in Nha Trang, if you leave the touristic areas and try to loose yourself through all the small streets, you will find amazing food stalls waiting for you to be discovered. One of our favourites around the city is the street Banh Can.”
Banh Can is a small pancake made out of rice flour where different ingredients are put inside and then cooked together. You may choose between many flavours or toppings depending on your taste like quail eggs, shrimps, beef, squid and other kinds of meat.
Once it’s cooked and ready, you will receive a plate of freshly cooked pancakes with the toppings that you chose and a bowl of sauce where you’ll need to dip them in. You can easily fall in love with these little savoury pancakes. It’s quite interesting as well because people try to cook it at home. There are some recipes available on the Internet but one thing for sure is that it could be very difficult for someone to figure out the real taste from your own home unless you order it from the streets.
Now, imagine a woman sitting behind a rounded wavy pan, cooking hundreds of Banh Can every single evening, making sure that everyone gets served a dish of her tasteful pancakes. This is what exactly a lady we know does it best located along To Hien Thanh Street, Ms. Nguyen Thi My Ai. For first timers on trying out street food in general, you will feel a little confused and unsure of what can happen.
You will have to sit down on small stool chairs and wait for a while before you get served. It can get crowded, with lots of local people coming in, shouting their orders and having conversations with each other.
And for a moment, you’ll suddenly realize what makes street food special, the environment itself.
The story of the two owners, Ms. Ai and her husband, Mr. Nguyen Dung Binh, started when they got married in 1989 and at the time they both had no regular jobs. They were barely surviving by doing all kinds of small jobs that they could.
Ms. Ai got pregnant in 2007 and thankfully a year later started their Com Tam (Broken Rice) restaurant on Hoang Dieu Street that they ran for three years. In 2011, they moved into an old family house along To Hien Thanh Street. This is when they decided to prepare Banh Can and sell them outside in front of their house. They’ve learned and mastered the skills on how to make it by themselves eventually after trying it out. A typical day would involve cooking and preparing all the ingredients they will use later on. In the beginning of the afternoon, they will set up the tables, the chairs, and the fire.
They will start serving food from 2PM until around 9PM depending on the quantity of food they have or the number of guests they would have to serve. They serve about over 200 customers on an average day and the busiest time would be between 5:30PM to 6:30PM when everybody gets off from work. A whole day of serving will usually require up to 10kg of rice dough. But what makes it spectacular is their secret process.
First are the ingredients. They need to be absolutely fresh. Second is the sauce. The sauce is the signature for every Banh Can stall.
They serve it with a house mix of herbs and then it is up to the customers if they want to add some green mangoes, lime and chilli into it.
Third and most importantly is the hygiene. They are very careful in keeping everything clean including the tables, the dishes, and even the cooking station.
And lastly, of course is the service. Always smiling, being helpful, and caring are the things that make them different from the others.
With all this work, they only take four days off a month, which is quite tiring. Even so, they still manage to stay happy and would not change anything with what they have now.And these again are the things that everyone should learn from them, finding happiness and being grateful from the small things.
51 Tho Hien Thanh St., Nha Trang, Vietnam
Open Monday to Saturday
2.00PM to 9.30 PM