One-Stop Street Eats

Get­ting your street food fix at Asian Streat

Oi Vietnam - - Wine & Dine - Text by James Pham Im­ages by Ngoc Tran

WE’RE BLESSED TO BE LIV­ING in a part of the globe where many cities are le­git­i­mate con­tenders for the world’s best street food cap­i­tal, from Sin­ga­pore to Saigon and Bangkok to Bom­bay. Asian Streat (151/6 Dong Khoi, D1; en­ter through the art ar­cade, but in­stead of turn­ing right to­wards L’Usine, take the stairs to the left) aims to bring some of the re­gion’s best street food dishes un­der one roof.

Open since the end of 2016, Asian Streat (a mashup of “street” and “eat”) seats about 30 in a nar­row space in­spired by Old Saigon with vin­tage pho­to­graphs, pat­terned tile floors and colo­nial-era pale yel­low and green walls. What it lacks in space, it more than makes up for in a menu fea­tur­ing some of the area’s best loved street food fare, in­clud­ing Sin­ga­porean Chili Crab, In­done­sian Beef Ren­dang, Hy­drabadi Biryani Mut­ton and every­thing in be­tween.

The unit­ing fac­tor is that the tiny kitchen helmed by chefs from Sri Lanka and north­ern In­dia churns out food to or­der, just like at a food stall. Our Chicken Tikka (VND120,000)

was a stand­out, large chunks of ten­der chicken breast mar­i­nated in yo­gurt and In­dian masala, and well worth the 15 minute wait to have it fresh off the grill with just a touch of char­ring. In­stead of be­ing smoth­ered in gravy, Asian Streat’s ver­sion is lighter and health­ier, with a side of kicky green mint and co­rian­der chut­ney made all the more re­fresh­ing with a gen­er­ous squeeze of lime.

While the laksa and nasi gor­ing have their def­i­nite ap­peal, we opt in­stead for some Sri Lankan dishes, a rare op­por­tu­nity in Saigon to sam­ple an in­y­our-face cui­sine based on dom­i­nant, pow­er­ful fla­vors thanks to the is­land’s famed spice pro­duc­tion, colo­nial his­tory and strate­gic lo­ca­tion as a trade hub.

We or­der the hop­pers (VND130,000), bowl-shaped pan­cakes cooked in a rounded pan (like a small wok) right at the en­trance of the restau­rant. Made from slightly sweet­ened and fer­mented rice flour that forms a thick­ish base and ta­pers into pa­per thin walls and of­ten has a fried egg at the bot­tom, the hop­pers are a good ve­hi­cle for the big chunk of am­bul thiyal, a hearty, pep­pery dry fish curry dish sautéed in a blend of spices with a dis­tinc­tively sour fla­vor pro­vided by goraka, a tamarind-like fruit. The tart­ness is bal­anced by seeni sam­bal, a side dish of caramelized onions cooked down un­til soft with the ad­di­tion of gar­lic, gin­ger and chili flakes for a lovely af­ter­burn.

We fin­ish with the Kottu Veg, a dish that looks like Pad Thai but tastes more like fried rice, a Sri Lankan fa­vorite made from shred­ded roti bread tossed with sliv­ers of car­rots and spring onions and bound to­gether with egg. Tra­di­tion­ally, it’s made with left­overs or what­ever’s on hand, so ex­pect the odd bone or crunchy bit of gris­tle. Here, it’s served with a bowl of curry sauce to moisten and add ex­tra fla­vor to the stir­fried flat­bread. Asian Streat makes its curry sep­a­rate from the meat, mean­ing that veg­e­tar­i­ans can still en­joy fullfla­vored sauces.

In ad­di­tion to its city-span­ning a la carte menu, Asian Streat also serves a pop­u­lar Satur­day lunch buf­fet (VND180,000) from noon to 3 pm with 20 or so dishes that change ev­ery week­end.

Counter clock­wise from top left: Kottu, Chicken tikka, Hop­per mark­ing, Hop­per with fish

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