Street Food (2019) s01e07 Episode Script

Ho Chi Min City, Vietnam

[calm music] [calm music continues] [water sloshing] [woman, in Vietnamese] I'm so thankful to the snails.
Thanks to them, I was able to put my son through school.
They carried me and my family through hard times.
I will never give them up.
[train horn hooting] [indistinct chatter] [Nikky, in English] When you talk about Saigon, you talk about the very unique culture.
It's very chaotic.
- [horns honking] - [engines revving] [Nikky] It's constantly changing.
But it's also very laid back at the same time.
[upbeat music] [Nikky] There's a culture of eating outside, drinking outside, hanging out outside.
[in Vietnamese] Do you have freshly grilled pork chops? Sure.
Here they are.
[Nikky] Okay.
I'll have one piece, but please pick me a new one.
[Nikky] And in the city of ten million people, almost one million make a living by selling on the street.
So, street food is a vital part of Saigon.
It feeds the people.
[upbeat music] [Võ Quc, in Vietnamese] Walking around the streets, you will find people selling food on every corner.
Ho Chi Minh is the cradle of street food.
A lot of people from various origins have moved to Ho Chi Minh.
Since ancient times, Chinese cuisine had a huge influence on our culinary culture.
And then came the French style.
Then afterward, American.
Our cuisine is connected to both culture and history.
[Nikky, in English] Banh mi, pho, broken rice, they're very popular.
But I would say snails are the most popular street food in Saigon.
You see snail restaurants everywhere.
[Nikky] That's our culture.
Something that we love.
In Vietnam, when you say, "Let's go get some snails," you don't just get a snail.
You get a shrimp, you get a crab, you get clams, you get scallops.
[in Vietnamese] Do you have mud creepers? - Yes, I do.
- Okay, I'll have one serving, please.
[Nikky, in English] And Truoc, she has so many dishes.
And she'd only has a little portable gas stove with one charcoal grill by herself doing everything.
[fast-paced instrumental music] [Nikky] The taste is just exactly how I remember it when I was little.
I grew up with ladies like that, the provider for the family.
It takes a lot of strength and a lot of sacrifice.
People like Truoc, they are the real Saigon.
[door rattles open] [Truoc, in Vietnamese] Let me close the door.
Just pull it.
I sleep for only a few hours every night.
[engine revving] [Truoc] I have to work for a living no matter how exhausted I am.
I wish for my son to have a happier life than his parents now.
My husband takes me to the market as early as 1 a.
m.
If we arrive late, the place will be picked clean.
[Võ Quc] People who work in the snail business have a hard life.
They have to get up at midnight to make it to the wholesale market, and pick every single snail.
They put their heart and soul into the dish.
[indistinct chatter] [clamoring] [Truoc] In Bình Đin market, the freshness of the food is very important.
Even if I had a lot of money, I'd still continue my business.
Because that money is [Truoc] These are the best pincers, Ms.
T? These pincers are the best and the tastiest.
Okay, I'll take another kilogram.
How much? - How much did you say just now - Two hundred and fifty.
Give me a discount, will you? Two hundred and thirty, then.
Two hundred and twenty, okay? [indistinct chatter] Are the snails big today? Yes, those are the big ones.
[Truoc] I'll take a kilogram.
[Truoc] When going to the market, I buy clams, and then crabs, and scallops.
But mud creepers are my favorite, because whenever I have this dish, I think of my dad.
[calm music] [Truoc] My dad loved to cook.
It's like He liked snails, and mud creepers were his favorite of all.
My dad was a laborer.
Every month, on payday, my dad and his buddies would hang out to cook and drink.
And Dad liked to make mud creepers whenever they hung out.
People always love that dish.
Dad taught me how to season it.
He would call me while he was cooking and he would ask me to help him do the stir-frying.
For me, that's the most memorable thing about him.
[engine revving] [Võ Quc] Ho Chi Minh's street food bears marks of our culture.
One good example to mention is banh mi.
You know that bread didn't originate in Vietnam.
French colonists brought bread and pâté to Ho Chi Minh, mostly to cater to the French people.
But over time, the people in Ho Chi Minh, with their way of absorbing things, have made it their own.
[funky music] [Huỳnh] In Vietnam, bánh mì has high demand.
You can have it for breakfast, lunch, or dinner.
My family has been running this banh mi stall for 81 years.
[upbeat music] [Huỳnh] Back in the day, my grandfather used to carry a pole on his shoulders to sell his food.
It was a really hard time.
Then he started selling on this street, using a cart to go around.
We have been selling here since then.
[Võ Quc] The French baguette has a dense crumb.
So when you take a bite, the filling would slide out.
While the Vietnamese bánh mì holds everything together.
It's also crispy and spongy.
[Huỳnh] Our family's banh mi is totally homemade.
From the pâté to the lunch meat, the meatballs, the chicken and everything.
My grandfather developed his original recipe.
And we haven't changed the recipe since then.
[indistinct chatter] [horns honking] [Nikky, in English] In Saigon, most people live in something called hems.
A hem is like an alley.
The sense of community there is so bonded.
Everyone helps each other.
[Truoc, in Vietnamese] I've lived here on Cô Bc Street my entire life.
Back in the old days, this neighborhood was spacious.
The houses were small.
All of my neighbors were poor.
But even though times were hard, we shared everything.
We stood together.
We didn't turn our backs on each other.
The fathers worked in a factory, while the mothers worked in a market.
We barely had enough to eat and nothing more.
I quit school after finishing the ninth grade, as I was seeing my family struggle.
Mom and Dad were supporting so many kids.
I had three younger siblings at that time.
I decided to quit school and get a job so my three younger siblings could stay in school.
I gave up school to help my family.
And I'll never regret that.
[Nixon, in English] Good evening.
I have asked for this time for the purpose of announcing that we, today, had concluded an agreement to end the war in Vietnam.
[Nikky] In the '80s, after the war, life was hard.
There was very little to eat.
To get decent quality rice was hard.
We could only work with what we had, and that was Com Tam.
Com Tam means broken rice.
[Võ Quc, in Vietnamese] During the rice grinding process, the farmers collected the small broken pieces of rice.
These broken pieces of rice are so small that they're not easy to cook.
But when properly cooked, broken rice tastes better than the regular one.
[indistinct chatter] [horns honking] [Nikky, in English] We eat com tam with sunny side up egg, pickled daikon, grilled pork chop, and fish sauce.
Everyone loves it, and that's what's unique about Vietnamese cuisine.
We take something that people didn't want and turn it into one of the most popular meals in Saigon.
[indistinct chatter] [horns honking] [Truoc, in Vietnamese] Right after I quit school, the company had a group home.
I had dozens of dormmates and we had fun together.
We would all chat until everyone went back to their room to sleep.
[lively music] [Truoc] I liked being independent.
While working at the seafood plant, I met this guy.
He was very outgoing.
Unlike other people.
He was kind even to my siblings when he came to visit my family.
We became an item.
We had been dating for only three months, but he asked me to marry him.
That year, we had a son.
The seafood plant was so far from home.
My dad said, "You two should move out there.
" My husband and I went looking for nearby jobs.
Close to our home, to our son.
I worked at a bamboo leaf processing place on Đin Biên Ph Street, District 1.
But after I had been there a few months, the company went bankrupt.
My second elder sister said, "Why don't you sell something to make a living.
" Back then, this whole alley had only one coffee stall.
And I thought of my dad's mud creepers.
I was determined to start selling snails.
On my first day in business, I was so nervous.
[upbeat music] I didn't even know how to make the dipping sauce.
Cooking the mud creepers was all I knew.
My dad's mud creepers.
First, sauté some garlic in the oil.
Then add the snails.
[sizzling] Once the coconut milk is added, it will bubble up and smell wonderful.
It sold well and I saw it.
People came to eat and gave compliments.
Then I started to believe in myself.
And that made me so happy.
[upbeat music continues] [indistinct chatter] [Võ Quc] Most people from all over the world know about pho.
It seems to have deeply rooted in our subconscious and culture.
Vietnamese people consider pho as an essential part of the cuisine.
Pho originated in Northern Vietnam.
But nowadays, people are selling pho all over Vietnam.
[Anh] In the past, my father was a soldier in the Army of the Republic of Vietnam.
Before 1975, he cooked for the district chiefs or the governors of the province.
After the war ended in 1975, the country went through difficult times.
People from Hanoi started migrating to Ho Chi Minh.
So, my parents decided to open this Hanoi-style chicken pho.
[Võ Quc] People often mistakenly think that pho is a soup, or that pho has to be made with beef.
But pho is just the noodle.
Whether you add beef or chicken, it doesn't really matter.
[playful music] [Ahn] In the early 1980s, we used every part of the chicken, even its intestine.
At that time, people wanted a lot of fats in their pho.
But today, it seems that the economy is now well-developed.
People became really careful about what they eat.
They worry about their cholesterol.
So gradually, we reduced the fat.
Our broth is almost transparent now.
Ho Chi Minh has changed a lot.
And you can see that in a bowl of pho.
[playful music continues] [indistinct chatter] [Truoc] I didn't have money when I first opened my snail stall.
I took out a loan.
I paid 8.
6 dollars per day for interest.
The loan sharks came here to collect every day.
Whenever I couldn't pay them, they would show up and start yelling.
And I had to compromise to pay them double the next day.
Only then would they leave.
I was so scared.
And I was pregnant again.
[light music] [Truoc] During my second pregnancy, my husband and I struggled so badly.
We could barely pay for our son's daycare fee.
I didn't even have money to go shopping.
My newborn son died just four hours after he came into the world.
[somber music] [Truoc] I was devastated.
That kind of pain was beyond words.
I had to close my business for a while.
[birds chirping] [Truoc] After losing our child, I was consumed by endless sorrow.
[tranquil music] [Truoc] I didn't know what to do.
I went to the temple to pray for my baby's soul.
I felt at peace once I stepped inside.
[tranquil music] [Truoc] My mind got all cleared.
"That's enough," I told myself.
This sadness leads to nowhere.
I still have my firstborn son.
I can't just stay depressed, then stop working and abandon him.
" So I decided to resume my business.
My husband and I didn't have much money.
We were still in debt at that time.
There were months that we managed to make ends meet.
And there were months that we fell way behind.
[crickets chirping] [Truoc] But in my neighborhood, when you see someone struggling, you help them out.
[uplifting music] [Truoc] My neighbors tried my food and began spreading word about my place.
My business started to improve.
I only knew how to sauté mud creepers in coconut milk.
My neighbors said my menu was too limited.
So I learned step-by-step.
I added more and more dishes on my menu.
I tried hard to make the best dishes.
As I was experimenting, I learned what tasted good and what didn't.
In the end, I developed more than 15 recipes.
[uplifting music] [Truoc] After a while, I started saving money.
I stopped borrowing.
Gradually, my business grew better.
I was able to provide for my son by cooking.
[Truoc] At first, I only cooked to survive.
But now, we are settled.
And we are able to earn some money.
As our son grew, we worked hard to save money to put him through college.
And I'm proud of that.
[Nikky, in English] To survive in Saigon, you have to make something good.
You have to be creative.
And she's just one out of a million people just like her in Saigon.
They bear the responsibility of carrying street food on their back.
There is no other place in the world like Ho Chi Minh.
If there were no street food in Ho Chi Minh, then it wouldn't be Ho Chi Minh.
[Nikky] And all the people that sell the food, I feel like they are heroes.
[lively music] For you.
Do you want more rice? Have some rice, my poor little nephew.
Duck eggs.
Have some more duck eggs.
Have some, Tâm.
I tell my son You should study hard, find a career so you can have a better life than your parents today.
" I was so glad when my son entered college and excelled, it made our hard work worthwhile.
I'm truly happy about that.
[closing theme music] Subtitle translation by Nguyn Th Phng Hn