Slurping up noodle soups at the Lunch Lady’s food stall in Saigon
While there is so much more to today’s landscape of Ho Chi Minh City, for many foreigners, the Lunch Lady experience is still the quintessence of Vietnam food culture.
I talk about the Lunch Lady a lot, but that’s because I like her noodle soups a lot. She cooks up a different noodle soup every day of the week, and although I haven’t had every single one of her noodle soups, the four or five different bowls I’ve had were all delicious. She’s only open for a few hours mid-day, and it seems there are just as many ex-pats and foreigners as there are locals, if not more so.
Ms. Nguyen Thi Thanh (affectionally dubbed the Lunch Lady) was launched into culinary fame after Anthony Bourdain visited her outdoor food stall. Then all the international tourists began flocking to her makeshift sidewalk noodle shop. While many things featured on television are far from being as spectacular as the show’s host makes them out to be (likely due to the business being on their best behavior for the cameras), I will say the Lunch Lady exceeded my expectations.
I get a lot of flack from fans who say her prices are expensive and her broths are laden with MSG, but at a couple of USD for a light lunch, I’m still deeply satisfied.
I like to be comfortable when I eat, but even though I’m sweating buckets into my noodle soup while crouched in a wobbly plastic stool on a street corner, I still enjoy the experience because it’s so utterly street food.
Protip: The other appetizers set on the table prior to your noodle soup are not free—like many shops in Vietnam, you pay for what you eat, and it’s all calculated at the end on your bill. If you don’t touch any of the appetizers, you won’t get charged extra. And honestly, the Lunch Lady’s appetizers are not that great—I’d save my stomach for the noodle soup.
Okay, unless there’s something dramatically different on my next visit, I will not blog about her anymore. Thanks for agreeing to be inundated with Lunch Lady praises.
What do you think of the Lunch Lady’s food? Which is your favorite or least favorite noodle soup of hers?
The Lunch Lady (Nguyen Thi Thanh)
23 Hoang Sa St.
Da Kao Ward, District 1,
Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam