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Today in Saigon, I felt like giving myself a treat and enjoying one of my favorite combos – Gỏi Đu Đủ and a stroll in the park . So, that was a bus #30, followed by a transfer to bus #36 (in total a 35 minute journey). Actually, this is probably my #1 recommendation for a Saigon snack-eating experience. First, the Gỏi Đu Đủ (green papaya salad) created by the three woman at the entrance to Le Van Tam Park is superb. It’s a masterpiece of textures! The shredded papaya is fresh, cool and crunchy. The dried beef is chewy, yet tender (yes, that’s possible) – and so richly flavored. The rice crackers sitting on top of the salad are light and crisp. And the peanuts are firm and plentiful. The crowning accent to the salad is the special homemade dressing. Sweet, sour, spicy, yummy, and sweet again. Perhaps improperly, I even subtley slurp down any dressing still in my bowl at the end of the salad! But the salad itself is not all that’s wonderful – it’s the setting. No tables, no chairs – not even a stool! Welcome to the curb. All the curbs and tree wells have been set with individual plastic placemats. So, pull up a placemat, have a seat, and enjoy your salad! My Vietnamese partner tells me he has been doing this since before high school – decades ago. What a great tradition. But wait – there’s more! When you’re finished enjoying your late-afternoon snack, it’s time for a power-walk (or at least a stroll) through the park. Le Van Tam Park is right there. It’s a lovely mid-sized park – quiet midday, but filled to capacity with locals enjoying their early-morning and late-afternoon exercise. Walking, jogging, ban mitten, tai chi, and more. Great to watch and even better to join in. If you decide to be lazy (or just relax) you can enjoy a park bench. Inevitably, you will be visited by high school or college students wanting to practice their English – “Where you from?”, “How old are you?”, “What’s your name?”, “What do you think of my country?”, “Are you married?” Whoops, time to catch the bus back home :-) [excerpted from www.eatingsaigon.com ]
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