Think a restaurant that just happens to be on a road closed at night, part of the night market that sets up outside the French colonial market building. It’s quite a feat, with the entire operation set up each night. It’s impressive! I doubt many of the sixty or so diners seated understand the logistical organisation that their dinner entails.
Once the street kitchen is up and running it is glorious to behold, the smoke from the charcoal BBQ’s fills the street, it’s the kind of smoke that tastes good, laced with spices and sugar. Heavy with fragrances of grilling seafood that sweet, savoury smoky smell I love. It draws me in, once I see the orange flames from the burning coals licking the night sky I know where I’m eating.
As I sit and ponder the menu the sounds of woks being scraped rings in my ears, I watch the hustle and bustle of the organised crew as they go about their business. The live seafood being cooked, the pancake section, the fryers off to one side, the res spring rolls clearly visible from my seat, there’s at least a dozen cooks working hard.
Marinated pork kebabs cooked on coals is the first of the dishes to arrive, reminiscent of the street side skewers from Hanoi, just much larger, the marinade quite similar with light soy, sugar, lemongrass and ginger. The succulent, juicy pork has a satisfying chew and great taste.
The pork ate quite well with the Banh khot, the next dish to arrive, these small domed pancakes are similar to Banh xeo, just with less crispy surface and a springier texture, filled with vegetables they are lovely rolled with leaves and herbs and dunked the same way as the Banh Xeo.
A Whole fish grilled with spice and salt was epic, scored and brushed with a spiced (not spicy) salt and sugar slurry before being cooked over coals, brushed with the slurry as it cooked the perfectly cooked succulent fish had a brilliantly blistered and blackened skin. Perhaps the trickiest part was eating it with chopsticks, the occasional bone joining the rice bowl or being plucked from my mouth. So delicious. As the orange glow of the coal burned less brightly in the night sky I know this will be a meal to remember for a while.