Getting your street food fix at Asian Streat
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.
Images Provided by Ngoc Tran