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Hẻm Gems: Bánh Xèo and People-Watching on the Canal

There are certain foods in life that take time to love. Mắm tôm, for instance, or mắm chưng. Any of the mắms, really. Durian, I’m told, is a wonderful fruit on the fourth or fifth try. And while some of us are raised on cháo lòng and phá lấu and chicken feet, for others the journey toward appreciation can span weeks, months, even years.

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Hẻm Gems: A Quick, Delicious, No-Nonsense Lunch at Quan Com Ga Hai Nam

Now that I'm on my fourth chicken-centric Hẻm Gem, I guess I might as well start carrying out these assignments dressed as a chicken.

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Saigon’s First Designated Food Street to Open on Monday

Earlier this year, as District 1 People’s Committee Vice Chairman Doan Ngoc Hai ramped up his sidewalk-clearing campaign, Saigoneers wondered about the fate of the city’s street food vendors. Now, just as officials proposed in March, downtown Saigon is set to have its first designated street food zone.

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Hẻm Gems: Sủi Cảo and Handmade Noodles, a Match Made in Food Heaven

Is this the best mì sủi cảo in Saigon? I don’t know, but it’s pretty goddamn delicious.

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Hẻm Gems: Phieu Ky’s Fantastic Phở Sa Tế

While Pho Phieu Ky’s white walls and fluorescent lighting are nothing special, the hideaway shop in District 5 makes up for its bland color scheme by pasting neon characters – Roman and Chinese – across the glossy tiles along with wall calendars, rotating fans and a particularly jovial, glitter-covered cartoon rendition of Ong Tao riding a fish to heaven. The bright whites are certainly harsh, but on a dreary, rain-soaked afternoon this is not necessarily unwelcome. Nor, mind you, is the meal for which we’ve come: phở sa tế.

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Hẻm Gems: Cô Nhi and Chú Den's Humble Nui Xào Bò Cart

At this point in our Hẻm Gem journey, I’ve stopped thinking of us – a two-person team consisting of me and my photographer colleague Brandon – as mere food reviewers, but rather food hunters from hunting-gathering bands of the Paleolithic age.

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Hẻm Gems: Praise Be to Cheap, Tender, Delicious Chicken by the Mosque

Thanks to central Saigon's blistering pace of development and the short-lived sidewalk-clearing campaign of 2017's early months, the downtown area can be something of a street food desert.

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Hẻm Gems: Chef Badeh Brings Syrian Cuisine to Saigon

In the small covered area outside the front door, Chef Badeh brings together two of my favorite things: bread and fire.

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Hẻm Gems: Kickin' It at Kim Thao's Hột Vịt Lộn Hangout

In the thick of rainy season, afternoon snack spots are hard to come by. Street vendors make do with cement-weighted umbrellas and heavily used tarpaulin, carving out (relatively) dry patches on the sidewalk from which to operate, occasionally disrupted by a tide of rainwater rising to overtake their carts. For the most part, however, outdoor dining is not at its best in the monsoon months.

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Hẻm Gems: In Search of Saigon's Best Home-Cooked Char Kway Teow

Saigon’s street vendors are a special bunch. They come in various shapes, sizes and backgrounds, but all have one raison d'être: creating the most enticing and memorable dishes that leave patrons yearning for more after a visit.

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Hẻm Gems: The Bowl of Cao Lầu Worth a Run Across the City

Hoi An's cuisine makes a modest appearance in District 7's food paradise.

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