Lunching at Lunch Lady

Want to eat the freshest veggies while on your Asian vacation? Vietnam’s the place to be. In a more formal dining room or at a roadside eatery, the herbs and vegetables don’t disappoint. It’s amazing to consistently see all that vibrant color and wondrous crisp every mealtime. Refreshing!

At the top of my must-eat list was a stop at Lunch Lady, a simple outdoor dining place that’s 100% true to its name. Only available for the early lunch rush as the soup runs out in a snap, this hidden soup “cart” caters to plenty of locals and tourists in its daily operations. A kindly-looking Vietnamese woman does the buying and cooking of all the ingredients. I know that because I discovered Lunch Lady through Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations.

Lunch time!

It took me 2 tries to finally find her! The first day, we arrived a bit late from our exploration of the city. No dice. Lunch Lady had already packed up and left. We were told by other vendors to come back earlier the next day. Well, day 2 almost never happened as the cab driver wasn’t familiar with the address I gave. After never-ending turns and multiple attempts at asking for directions, we miraculously arrived, smack in the middle of lunch service.

Lunch Lady in action

From what I’ve read in my research, Lunch Lady has a daily menu roster. There’s a different kind of soup and side dish every day. No need to browse through any menu. Upon sitting, a man comes and counts the people at the table and brings the right number of soup- and side-of-the day. We were able to effectively communicate our drink orders through gestures and pointing to the display case.

Soup du Jour (think it’s called Canh Chua Tom)

A seafood-y noodle soup was served, complete with the ever-present herbs for extra texture. It’s an explosion of flavor, really. I say ‘seafood-y’ as there are many other components to the soup such as tripe and okra. The taste is comparable to a mild version of Tom Yum: a little sour and super fragrant.

Spring Rolls

Along with it comes a plateful of Vietnam’s famous spring rolls. Again, FRESH sums it all up. The shrimp was cooked perfectly.

Rau ma (Pennywort)

As for libations, I ordered a glass of Rau ma, which I can only describe as resembling wheatgrass. My companions, on the other hand, preferred the more familiar avocado drink.

The bill is reasonable. For around PHP200, there’s noodle soup, drink, and side dish. Try to get a complete meal that’s this fresh in Manila for that price. I dare you.

One thing is for sure, this healthy lunch is a FULL and balanced meal with its carbs, proteins, and veggies. A month of this, I’m guessing, is the equivalent of a cleanse.

Scouting for this venue was well-worth the frustrating search on-taxi, but here’s a little tip: To avoid the hassle of going in circles, it’s best if you had a google map image of the area saved on your phone to show the cab driver.

Lunch Lady –  23 Hoang Sa St., District 1, Ho Chi Minh City


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