A Day in the Life of a Street Vendor

Carrying two baskets over her shoulder, Van is a mobile street vendor. Vu Ha Kim Vy and Bao Zoan spend a day with this purveyor of banh trang tron


Van makes her living off the street, struggling to put food on the table in the name of her family. Doing so means selling a range of snacks from the recesses of her basket, but her key dish is banh trang tron, cut up rice paper mixed with mango, dried beef, quail eggs, dried shrimp, dried squid and chilli.


To make ends meet means carrying 40kg baskets from 11am to 11pm around the streets of downtown Saigon. These baskets have been her only source of income for more than 20 years for her four children and a husband back home in Binh Dinh. It's tough, it’s tiring, but it works. Her oldest child is now a second-year student taking Environmental Studies at university in Quy Nhon.


Van’s only wish is that she will be able to carry these baskets to feed her children until her youngest child, who is now in Grade 7, gets to college.




Van leaves home to start her normal working day



She gets the first customer. The young lady orders one bag of banh trang tron with lots of chilli



Making the dish takes time — five minutes. Van ties the handles of the banh trang tron bag together and hands it to the customer



Another order. Van prepares to cut up the rice paper


She adds kumquat juice...


and two quail eggs to the mixture


Van stays a bit longer at her first spot to wait for her next client. Her baskets are still laden with snacks



Time to move on. Van heads to Nguyen Thai Hoc in District 1 in search of more customers



Van settles in a new spot. She has a lot of regulars who know where she’ll be set up at any given time of the day



It’s now evening and after a day on the streets in a dozen different places, Van reaches Co Giang. She’s made a fair amount of sales and her baskets are less heavy



Van sells another portion of banh trang tron. The young customer wants to have more dried squid and less mango



It’s getting late. Van moves to her final pitch hoping for a few last minute sales



Van waits for more clients. Her baskets are much lighter now as she has sold quite a lot banh trang tron as well as a range of other snacks



Will a few more clients will show up? Van waits. Ten more minutes



She’s had enough. It’s been another long day and she throws in the towel. Van starts heading home. The consolation of spending 12 hours on the streets is that her baskets are now much lighter than when she started out

More in this category: « Banh Mi Bay

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