Anyone who balks at the appalling markups that posh restaurateurs impose on game birds should visit the quail hawkers of Ho Chi Minh City. From 5 p.m. daily they set up stalls at intersections and on sidewalks across town, such is the demand for chim cut chien, or deep-fried, marinated quail.
The birds are served with a warm Vietnamese baguette, slices of cucumber, fresh rau ram (a herb that tastes like a cross between coriander and hot mint), a salt, pepper and lemon dip, and a side of fiery chili sauce. The combination of flavors and textures is exquisite.
Some of the best purveyors can be found on To Hien Thanh Street and Cach Mang Thang Tam Street in District 3. Eaten curbside or taken back to your hotel, your purchase will cost the princely sum of 9,000 dong, or about 55 cents. For a complete meal, add a steamed corncob from one of the many vendors nearby for around 12 cents, before concluding with che dau van, a sweetened-coconut and green-bean confection, for 6 cents. And so you have it: marinated seasonal game with condiments, fresh market vegetables and dessert du jourall for less than a buck.