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Falafel: Saigon Style

Falafel is one of the most famous street foods in the United States made from beans and vegetables and stuffed between sandwiches. Today, the popular American dish can be experienced in Vietnam thanks to the curiosity and determination of the local yoga instructor Sophia Pham.

Pham encountered Falafel when she went to the United States and met a fellow yoga instructor, an Indian who introduced the recipe to her. Pham loved the dish so much that when she came back to Vietnam, she opened a small mobile shop selling the extraordinary food.

An original Falafel recipe is composed of chickpea, a type of bean imported from the Netherlands; olive oil; and other ingredients. Pham puts a twist on the traditional dish by adding other ingredients like cucumber, red amaranth, carrot, tomato, cabbage, hummus and tahini sauce. She also added chilli to spark some spice into the meal. She grinds the chickpeas and mixes it with the other ingredients. She then forms a ball bigger than a lime and fries it.

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While the original recipe is placed between sandwiches, Pham stamped her own Vietnamese trademark on the popular American dish by putting the Falafel stuffing into banh mi, the world-famous Vietnamese-style bread. Her own version of falafel has gained notoriety then because unlike the classic soft texture of bread, the banh mi gives a unique and delightful crispy flavour to the meal. The aromatic smell and overall nutty taste of beans mixed with the chilli, fresh vegetables and outstanding sauce gives off a one-of-a-kind character to Pham’s falafel that draws people, both locals and tourist, to her shop.

As more and more people have become more health conscious nowadays, Pham’s shop receives a strong following because of her highly nutritious Falafel. Moreover, she also serves other delectable dishes like grilled chicken, pork, pate, pork paste and ham. In fact, Pham is planning to grow her store into a full-blown bread store hain in Saigon with Falafel vegetarian bread as the specialty food.

Pham’s falafel store is named Lesante, meaning heath in English, and is located at 155 Bui Vien Street in HCM District 1.


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