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Low-cost dishes local favorites that are super easy to make.
Purple Cabbage Salad
Curly strips of purple cabbage are probably one of the most beautiful things you can put on a plate, and they taste great with just extra sweet and sour sauce.
Vietnamese purple cabbage salad is mixed with orange strips of carrots and salt'n'pepper shrimp and then topped with roasted peanuts and coriander. The final step is to soften the strips with a mixture of vinegar, lemon juice, sugar, cooking oil, and either fish sauce or salt. You can totally replace the carrots with ripe mango and it will taste simply sublime.
Fresh Mango Salad
This southern dish is served in many restaurants, sometimes with a big price tag, but it actually comes from the Mekong Delta and proves that a great dish does not need hot pans or even ovens.
A typical Mekong mango salad goes with dried snakeskin gourami, which is abundant in the area. The southern farmers set fire to straw and grill the fish, but if that sounds too complicated in an urban environment, you can put the fish on a gas stove or just microwave it.
Once the fish is fragrant and crispy, tear it into small pieces, remove all the bones, and mix it with fresh mango. If you do not want the mango to taste too sour, soak it in sweetened fish sauce for around half an hour before adding the fish, then top with red onion and laksa leaves. The fish can be replaced with dried shrimp or squid.
The dish goes well for either lunch, dinner, or a late night chat with a bottle of rice wine.
Dried Beef Salad
This a popular Vietnamese urban snack brings together fresh papaw, carrots and dried beef, all thinly sliced and mixed with vinegar, fish sauce and dried crushed peanuts. The perfect combination of sweet, sour, peppery and salty flavors pleases any curious diner.
The dish can be easily found in parks and markets around Saigon for less than $1 a dish.
Pepper Elder Salad
Another super-simple salad which is very healthy and nutritious, it's the essence of simplicity, and many say you will need it and love it when you are fed up with everything else.
The entire pepper elder plant is edible, from its succulent stems to its shiny, heart-shaped leaves and soft, fruiting spikes. It has a mustard-like odor and is known to be an effective treatment for abdominal pain, acne, fatigue, gout, headache, renal disorders and rheumatic joint pain.
For a tasty salad, all you have to do is mix the plants with slices of onions and boiled eggs, and add some sweet and sour fish sauce.
The only hard/annoying part of preparing this fruit-based salad is peeling the pomelo and keeping the flesh undamaged. Then you just need to add shrimp, slices of pork, roasted peanuts, coriander and the usual salad dressing.