A spot of Cambodia in central Saigon

Existing for half a century, the traditional Cambodian market in Ho Chi Minh City has long attracted visitors with its authentic fare.

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Le Hong Phong Market, about 1 km long, in District 10. Photo by VnExpress/Tam Linh.

Hidden inside Alley 374/51, Le Hong Phong Street of District 10, the Cambodian market, known as Le Hong Phong Market, is accessible on foot or motorbike. It is advised you park your vehicle near the gate for VND5,000 to VND10,000 (US$0.2-0.4).

Local Vietnamese Cambodian vendors have resided in Vietnam for decades, having fled back in the 1970s due to the neighboring civil war.

Ngo Thi Bach Cuc, 63, still remembers the day she followed her mom and sisters across the border to settle in the still deserted and shabby market area. Cuc is one of the second-generation vendors in this market.

Before 1975, Le Hong Phong Street was named Pétrus Ký. In the late 1940s to early 1950s, coaches from HCMC to many regions of Vietnam gathered here before embarking. Traders spotting a good opportunity subsequently rented out nearby houses.

"Some houses served as storage facilities. Later, Ho Thi Ky Street became famous for Da Lat flowers," said Gai, 57, who runs a nightly drink stall. Ho Thi Ky Street, also in District 10, is another way to get to the Cambodian market.

There were allegedly only 10 small businesses here in the 1980s. In 1988, over 90 households around Le Hong Phong sold flowers. The number has since risen to more than 100.  

Traditional dried fish, dried carabeef, num banh chok (Cambodian rice noodle soup), neem leaves, baked bananas and Cambodian sweet soup (che) are popular market attractions.

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Most materials used to make num banh chok noodle soup are imported from Cambodia. Photo by VnExpress/Tam Linh.

The best time for num banh chok is from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m., though you could drop by the market from 4 p.m. till dusk for any other delicious snacks.

"I asked some vendors to call me whenever they receive delicious dried fish I can send my relatives in the north," said Bich Chau, a resident on Le Hong Phong Street.

Hang from Tan Binh District, said: "Every month during full moon or the Lunar New Year holiday occasion, I visit the market to buy cheap flowers."

Fresh flowers are restocked at the market at around 11 p.m. everyday.

Vnexpress