Bread Bugs in Saigon

The sanitation issue in Vietnam is hard to ignore

Photo by me
Journal entry 1/25/2017

“I have to say though I find it a bit hard dealing w/ the sanitation issue here. There are literally big ass bugs crawling on the counter as the man wearing no gloves hands me my loaves of bread. I’m torn though bc this bread is damn good!”

My favorite food is bread. I can eat more bread than any other human being I’ve ever met in my life. I’m the guy at Outback Steakhouse that orders a third basket of bread before my appetizer has come out.

On my 11th day living in Saigon, Vietnam, I smelled the aroma of freshly baked bread while walking down a side street near my apartment. I was naturally attracted to this scent, so I glanced inside. This bakery looked nothing like any other bakery I’d ever seen in my life. It appeared to me like a workshop of some sort with baskets of bread all around and shelves that had rolls and different kinds of bread. I stepped inside this small shop on the side of the road to take a closer look. There were customers pulling up to the window on their motorbikes grabbing loaves and handing over cash as they pulled away — drive-thru style.

After looking around for a minute, I felt obligated to make a purchase, so I pointed to the basket of baguettes and gestured “two” with my fingers. The man behind the counter grabbed the loaves and placed them on the counter. He had a disheveled but friendly look to him. He also wasn’t wearing protective gloves, but I’m not the health inspector. He then grabbed a calculator, seeing as I didn’t speak Vietnamese, and typed in the price. I pulled out my wallet and as I was handing him 10,000 VND ($.50), I noticed several crawlers the size of matchbox cars running across the counter.

I had been living in Vietnam for a week or so at this point so I wasn’t astonished to see bugs in a place where food was being served, but it still made me a little uneasy. I had been craving bread as usual and these baguettes were warm and soft — exactly how I like them. I thought about it for a moment as I walked out and waved goodbye. I reasoned with myself that the bread was obviously fresh and therefore the bugs likely didn’t have a chance to get to these specific loaves yet.

I took a bite and was amazed with how delicious the bread was. It was crispy on the outside and soft and chewy on the inside. I ate both loaves before I reached the door to my apartment 3 blocks away.

If it wasn’t for the bugs everywhere, I would have surely bought bread daily from this bakery, but the timing was never as perfect as it was that first time.

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