Alongside Highway 12 in a small village in central Vietnam’s Quang Binh Province, nearly 30 women spend their days making a living feeding local workers their daily fill of chicken and rice.
These women, ranging from 30 to 50 years old, begin each day the same: rise early, steam the rice, cook the chicken, load it onto bamboo panniers delicately balanced atop their heads, and head out into the local streets and markets to make a living selling lunches to locals.
A full lunch set typically includes rice, four pieces of seasoned chicken, and a veggie side dish for just VND20,000, or less than US$1 - a price even a low-income worker can afford.
|Street vendors carry bamboo panniers of chicken rice along a busy street in Quang Binh, central Vietnam. Photo: Tuoi Tre|
And what sets this village’s signature dish apart from any other chicken rice plate? According to Le Bay, a street vendor who has spent years preparing the dish, the love and care each of cook puts into in to preparing the meals elevates their food to a level fit for a king.
“Everything is homegrown, so it’s clean and affordable,” she said.
But there are some days their mouthwatering chicken rice just doesn’t sell and they’re forced to move to markets in remote areas or donate leftovers to the homeless.
“If we are willing to help people, then others will be willing to help us,” Bay said.
|Le Bay begins preparing food early each morning. Photo: Tuoi Tre|
|The ‘army’ of street vendors catches the early bus into town each morning in Quang Binh. Photo: Tuoi Tre|
|A street vendor happily sells lunch in Quang Binh. Photo: Tuoi Tre|
|Quang Binh chicken rice is seasoned with golden turmeric and flavored with chili spice. Photo: Tuoi Tre|
|A street vendor sells chicken rice in Quang Binh. Photo: Tuoi Tre|