Saigon’s Mac Thi Buoi St is smartening up. The imposing Vietcombank Tower is finally open, and fancy international eateries like Stoker and Racha Room draw crowds of cashed-up locals and foreigners. The street was once home to rows of shophouses. Many of its heritage buildings are gone now - though a few landmarks, like Vietnam House restaurant and the suspect Thien Loc cafe, remain. Even the legendary decades old wonton soup stall near the corner of Hai Ba Trung St, recently bit the dust. The good news is that one of the street’s greatest treasures, lives on. Mr Mach Chay’s late night banh mi stand has been in family hands for seven decades. When asking about his background, Mach Chay quickly dropped his Vietnamese ID card in front of me, I’m not sure why. It notes that he is Chinese, even though he was born in Vietnam. Vietnamese are required to carry ID cards and these identify the paternal ancestral village, town, or in Mach Chay's case, country. It's not unusual for somebody to have a paternal ancestral place on their ID card that they have never visited. Mach Chay, now 60, has manned the banh mi stand since his father passed away. I’ve chatted with him many times but only recently tried his banh mi for the first time. I’m no banh mi expert but Mach Chay’s work certainly despatched my late night hunger. And he has no shortage of local customers. Things aren’t looking good for Saigon’s downtown street food scene so swing by and grab an evening bread roll from a Saigon living treasure, the self-effacing Mr Mach Chay, while you can. He opens at around 9PM and stays open late. He’s a few metres towards Hai Ba Trung St from Stoker restaurant.
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