Monday, 22 July 2013

A Weekend in Ho Chi Minh - Part II

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I can eat Vietnamese food every day!

There's something about a cuisine that features such prominent use of fresh herbs, minimal use of oil and heavy reliance on fresh ingredients.  Vietnamese food is considered one of the healthiest cuisine in the world.

Who wouldn't fall in love with those comforting pho soups, slow cooked stews, rolls of every kind, juicy grilled meats, and the unlimited use of fresh zesty herbs of all kinds.  And not to mention those ice blended drinks using almost every fruit imaginable (except durians!).  Let's see - in our three days there we almost got diabetic on avocado juice, soursop juice, mango juice, pineapple juice, vietnamese cherry juice, ciku juice, tamarind juice, pomegranate juice, pomelo get the idea. 

Now if only I can live in Vietnam, which I don't think I I will just settled on pigging out during every trip we make to the Land of the Dragon People.

Oh, did i mention that beer is CHEAPER than water in Vietnam? 
Tiger Beer is RM1.45.  *Faint*

In the last 4 years, we've made a grand total of TWO trips to Vietnam, both times to Ho Chi Minh, mainly because we have friends there.  Way too few trips I tell you.  Hubby and I agreed that when our kids are bigger, we will go again as a family, and hopefully cover Hanoi as well.

The best thing about having friends in foreign places is you get to see a side of the country that you normally wouldn't as solo tourists, and PIG OUT eat at famous local eateries that we would probably not been able to find our own way to. 

Here are some of the yummy food places we've been to so far:-

Pho 24 is a popular noodle chain. 

Our first bowl of beef Pho at Pho 24 - mix beef bowl costs 59,000 Dong.
About RM9.

Hubs and I love to walkabout the streets looking for cheap local eats.  This local pho coffee shop was right round the corner from our hotel.  It is manned by a lady and her daughter, and they serve some awesome beef pho at a fraction of the price.

Plenty of sauces and condiments to go with your noodles.
Lime, pickled chilies, pickled garlic and onions, fish sauce,
sugar, soy sauce, sweet hoi sin sauce, chili sauce,
and yau char kwai!

A large mix beef pho - only 40,000 Dong.
RM6 :))

Another good find on our walkabout.
This shop sells some mean stew beef - spare parts!

Two huge cauldrons of simmering beef goodies. 

Take your pick - beef tripe, stomach, brisket, tendon, intestine, lungs...
A rich savoury stew with tomatoes and herbs.

This dish is classic French influence on Vietnamese cuisine
- eat the stew with a fresh crusty bread.

Typical way of eating in small eateries - kiddie size tables and chairs

You can't visit Ho Chi Minh without visiting Ben Thanh market
- the largest local market where you can find all things under the sun.
Food, lacquerware, clothing, shoes, dry goods, wet foods, etc etc

Vietnamese coffee galore

Plenty of food to gawk at and pig out

We had loads of prawn rolls and cane sugar shrimp sticks - yummy!

Vietnamese creme caramel is awesome! 
It is served with crushed ice and topping of bitter palm sugar syrup.
Only RM2.50

Prepacked creme caramel - we got a few back for our son.
Needless to say, he couldn't get enough of it. 

Another find on our walkabout - this coffee shop does mostly takeaways.
Popiah is called Bo Bia in Vietnamese - and this Bo Bia stall does a roaring
business.  People were packing 10 and 20 popiah rolls at one go.
We wanted to come back the next day but they were closed.
The sugar cane juice stall was also super popular.

Fruit stalls near a wet market

Vietnamese cherries - sour and tart, but super refreshing when juiced
and mix with some honey.

Doner Kebab is called Banh Mi in Vietnam.  A must-try when you are in Vietnam.

If you love to watch Travel and Living on Astro especially on Anthony Bourdain's food travels, you might recognise this.  Yup, Mr Bourdain ate here at Ban Xeo - famous for their savoury crepes, French influenced.

Our friends D and H took us here on a weeknight - it was doing roaring business. Typical tai-chow style, road side stall, no frills, super sweaty and super good food. 

Vietnamese crepes - prawns, pork slices, beansprouts in a fluffy egg pancake. 

Roll it up with loads of fresh lettuce and herbs, and dunk into sweet fish sauce.  Total YUM!

Another popular eatery that D and H took us at our first trip - this place is famous for all things soft shell crab.  Housed in a totally old style, narrow coffee shop with the STEEPEST steps I have ever seen - way steeper than our Malaysian pre-war shop lots.

Soft shell crab deep fried rolls, deep fried whole soft shell crabs, and (not in picture) fried vermicelli with soft shell crabs and a HUGE bowl of the ubiquituos lettuce and herbs.

This place serves awesome Hue noodles and dishes.  Hue cuisine originates from the central part of Vietnam and is characterised by more spicy and pungent dishes.  

Spicy Hue beef pho

Crushed peanuts with baby oysters in scrambled eggs and herbs

Another star-studded eatery that D and H took us to.  This one has been visited by Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie when they brought their adopted Vietnamese son Pax to visit his homeland.

Apparently you can only get a table with prior reservation.   When we got there, there were several serious looking men standing outside - almost like bouncers sifting out genuine patrons from curious on-lookers or blur tourists like me and hubs ;-P

Food here is superb. 

The ambience is retro - designed to resemble an old Vietnamese local home.  Check out those rattan weaved food covers.

My pomelo juice served in a tall slim bottle stuffed with a rolled up pandan cork.  No plastic straws here, you sip your drinks through kangkung stems - cool.

We had like 8-9 dishes that night.   I forgot the names of all these dishes - was too busy appreciating the deco! but i think the dishes were prawn and herbs roll, beancurd with dried shrimp floss, pork and yam puffs, caramel chicken.

Dill and herbs with clams soup - this was AWESOME.  I secretly wanted the whole bowl all to myself :))

Pomelo with prawns, Claypot prawns and caramel fish cutlets. 

Needless to say, hubs and I overstuffed ourselves.

L'usine Cafe is situated on the upstairs of a shoplot on Dong Khoi Street - the hoity toity part of town directly opposite Sheraton Saigon.  Again we climbed a sloping steep stairway to find ourselves facing something that reminds me straightaway of those Melbourne chic bistros on Lygon or Brunswick Street.  Ah, nostalgia.  Not surprisingly, when I mentioned this to D, he said the owners were Vietnamese who spent some years in Melbourne ;)

L'usine is famous for their super decadent cupcakes, which we had for desserts later.

We arrived at L'usine for a late lunch, and I was craving for something salad-ish.  I ordered their house signature Vietnamese Grilled Caramel Pork Salad.   It was delicious, juicy pork slices tossed in a piquant salad mix of herbs, lettuce, lime and fish sauce and peanuts. 

Hubby ordered their weekend special of Pulled Pork Burger with Mustard Grain and Herbs Potatoes.  The shredded pork was very tasty, but I felt it was a tad dry. 

This was their signature Grilled Pork in Ban Mi (Baguette) Style. 

Slow Roasted Vegetable Soup.   Very flavourful and rich, with a touch of spice and curry powder.  It would have been great if they served this with some buttered crusty bread.

I was gushing over these cupcake containers.  SOOOOOOO pretty! Wish I could buy the entire collection (it won't be nice with just one) but they were pricey.  

We finished our meals with some of their popular cupcakes : from top left clockwise - Very Chocolate; Red Velvet; Lemon and Coconut Vanilla. 

I am not a fan of cupcakes but these were really good.  Super moist (I like) and the texture was fluffy and soft.  They were also very sweet, but not cloyingly sweet, and you could tell you use fresh and quality ingredients.   Perfect with a glass of iced vietnamese coffee or latte.

So there you go, a kaleidescope of great tasting Vietnamese food.  Ever since we got back, i've been on an auto mode to make sandwich/baguette style lunches for hubs and me.  Made another batch of pickle the other day and marinaded some chicken fillet to make Lemongrass Chicken Rice Rolls.  This weekend we'd probably head to Vietnam House for our fix of pho again!


  1. Wow, Esther! I am captivated. I love Vietnamese food too. Somehow, it has this light refreshing feel to it. Quite interesting that kangkung stem was used as a straw at that restaurant. Really a place worth visiting. Should go there while the prices are still cheap.

  2. Yes, I love Vietnamese foods too, where they use a lot of fresh herbs and vegetables. I have been there twice, and I will bring my family visit again in coming Nov, feel excited now. Thanks for sharing few new places I have never been there before, will try to go if time allowed. My favourite eatery place are Pho Hoa. Ashima mushroom hot pot and Quan An Ngon.

  3. WOW! I'm so jealous, Vietnamese food is my favorite! It all looks amazing@

  4. That pho really looks good. I think so far I can only find one place in PJ which does pretty good pho.

  5. Hi Esther, great writeup. I enjoyed browsing thru the photos and reading the stories behind them. Didn't realize Vietnam had so much to offer before this :)

  6. Hi Esther, now I know Vietnamese coffee is special. No wonder my friend who works there bought a packet for me. Hopefully he brings back another packet in September, hehehe! We planning a visit there before this friend comes back for good.

  7. I've been enjoying your write up of HCM a lot, and have been bookmarking all the places you have written about! Thanks :D


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