Hungry In Ho Chi Minh

Hungry In Ho Chi Minh

Where I went and what I ate on my trip to the capital of Vietnam.
Veronica Phua
Veronica Phua

We walked into a random eatery on the much-too-touristy street of Bui Vien (don't know why our concierge pointed us here! 🙄) to grab our first bite upon arrival. This huge "Banh Xeo" was one of the items we tried.
It comprised of a folded-over crepe that's slightly stretchy in texture, with a crisped finish along the edges. Puffing it up were loads, and I mean loads, of beansprouts plus a few prawns. We ate it with the fresh herbs and fish sauce served alongside.
Pretty tasty overall but I just don't care for the area this place was in. Anyway, you can find "Banh Xeo" easily everywhere else in Ho Chi Minh.

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I like it when a hotel includes local dishes in their breakfast buffet. Extra points if the taste is true to the real thing out there.
This chicken pho for instance, was pretty good. The soup was light yet tasty while the rice noodles were thin and silky. Although it was breast meat, I thought the chicken was tender enough and full of flavour. None of the necessary condiments were missing either. The buffet spread was modest but since it's a small hotel, that's understandable.
The Millennium Boutique Hotel has a weird back lane type of entrance but at least it's centrally located. The main reason I booked it is because of that, plus Agoda had a promotion.

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A diehard munchkin of a Vietnamese aunty had me by my arm and refused to let go until I sat down at her stall. Since I am #foreverhungry, it was by no means a stretch to order something. This was the something: "Com Tam" or rice with grilled pork chop. It's another of my perennial favourite Vietnamese dishes because you can't go wrong with a slab of lemongrass-marinated meat that's been nicely grilled.

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On my second visit to Maison Marou, the "Dr. Yersin Eclair" called out to me like the most enticing siren. It was upon these "rocks" of Dalat mulberry and Marou chocolate that I crashed in satisfaction. The fruitiness of the berry component harmonised well with the dark chocolate and light choux pastry.
If you are concerned about being overwhelmed by too much chocolate, this is the dessert you ought to get.

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Exclusive to the famous Vietnamese coffee chain "Trung Nguyen Cafe" is this "Pho Khô Gia Lai" or "Gia Lai Dried Noodle".
Under the blanket of lettuce, minced pork, fried garlic and shallots, raw beansprouts and basil leaves is a pile of rather plain-looking thin and chewy noodles. You're suppose to add however much you like of the accompanying small bowl of soya paste and chilli sauce. Which by the way, reminds me of the maroon-coloured sweet sauce and chilli combo you get at our local "yong tau fu" stalls but is more savoury. Their chilli is also much spicier and oilier - yes, it had me happily salivating in an instant. Another nice touch? They serve this noodles with a bowl of sliced beef soup.

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Fresh fruit juices at "Cuc Gach Quan" come prettily presented in tall glass bottles with rolled up leaves as a stopper.
Their green-hued "Golden Apple" is what I know as "buah longlong" and is very tart but easily balanced out with the warm sweetness of the amber-toned natural honey served on the side. I am partial to the passionfruit myself and liked it with plenty of said honey as well.

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The Vietnamese love bittergourd and there's a traditional dish they do that I like.
Stuffed with minced pork, the bittergourd (big ones are sectioned up, smaller ones are kept whole) are cooked in a clear soup till slightly soft.
A word of caution: If you don't like bitter food, you should avoid this because the Vietnamese don't believe in getting rid or reducing the bitterness.

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A simple way to sample a few local specialities at one go is to get the "Hello Sapa Combo" at Ben Thanh Food Street Market. It includes fresh spring rolls, mini savoury pancakes and steamed rolls of stuffed rice sheets.

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Stumbled across this pushcart in the District 3 area. Made fresh on the spot over charcoal fire, these Vietnamese pancakes (at least that's what I call them) taste like the popular egglet waffles from Hongkong but have the dual texture of a cushiony middle and crispy edges that's similar to "appam". Great snack to tear and eat as you walk around the city.

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Thanks to an IG friend @trang.ng1011, I learned of "Bé Chè", a local dessert stall inside Ben Thanh Market. Refreshed ourselves with their "Mixed", a colourful creation served in a tall glass that's similar to Singapore's "bubor cha cha" but with more ingredients, an eggy flan in caramel sauce, a green striped agar-agar jelly and a glass of grass jelly in a coconut milk. I liked that none of these pretty desserts were too sweet.

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Pho your sake, don't miss this if you are ever in Ho Chi Minh. It's magnificent!
"Pho Le" dishes out massive bowls of silky thin rice noodles topped with blanched fresh beef, braised beef brisket and bouncy beefballs. No such thing as a wilted sprig or two of herbs here - they give you a huge tray piled high with fresh basil, young basil and raw beansprouts to add to your heart's content. There's also a smaller plate with wedges of fresh lime and slices of mildly-pickled local green chilli that pack a slow-burning, intense spiciness. Last but not least, you can spoon some of their delicious chilli "sambal" into a saucer to dip your beef and beefballs in.

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Wobble-licious hunk of supremely tender braised pork belly - I have witnesses who will swear it fell apart at the touch of our plastic cutlery. The egg was something else as well with its liquid gold yolk.
Probably better to order this dish to share as it might kill you 😆😆😆

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