August 16, 2015

Ho Chi Minh (Saigon) – Food and market

After watching the AO Show one of the nights, we headed to Huong Lai Vietnamese Restaurant for some traditional Vietnamese cuisine.   What attracted me to this restaurant was the fact that the service staff and some of the kitchen staff are former street children, orphans and youth from very poor families, and Huong Lai provided them an opportunity to better their lives.

 In front of the Municipal Theatre after the show

We almost missed the entrance as the doorway was dimly lit.  Beyond the door, we climbed up the flight of rickety wooden stairs to reach the dining area, decorated with brick walls and white tablecloths, exuding an air of French colonial influence.

We had fried prawn spring roll, steamed tofu with minced pork and mushrooms, stir fried kangkung, stir-fried chicken in lemongrass and stewed pork in claypot.

A Vietnamese colleague recommended Ngoc Suong Marina also known as Marina Saigon Seafood Cuisine for our team dinner.  It is an upmarket seafood restaurant, with aquariums on the ground floor from which you can order produce cooked to your desire.

We started with their signature fish salad, raw fish (I think) wrapped with vegetables in a thin rice paper with a fish sauce and peanuts dip.  The other dishes we had were tamarind roast crab, barbecued spicy squid, steamed tiger prawns in coconut shell and grilled pork ribs.  We ended our meal with seafood hotpot – all in, an extremely satisfying dinner.

 Fish salad, eaten rolled up like a spring roll

When in Vietnam, must have pho :-)  I was looking for reviews of pho stalls and found one that is literally just next to the hotel I was staying so I went there for breakfast one day.

On the last night, we went to Cuc Gach Quan, located inside a French colonial house.  The décor is rutic and elegant, cluttered with recycled vintage items to “remind people of the old time”.  The restaurant focuses on traditional country Vietnamese cuisine, food typically found in a Vietnamese home.

We sat at the alfresco area

We had rice with stir fried pumpkin flowers (or was it lily bubs?), fried tofu with lemongrass and chilli, stir fried soft shell crab with tamarind sauce and sour soup with fish.  Recycling isn’t limited to re-using old items–even the straw used to serve fresh fruit juices is a stem from the water morning glory.

 Whenever I travel, I try to make it a point to visit their local market and followed a colleague to one.  Apparently there’s a special Vietnamese rice for porridge and the best one was in this market (which I have no idea where).

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