Over the last year end holiday season, we spent quite a few days in Ho Chi Minh City, and I thought it’d be a good opportunity to sample the various street foods this biggest city in Vietnam has to offer and do a bit of introduction to you, so here goes.
Bun Bo Hue 31, at District 1, Ho Chi Minh City
This was my 10th time to Ho Chi Minh City, but previous 9 were all due to work and happened more than 9 years ago, I was greeted with a rush of nostalgia, so much of the city has changed, yet so much stayed exactly the same as when I first stepped foot here more than a decade ago.
Thankfully, part of the latter includes what Saigon has to offer when it comes to the rich variety of local cuisine.
Bún bò Huế- spicy beef and vermicelli soup
We start off the introduction with Bún bò Huế.
While Vietnamese pho gets all the attention, bun bo, in a way, is one that I find more interesting. Originated from Hue, a former capital city of Vietnam situated somewhere in the middle geographically, bun bo has a spicy soup base made from boiled beef shank, chunks of oxtail, and even pig’s knuckles, which gives it a sweeter flavor and a bit more kick.
Like most Vietnamese noodle soup, it also comes with a generous portion of vegetable on the side, including sliced banana blossom, green onion, bean sprout, cilantro, and more. Squeeze a slice of lime, and add some fresh green chili in the soup and you’re good to go. The vermicelli used is also usually the round & thick type, which I think is perfect for this application, simply beautiful and absolutely delicious.
spicy beef and vermicelli soup
I had my bowl at Bun Bo Hue 31 near the middle of the city, a shop frequent mostly by the locals with staffs who spoke almost no English. To order, you can simply point to the menu, or use the phone as a translator. Give it a try when you’re in Vietnam.
Bun Bo Hue 31
P. Q.1, 31 Mạc Đĩnh Chi, Đa Kao,
District 1, Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam
GPS: 10.784853, 106.699163
Tel: +84 8 3827 7257
Hours: 6 am to 9 pm
My Vietnamese friend, Trinh invited me to his house for dinner, and knowing that I am some sort of an explorer when it comes to food, he got his wife to prepare one of the more interesting dishes I’ve had recently. Fried bee’s pupae!
don’t they look lovely?
The dish is prepared by frying the pupae lightly with minimal seasoning, looks to me that only oil and some shallots was used. My friend told me that there are many ways the dish is prepared. As you bite this strange looking creature, the liquid interior of the insect bursts in your mouth, the texture is certainly interesting. However, to be honest, the taste is rather blunt, I think a stronger seasoning might help.
very good Vietnamese hospitality
My Vietnamese friend’s house is quite narrow and short in Malaysian standard, but in the city of 7 million, land is pretty expensive. This particular house is slightly less than 3 meters in width, and probably some 10 meters in depth. It was a pretty interesting experience.
Updates will be sparse these few days as I am traveling on assignment at Ho Chi Minh City again. This time around I surely will try more interesting food. So far I’ve tried fried bee larva (will post on that soon), lets see what I manage to get in the next few days!
The reason this blog hasn’t been updated for the past few days is a sound one. I was at Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam again, and the hotel wanted to charge something like US $17 per day for internet access, I guess I could live without going online for a few days. I had the chance to walk around the city a bit and take a few pictures from the street.
not going to school
There are still many under privileged children in this city, selling various items such as chewing gums, or like in this case, providing a shoe shining service.
buy from me?
This lady kept asking me to buy a coconut from her. I had no idea how much one would cost, and she doesn’t speak English either.
i want a bike
It seems like this guy, who appears to be a rat trapper, would very much love to be able to own a motorbike one day. Ho Chi Minh City has a very high concentration of motorbikes, pretty much like Penang in the 80s, except maybe 5x as busy.
A white lady is trying to figure out what’s for breakfast. I guess it wasn’t too attractive as she just walked past the mobile restaurant. You can find these sort of hawkers all over HCMC.
Just before heading to SGN airport coming back to Malaysia during the last trip at HCMC, I decided to have some Japanese food instead of traditional Vietnamese Food. Instead of catching a cab, I just started to walk down the busy Hai Ba Trung Street to check out the numerous Japanese restaurant around the city.
Angler Fish Liver and Sashimi
After passing a handful of Japanese restaurants that are either too expensive or offering only a limited menu, I decided to go into Akatonbo as the menu displayed outside the door looks enticing, and reasonably priced as well.
After scanning through the rather extensive menu, I ordered a sashimi set and a serving of ankimo (Angler fish liver).
very extensive menu
The sashimi, consisting of salmon, tuna, squid, octopus tentacles, and two other types of fish, were very fresh and properly cut. Though the serving was somewhat small and rice were not included, it was still pretty good. The Angler fish liver, though, was quite interesting. I had actually wanted to order it at Zen sushi at Subang Jaya once but it was a seasonal offering and they had run out of it, so this was actually the first time I tasted this Japanese delicacy. The texture of the liver is similar to pickled tofu, but slightly tougher, it has a rich and fatty taste to it, often described to be similar to foie gras. It was really good, and served exactly like how it’s meant to.
More on Ankimo:
The liver is first rubbed with salt, then rinsed with sake. Then its veins are picked out and the liver is rolled into a cylinder and steamed. Ankimo is often served with chili-tinted grated daikon radish, thinly sliced green onions and ponzu sauce.
Akatonbo restaurant is at the heart of District 1, HCMC
The total damage was less than $14 USD (less than RM 50). Pretty good value for the interesting Ankimo and the good quality sashmi. Yogurt is served after the meal too, a pretty good concept that no Japanese restaurants in Malaysia that I am aware of follows.
38 Hai Ba Trung Street,
District 1, HCMC, Vietnam