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
Note to self: never bet on football again!
I bet against Spain in Euro 2008 and ended up owing a home-cooked meal to Eiling, stupid Germany squad, hmph! Anyway, to keep to the promise, I went to Isetan last week and spent too much money on a Tefal frying pan to prepare one of my favorite traditional dishes specialized by my mom: fried mee hun with stewed pork.
tools, material, preparation, fruit of labor
On the day itself, I called up mom to recap the recipe since this was something I’ve never attempted before. According to her, the ingredients as are as follow:
- a clove of garlic
- some shallots
- mee hun for 3-4 pax
- a can of stewed pork
- a carrot
- some prawns
- dark soya sauce, light soya sauce, sugar and salt
Not overly complicated, she also mentioned I should remove excess lard and oil from the canned stewed meat. Lets just say I am one who does not like to follow recipes verbatim.
shallots and garlic go first
Now, this is slightly more complicated than the angel hair pasta with scallop that I made, but I’m sure with a little bit of practice and a few meals of mee hun to your pet dog, you will be able do it too. Here goes:
- soak mee hun in water for 30 mins to an hour
- prepare mixture of 2 sp soya sauce, 2 sp dark soya sauce, some salt, and some sugar with water
- fry chopped garlic and shallots until fragrant
- add prawn and cook till they start to turn red
- add mee hun, the sauce from 2nd step, stir
- add canned stewed pork, stir, add some water if your pan gets too dry
- add cabbage and carrot, stir till they are cooked
- slightly overpriced but awesome mee hun is ready!
can’t you smell it from here?
Believe it or not, the mee hun actually turned out better than expected. In fact, it was as good as mom’s! Eiling, Rachel, and I all finished our huge servings rather quickly and was very satisfied. The mixture of pork, prawn, and vegetable worked beautifully, and the hint of lard in that mee hun, *slurps*, you just have to try it.
Total cost of the meal was close to RM 30 for 3 person, but that includes a one time purchase of dark soya sauce. The canned pork was close to RM 10 but well worth it. Eiling brought a bottle of wine to commemorate the occasion too (that, or she’s just an alcoholic) It was a splendid dinner.
a bottle of red wine to go with the awesome dish
Take home chef signing off!
After having heavy meals for the past few days, we decided to have something lighter on Saturday night, Mee Sua Tow (鱼翅面线糊) at Restaurant Teow Chew Meng (潮州铭小食馆) at PJ SS2. Even though the restaurant is quite close to where I stay, I never noticed it’s existence as the location is just slightly out of the view, behind the row of shops that faces the Mobil gas station by the road that connects Seapark to SS2.
Mee Sua Tow, topped with some fakeplan sharks fin
The ambience of this place is rather pleasing. Just clean and quiet environment, the quietness probably due to the MIDI music that is being played softly. No rowdiness usually associated with Chinese restaurants.
We ordered Mee Sua Tow for four, two plates of three flavored oyster (sweet, sour, and spicy), steamed lettuce, steamed octopus with rojak sauce, and some Toew Chew yam paste for dessert.
Mee Sua Tow, Vege, Oyster, and Octopus
We didn’t need to wait long for the food to arrive, the Mee Sua Tow was served just a few minutes after we placed our order. Topped with some (I assume fake) sharks fin, the main dish comes with plenty of shrimp, imitation crab, fish maw, and bamboo clam in the thick mee sua (rice vermicelli) soup. It actually tasted like sharks fin soup, and best served the same way, with some vinegar. The portion wasn’t too big, and it was very delicious.
Kelvin always looking so joyous
The other dishes we ordered were all pretty good, and the three flavored oyster even more so. It was like having oyster omlete without all the hassle of having to pick through the egg and starch. We ultimately had to order another serving to satisfy the cravings. The steamed octopus is a common dish in Penang but done pretty well here as well.
ST and Kelvin skipped the dessert, but kerol and I went for the ultra sinful Teow Chew yam paste. Basically made of yam with lard and topped with ginko nuts. It was very rich and sweet, and the lard.. ah.. go try it.
The same row as Lobsterman
A portion of mee sua tow is RM10, with all the other extras and drinks we had to part with around RM 25 per person. A good value for what we had and I’ll surely go there again.
Restaurant Teow Chew Meng opens from 10am to 10pm, closed on Monday.
33, Jalan SS2/30
47300 Petaling Jaya
GPS: 3.113563, 101.621132
Tel: 03-7877 9298
Other branches in PJ:
9, Jalan SS14/1, 47500 Subang Jaya
54, Jalan 8/62A, Bandar Manjalara, 52200 Kepong
Branches in Penang:
Chai Leng Park, Prai (012-438 5288)
Pulau Tikus, Penang (012-411 0988)
8-Row, Georgetown (04-228 8675)
Sunway Tunas, Bayan Baru (04-646 6675)