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Malaysian Food Blog, Travel, Diving & More

Tag / Vietnam

One of the reasons I’ve been to Vietnam 9 times prior to this trip was due to work. Back then, we were developing a pretty complicated web based program with a team of programmers based in Ho Chi Minh City, and the team lead for that project was none of ther than Trinh, a friendly local chap whom I’ve developed a friendship over the years.

Quán Lẩu Cá Kèo Bà Huyện is the name of the restaurant
Quán Lẩu Cá Kèo Bà Huyện is the name of the restaurant

So on this trip, I took the opportunity to catch up with Trinh again after not seeing each other on flesh for the past 9 years or so.

Haze and I was on a rented scooter, following Trinh on his bike heading to District 3 towards Quán Lẩu Cá Kèo Bà Huyện 2 restaurant for dinner involving fish. A place I have visited in my previous trip, courtesy of another Vietnamese colleague’s introduction. I actually consulted the same person for address, too bad she was not able to join us over the holiday season.

fish is as fresh as they come, they're alive!
fish is as fresh as they come, they’re alive!

What we came here for was Keo fish, a type of freshwater goby/mudskipper measuring some half a feet or so (scientific name – pseudapocryptes elongatus). According to Trinh, this delicacy is only available in South Vietnam.

The fish is usually served in two different ways – grilled, or in soup.

The grilled version is served on a stick not entirely different from shishamo in Japanese cuisine, but of course with plenty of vege on the side, and some fish sauce based condiment on the side.

grilled keo fish vs steamboat version, Trinh & me
grilled keo fish vs steamboat version, Trinh & me

The soupy version though, came in a hotpot with even more vegetable and a side of vermicelli noodle as well. The texture is smooth and it also has a naturally sweet seafood flavor.

We didn’t know how fresh the fish were until Trinh ordered additional fishes when we ran out. They came to the table ALIVE! The waiter then carefully dump the live fish into the hotpot and close the lid real quick to spare us the death scene. A few minutes later, we were enjoying some of the sweetest and freshest seafood, the taste is not overly different from marble goby, in fact.

If you’re into some special type of seafood, this place would offer quite an experience.

P/S: I believe it was something below 300,000 VND for the three of us for this meal.

map to ba huyen 2, ho chi minh city

 

Address:
Quán Lẩu Cá Kèo Bà Huyện 2
10 Nguyễn Thông, phường 7
District 3, Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam
GPS: 10.777475, 106.685398
Tel: +84 8 3930 0636

You can just about find a street food vendor near every busy intersections in Ho Chi Minh City, the set up varies, but more often than not they have these tiny tables and chairs seemingly set up for kids of kindergarten age. If you’re Vietnamese size, these will fit just, and fortunately for myself and Haze, our body size is within range.

street side food vendor outside Ben Thanh market
street side food vendor outside Ben Thanh market

Ben Thanh market is one of those “must-visit” places in Ho Chi Minh City, especially if you feel like getting slaughtered buying touristy or otherwise imitation goods. We went there only because it was almost a decade since I got my fake Nike jerseys there, plus we had rented a scooter so it was rather convenient to do so.

you want spicy? we've got spicy!
you want spicy? we’ve got spicy!

Anyway, there is this little bot chien & ha cao stall situated right outside the market manned by a middle aged lady with a frying pan and a metal small pot on clay stove. Street food is best sampled with the locals, so we made this our spot for afternoon in-between meal snacks.

Bột chiên - fried rice cake
bột chiên – fried rice cake

Bot Chien is the Vietnamese version of fried rice cake (25000 VND). While the base ingredient is similar to our “char kuih kak“, the execution is vastly different. The rice cake is fried together with egg in generous amount of oil, with the surface area all crispy while retaining the inner bits soft.

Soya sauce is then poured over and then topped with shredded green papaya and chopped green onions. If you like it spicy, there’s also chili sauce & sambal that can be added to the whole mix.

This dish was actually pretty good, the various ingredients complement each other well, and best consumed while the rice cakes are still crispy even though soaked in soya sauce. The green papaya also serve to cut through the greasiness of the dish as well, I’d recommend anyone to give this a try.

há cảo - shrimp dumpling
há cảo – shrimp dumpling

Ha Cao, as you may suspect, is the dish of the same name in Cantonese –  shrimp dumplings (25000 VND). You get the shredded greens as well as the sambal, soya sauce and fried shallots ala Vietnamese style, but otherwise they aren’t overly different from the Chinese version. It was still enjoyable, but if I had to choose between the two, bot chien would be my choice.

map to ben thanh market, Saigon

Happy food hunting!

Address:
Phan Bội Châu
Ben Thanh
District 1, Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam
GPS: 10.772582, 106.698676

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
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
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
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 map

Address:
Bun Bo Hue 31
P. Q.1, 31 Mạc Đĩnh Chi, Đa Kao,
District 1, Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam
GPS10.784853, 106.699163
Tel: +84 8 3827 7257
Hours: 6 am to 9 pm

Last Monday I took a day off to take advantage of the Tuesday holiday for a pro-longed weekends (man I can get used of that 3 day work week) and attended a cooking demo at Le Meridien KL.

It was part of the “Experience Vietnam” promotion at Latest Recipe that runs from 16-22 May, 2011. Three chefs from Sheraton Saigon  – Chef Tran Cong Tien, Chef Nguyen Thi Duy and Chef Bui Van Tien Dong flew all the way here to KL to infuse the restaurant with some true blue (or red?) Vietnamese cuisine, and of course, to share a few recipe with us.

vietnamese girls serving spring roll
yes, these are real Vietnamese ladies too.

I’ve always been a fan of Vietnamese food ever since the university days in the States, and having traveled to Saigon for 9 times over the last 7-8 years or so, this brand of South East Asian cuisine isn’t exactly very foreign for me.

Yet, this is the first time I learn how to make a real Vietnamese Sping roll. It turned out to be really simple, you can source all the ingredients locally and make yourself some authentic Vietnamese spring rolls too!

making a vietnamese spring roll
making a vietnamese spring roll

Here’s the ingredients to make 20 spring rolls:

  • 20 pieces of rice papers
  • 80 grams of lettuce
  • 25 grams of your favourite Vietnamese herbs (basil and chives usually)
  • 70 grams of carrot, sliced in strips
  • 200 grams of fresh rice vermicelli (they use the thick version, i think mee hun might work too?)
  • 20 pieces of blanched prawns, peeled & halved

Then the ingredients for dipping sauce

  • 50 grams of tamarind pulp
  • 50 ml of hot water
  • 40 grams of dried mung bean
  • 60 ml of tepid water
  • 200 grams of preserved soya bean
  • 50 ml of corn oil (or any cooking oil)
  • 10 grams of chopped garlic
  • 60 grams of sugar

we got our hands dirty, and our cooking skills upgraded :D
Kim and I got our hands dirty, and our cooking skills upgraded 😀

The steps in making the Vietnamese spring roll is surprisingly easy:

  • wet the rice paper on one side with hand, but careful not to drench it
  • apply a piece of lettuce, then 2 basil leaves, a few strips of carrot, then some noodle
  • next fold the rice paper from both sides, then roll up from bottom until you just cover the ingredients
  • at this point put 2 pieces of shrimp on top, a piece of chives, and continue to roll the spring roll till complete

The last step separated out for mainly aesthetic purposes, so you can clearly see the shrimps through the translucent rice paper. Brilliant, I always wonder how they made it that way. Now I know. 😀

chef Tran Cong Tien and team making Bo La Lot
chef Tran Cong Tien and team making Bo La Lot (beef in fragrant leaves)

While you can consume the spring roll as is, they are best served with the soya bean dipping sauce, and here’s how you make them:

  • Stir in tamarind pulp in 50 ml of hot water, then strain through a fine sieve and set aside.
  • Steam the mung beans with 60 ml of water for about 20 minutes then blend together with the steaming water to form smooth paste. Set aside.
  • Blend the soya bean into a smooth paste. Set aside.
  • Next, heat up the oil in a pan, sautee the garlics till golden and throw in tamarind pulp paste, mung beans paste and soya bean paste. Stir till combined.
  • Simmer for 10 minutes till mixture thickens.
  • Remove from heat and allow to cool down before storing in fridge. This dipping sauce can be kept for up to a week

Cheo Troai Noouc (the dessert), Haze, Chef Antoine, Ciki
Cheo Troai Noouc (the dessert), Haze, Chef Antoine, Ciki

The good chefs from Vietnam also taught us how to make one of the most iconic Vietnamese food – Bo La Lot (grilled beef in fragrant leaves), and the dessert by the name of Cheo Troai Noouc (sticky rice dumpling with green bean filling and ginger syrup). I didn’t get a chance to try how to make those, but perhaps one day!

map to Le Meridien at KL Sentral

Address:
Le Meridien
2 Jalan Stesen Sentral,
Kuala Lumpur 50470

GPS: 3.135631,101.686476
Tel: 03-2263 7888

On an unrelated note, there’s a great deal over at MilkADeal that shouldn’t be missed! Xiao Fei Yang steamboat for RM 40 instead of RM 107.80 and good for 4 pax to enjoy!

xiao fei yang at MilkADeal

The deal includes a dry pot of fish ball, pork intestines, deep fried pig skin, pig stomach, fried fish maw, foo chuk, vegetables + 4 boiled rice. You can check out my review of Xiao Fei Yang at the Pudu branch. This deal is for their newer Damansara Utama branch. Head over to check out the deal and grab it before it expires on midnight of 25 May, 2011!

Address:
No:40G & 42G, Jalan SS21/62,
Damansara Utama, Kuala Lumpur

Melbourne city is populated with a huge population of Asian, and as many other Western countries, a decent portion of those Asians are Vietnamese for obvious reasons if you’ve ever watched Nam: Tour of Duty (which also has the awesome title song – Paint it Black).

While Victoria Street north of Richmond, some 2km away from Central Business District has the most Vietnamese restaurants, there are quite a number of them right at the city center too, and none can be more famous than Mekong Vietnam at Swanston in CBD. I just had to go there since Mell was raving about it ever since I knew her.


so Bill Clinton had 2 bowls, I had one.

The restaurant is like many typical Asian outfits, with almost no effort spent in interior decoration, just lines of tables and chairs to maximize the number of patrons at any one time.

The one distinction at Mekong are the walls. Instead of low grade artworks, they have photos. Photos of many famous people who dined here, including Jackie Chan, Sammo Hung, and even Bill Clinton (the restaurant claims that the President had two bowls of pho)


there’s always free water or tea at restaurants

The menu is typical of many Vietnamese restaurants, with pho (rice noodle soup), cold spring rolls, hot spring rolls, rice, vermicelli, some sides, and drinks. The pho dishes are priced at $8 and $9 (big) while the most expensive vermicelli dishes (those with spring rolls and meat) at $11.50.


pho with beef and plenty of tendon, yums

As usual, I ordered a bowl of Pho with tendon, tripe, and brisket while Mell got the version with raw slice beef. We also had some free hot tea to go with the noodles, I love the fact that almost all restaurants will serve you either tea or water for free around here.

The soup was pretty mild at Mekong and the pho used was actually just the normal “kueh teow” type instead of the more traditional Vietnamese noodle that is slightly harder in texture. However, the tendon, tripe, and the meat were all very tender and juicy. The overall taste was actually rather good, especially after asking the server for more basil (as I usually do anywhere outside Vietnam).


we certainly enjoyed our pho

It was actually a very satisfying meal, warm soupy dishes with cold weather always go very well together. $18 for 2 person is also pretty cheap for a meal in the city short of fast food joints.


Mekong is just a block off QV and Melbourne Central

Address:
Mekong
241 Swanston St,
Melbourne VIC 3000

GPS: -37.812157,144.964921
Tel: 03 9663 3288