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Got bored with the Vietnamese Street Food series yet? Well, there’s more!

In this installment we’re checking out Gỏi cuốn, or Vietnamese Spring Roll.

Che Minh Khai, one of the many eateries near our Airbnb
Che Minh Khai, one of the many eateries near our Airbnb 

Contrary to popular belief, spring roll isn’t served only during spring. You can actually get them all throughout the year.. (OK I made that up).

Vietnamese spring roll is quite a fair bit different from its Chinese counter part of the same name, with some saying origin started from Vietnam, while others believe it was the Chinese who came up with the dish first. In any case, the ingredients are a fair bit different.

gui cuon, or Vietnamese spring role, with dipping sauce
gui cuon, or Vietnamese spring role, with dipping sauce

Vietnamese spring roll is made up from rice paper as the wrapper, with pork slices, shrimp, rice noodle, green onion, and and generous amount of vegetable. It is often served fresh and at room temperature. A type of peanut sauce is usually served as the accompanying condiment.

dip & bite, can you see the ingredients?
dip & bite, can you see the ingredients?

If you try this at HCMC from one of the restaurants typically frequent by the locals, you can expect to pay about 5,000 VND for each piece. 2-3 pieces should suffice for light breakfast.

map to che minh khai restaurant, Saigon

Address:
Che Minh Khai
18A/16 Nguyen Thi Minh Khai
District 1, Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam
GPS10.786134, 106.700463
Tel: +8408-3825 6432
Hours: 7am to 8pm

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Continuing with the introduction in Vietnamese street food, today let’s talk about bo kho, or the Vietnamese beef stew.

Thus far, everything dishes in this series is from the same 4-day December 2016 trip to HCMC, and they’re mostly common dishes you can find most anywhere in the city.

a nice big pot of bo kho, Vietnamese beef stew
a nice big pot of bo kho, Vietnamese beef stew

Kho is a cooking technique in Vietnamese cuisine, while bo is beef. Like most dishes in Vietnam, fish sauce is one of the ingredients in this stew. The result is a more complex taste than the usual Western style stew.

Bo Kho is usually served with either rice noodle or banh mi (baguette in Vietnamese), though you can also have it with rice.

bo kho comes with banh mi (baguette), or rice
bo kho comes with banh mi (baguette), or rice 

The version we had was from a small restaurant a stone’s throw away from the Airbnb at HCMC by the name of Thuc Don. Haze had the version with banh mi (45,000 VND) while I opted for rice (40,000 VND).

The meat was lovely, with really soft flank cut with tendon attached. The stew itself has a rich and complex flavor, made better with those chunks of carrots. I didn’t miss the absence of potato or celery at all.

of course, coffee at Vietnam is always the accompany drink
of course, coffee at Vietnam is always the accompany drink

If you love beef, this is a dish to try in Vietnam, and if you’re not in Vietnam, this won’t be a difficult dish to replicate at home either. I think I’m going to find a recipe and try it at home.

bo kho restaurant map, District 1 HCMC

Address:
Com – Pho
Bo Kho
18A/23 Nguyen Thi Minh Khai
District 1, Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam
GPS: 10.786259, 106.700355

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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

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The most famous Vietnamese dish outside Vietnam is of course, the Vietnamese beef noodle, or pho (pronounce as “fe-eh”). This is likely the first dish most people think about when it comes to Vietnamese food, and for good reasons – it is accessible, delicious, and uses ingredients familiar with most other cuisines.

Pho Cao Van, at District 1, Ho Chi Minh City
Pho Cao Van, at District 1, Ho Chi Minh City

There are in fact, two slightly different types of pho, one originated from Saigon/HCMC, and another from the Hanoi, a distance of over 1100 KM away. While both soup stock utilizes beef & beef bone as a major component, the Southern version also incorporate a stronger presence of aroma from fish sauce. In a way, pho from HCMC is the one you usually get, especially outside Vietnam.

the traditional way is to give you way too much vege
the traditional way is to give you way too much vege

Pho Cao Van at Mac Dinh Chi road, however, is one of the few places that serves traditional Northern style pho at Saigon. At 40,000 VND and above per bowl, it is certainly one of the more expensive pho options out there, but also one of the more “authentic” versions there is.

squeeze the lemon, and dip those tendon in the chili sauce
squeeze the lemon, and dip those tendon in the chili sauce

I ordered a bowl with nothing but beef tendon (partly due to my failure in Vietnamese sign language, but no regrets), accompanied by a huge portion of fresh vegetable in which there is no way you can actually finish. The soup was light yet full of flavor from boiling beef bone over long hours. The tendon, melt in your mouth. It was absolutely lovely and not hard to see why this particular shop gets a steady stream of customers despite being rather shabby in appearance and yet charges a slight premium over others.

map to Pho Cao Van at Ho Chi Minh City

If you’re at Ho Chi Minh City, or anywhere else in Vietnam, you can’t go wrong with a bowl of pho, whichever versions it may be.

Address:
Phở Cao Vân
25 Mạc Đĩnh Chi,
District 1, Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam
GPS10.784681, 106.699296
Hours: 6 am to 10:30 pm

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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