I’m pretty sure that there are excellent eateries in Saigon, the problem is that on a flying visit, where to find them. We threw caution to the wind and went on a Night Street Food Tour, just Himself and me. We have done street food tours before with great success, and in fact have never been disappointed, and so it was when we met Lem. Lem worked as a street food tour guide to help pay for her children’s education and to help her parents, who after the communists took over Vietnam, lost their farm.
Lem travelled nearly two hours on her scooter, to take us on the tour, which I have to say was excellent. We ate in places that normally we would have walked on past, but with someone who has local knowledge it makes a world of difference.
We started off at Hu Tíu Nam Bung where we ate Phò, this she told us is really from the north of the country and as with all regions of any country there are variations. We sat at metal tables and were served the basic broth with noodles flavoured with lemon grass. In it were a couple of quails eggs and spring onions. To this we added prawns and some vegetables. Absolutely delicious, but as this was our first stop of many, we did not eat it all.
Second stop was a real eye opener, a Pop Up Street Restaurant and there was a queue, and it wasn’t even open at that point. Keeping it all in the family, they’d borrowed the forecourt of a car dealership and set up shop. There were BBQ’s, stacks of plastic stools, food being cooked and customers waiting, and even a menu, and Cheap! This we were told was Vietnamese Pizza. To make it they took Rice Wrappers ( srping roll wrappers) Brushed it with beaten egg and popped it on the BBQ. Then when it was cooked sufficiently they added some green chilli sauce, some chopped spring onions, some peppers, and if desired some cooked chicken or beef and finally some grated cheese. Cheese is something that is not normal in the Vietnamese diet, but as it was ruled by the French until 1954, this is a left over legacy. We tried both the chicken and beef Pizza and liked both. They ranged in price from 25 p to 1£! No wonder they were busy! And all the family were involved!
Moving on down a crowded alley way we stopped to eat , along with the rest of Saigon, or so it seemed some sautéed seafood mixed with morning-glory beans! Morning Glory is a typical Asian vegetable and is water grown, so not a bean at all, looks a bit like thin broccoli stems or maybe resembles watercress, it is probably available in Asian supermarkets, but certainly not in Waitrose or Carrefour or HBG!
And very simply, the cook took a handful of seafood, in this case some shrimp and some squid, threw them into her wok, long with some oil, chilli paste, some garlic, a little sugar and some oyster sauce, stirred it all around, added the morning-glory, another quick stir and Hey Pesto! Dinner was ready !
Next stop, was to eat Vietnamese Pancakes, it would seem that these are very much a staple of Vietnamese diet and are available everywhere. They are made very simply with rice flour coconut milk, ground yellow mung beans and turmeric, which give the pancakes their tradition yellow colour. Watching the locals make these, they certainly make it look easy, must give it a try. They are served crisp, with a filling of cooked pork, or prawns, bean sprouts, chopped spring onions, lettuce, chopped coriander and mint.
Our final stop for the evening, after checking out the original flats in Saigon that were built to house the American Military was for the traditional Vietnamese coffee, rich espresso poured over ice onto condensed milk. I have to say that it is quite addictive. The worse one we had and also the most expensive was in Starbucks !! A place I normally avoid, but when needs must . !