Often times, I’m something of a food snob – terribly exacting in the taste of my food and having high requirements for whatever I eat. I’m also a bit of a typical Hanoian in the sense that I often turn away from Southern food, criticizing it as too sweet, or too sour, or the broth not clear enough.
During my last trip to Saigon, I was pleasantly surprised. I had one of the best noodle soups in my life, with the most amazing broth ever, at a little shop in the heart of Saigon. It was crab noodles (Banh Canh Ghe) – a delicacy of the South that had slowly migrated to the North in recent years.
Regarding its origin, much has been debated about where Banh Canh Ghe comes from. Some say it’s from the South West provinces (or more specifically Kien Giang), other say it is the seaside provinces like Vung Tau and Phan Thiet that have created this delicacy. No matter its origin is, though, it is well-known that Banh Canh Ghe is now one of the most enjoyed noodle soups in Saigon.
Appearance-wise, Banh Canh Ghe bears a close resemblance with Laksa noodle in Singapore. Both have that same reddish hue, thick broth and spicy taste. Having never tasted Laksa, I cannot give any comment on its taste. However, I can say that when it comes to Banh Canh Ghe, the noodle soup was a perfect blend of sweet, hearty and spicy broth, with specially-made noodles (three or four times bigger than the noodles you normally see) and a whole crab for you to finish it off. There are other garnishes to go with the soup, like crab cake, veggies and fresh herbs. Some places will also add prawns and other seafood, a slice of blood pudding or a whole egg.
To me, this dish embodies the philosophy of Vietnamese cooking – that of seeking the perfect harmony between different flavors and spices. Here’s a dish that’s not seeking to blow your taste bud away, nor have you in tears as you eat. It’s spicy, to be sure, but it is the kind of spiciness that does not overwhelm other flavors. It enhances the richness of the crab. It circles each strand of noodle in a loving embrace. It leaves behind a slight reminder of the spice you just taste, making you hungry for more.
One Google search of “Banh Canh Ghe Saigon” can give you numerous results. Not every restaurant will blow you away, but these 5 are guaranteed to satisfy even the harshest critics.
1. Banh Canh Ghe Ba Sach:
Address: 66 Hoa Cuc street, Phu Nhuan district.
Price: 30.000 – 70.000 VND
Opening hours: 10:00 – 22:00
2. Banh Canh Ghe Bay Lien:
Address: 778F Nguyen Kiem street, Go Vap district
Price: 50.000 – 77.000
Opening hours: 10:00 – 22:00
3. Banh Canh Ghe Cau Bong:
Address: 2 Dinh Tien Hoang Street, district 1
Price: 55.000 – 110.000
Opening hours: 15:00 – 22:30
4. Banh Canh Ghe 505:
Address: 505 Su Van Hanh street, district 10
Price: 50.000 – 100.000
Opening hours: 11:00 – 22:30
5. Banh Canh Ghe Muoi Ot Xanh:
Address: 484 Nguyen Tri Phuong street, district 10
Bánh xèo is a typical dish in Southern Vietnam. But each place holds their own Bánh xèo recipe. You may have known Saigon andCần Thơ bánh xèo, but how about Bạc Liêu? Let’s try it and compare the difference.
**Try and prove! Here’s a tip to determine the bánh xèo of your life. First, when it is served, immediately pinch a crisp on the outer side of the crêpe and put it right into your mouth. Now, it should crumble and start releasing coconut fragrance in your mouth, and you should feel almost like tasting a piece of creamy crystal. That’s how you know that bánh xèo is ‘the one’. If the crust is too thick and leaks too much grease, I’m sorry, the search for your right crêpes still continues.
Bánh xèo in Bạc Liêu follows the basic ingredients: rice batter, mung beans, slices of pork, fresh shrimps, onion and bean sprouts. But the secret that makes it unforgettable is the crispness on the crust. Many tourists keep coming back to Bạc Liêu to retrieve the authentic taste of this mouthwatering crêpes. Try it for once, the ‘bánh xèo’ of your life awaits you there!
Address: Bánh xèo A Mật – 61/2 Tỉnh Lộ 31, Ấp Giồng Nhãn, X. Hiệp Thành, Thị Xã Bạc Liêu, Bạc Liêu.
Vietnamese cuisine has more Bún*-based dishes than Phở*-based ones. So, next time if a Vietnamese describe you a “noodles” dish, think wider than Phở Bò. Ask them which type of noodles it is because the textures of the noodles are different.
*Bún: think of rice noodles in thespaghettishape. *Phở: think of rice noodles intagliatelleshape.
Bạc Liêu has a signature Bún dish called Bún Bò Cay (spicy beef Bún). If you’re a fan of spicy food, do not miss it. Non-spicy eaters can also try the milder version. Just ask for no chilli, and the chef won’t make you suffer.
The broth is the star of the dish. It’s a mixture of aromas (cinnamon, turmeric, lemongrass, ginger, etc.) which pairs perfectly with the tender beef loin. A spoonful of soup brings you pleasure. But hang on, your inner beast is about to release itself. Red chilli oil, (contains garlic and red peppers tossed in oil) floats on the surface is the reason to name the dish bún bò cay (cay means spicy). It is what we call “satay” and is the highlight of the dish.
Because of its heat, herby smell and vibrant spice, Bún bò cay is approved to be the best hangover cure for those who happened to “have too much fun” last night but want to come back to earth early morning.
Address: Quán Ánh Nguyệt – 119 Cao Văn Lầu, Thị Xã Bạc Liêu, Bạc Liêu.
Price range: 25,000 – 35,000 VND.
*Bún nước lèo (boon-nuoc-leo – Broth noodles)
There are fresh fish and shrimp with slices of pork. The bún noodles dive in the clear amber colour broth. Wow, it looks as if the chef has scooped a tiny bit of Mekong river to the bowl. Speaking of the broth, I’ll explain why it is so special that they wouldn’t give this dish another name.
Have you heard of the Vietnamese fermented fish (or shellfish)? We call them ‘mắm’, they’re the key ingredients for many dishes in the Mekong Delta. In Broth Noodles, they cook ‘mắm cá sặc’ (fermented snakeskin gourami) with lemongrass and a special root vegetable called ‘ngải bún’ in seafood stock up to 8 hours to develop all sorts of sweetness and umami taste in the soup. The last attempt to ‘sweeten’ the broth, even more, is adding coconut water.
Scoop in a spoonful of the crystal clear broth and feel the love between mắm and fresh seafood. Now, you owe the chef a thumbs up and a compliment.
Address: Quán Út Mén – Quốc Lộ 1A, Vĩnh Lợi, Bạc Liêu.
Price range: 30,000 – 35,000 VND.
*Bánh tằm Ngan Dừa (Bahn-tam-Ngan-Zua – Silkworm rice cake salad with coconut sauce)
Bánh tằm (silkworm rice cake) is named after its shape. The little “worms” are hand-rolled out of rice starch dough. Bánh tằm salad includes rice cakes, pork skin strings, meatballs cooked in tomato sauce, carrot pickles and spring onion oil. The sauce is very unique because it is the combination of coconut cream and sweet fish sauce. Of course, there is some fresh chilli to balance the ‘dessert’ feeling of this savoury dish.
I had the first bánh tằm bite when I was six years old, but honestly, I found it a little odd. However, from the second bite, the oddity started playing catch with my taste buds and kept fooling around in my mouth until I finished the plate clean and clear. Do I recommend trying bánh tằm? Yes, a hundred times yes! Try it for once to experience going through from one surprise to another, but in a good way. Overall it’s a delightful tasting experience.
Address: Ngan Dừa market – 34 Nguyễn Thị Minh Khai, Ngan Dừa, Hồng Dân, Bạc Liêu.
Price range: 15,000 – 30,000 VND.
*Hủ Tíu Bò Kho – (Hu-tieow-ba-kha – Beef Stew with Flat Rice Noodles).
This noodles dish doesn’t relate with the Spicy Beef Noodles I’ve mentioned above. Bò Kho (Vietnamese Style Beef Stew), is very much alike Beef Ragu; however, it has a distinct fragrance of lemongrass, star anise and garlic. Hủ tiếu bò kho literally means noodles and beef stew. A bowl of this soup includes tender beef, softened carrots, noodles, crunchy bean sprouts, fresh herbs and smokey hot soup. These elements complement each other so well that they bring the dish to cross the deliciousness standard.
Hủ tíu bò kho is preferably a breakfast dish. There’s also another way you can enjoy it, which is Bánh mì bò kho (Beef stew with bread). In this version, you will enjoy only beef stew, and a loaf of bread served alongside. For me, both versions are equally tasty. There’s one more tip I recommend: you should dip the beef in a small bowl of salt, pepper and lime which comes with the bò kho bowl.
Address: Quán Cari Vịt Linh, Cao Văn Lầu, Thị Xã Bạc Liêu, Tỉnh Bạc Liêu
Price range: 35,000 – 50,000 VND
In the last article, I mentioned that Bạc Liêu has a famous ancient longan garden. Yes, I would be very happy to recommend the place to you. They grow many tropical fruits there, especially longan fruits (meaning dragon eyes).
Under the rough and brown skin lying the transparent flesh wrapping around a black seed, looking like an eyeball. The flesh gives you a juicy and candy-like taste. I’m pretty sure you might have to keep eating more and more of them because you won’t be able to resist yourself from its sweetness, which works like a refreshing treat below the heat of sunlight.
Besides longan, there are more fruits such as tropical tangerine, mangosteens, mangoes, and so on. Basically, it depends on which period of the year you visit Bạc Liêu because fruits are grown in crops. Longan fruits are available from June to September annually.
Mid-day snacks are common here. People despite their ages enjoy this extra meal with absolutely no doubt because these munchies are super delicious.
*Bánh Củ Cải, Bánh Hẹ(Radish/ Chive cakes) – fried rice starch cakes with chives or radish filling (vegan) served with pickled carrots and sweet and sour soy sauce. The cakes should taste crispy on the outside but chewy on the inside.
Address: 143, Lê Quang Sung St, Dist 6.
Price range: 10,000 – 30,000 VND
*Bò Bía(Popiah) – a famous Hokkien spring roll but has been put in a Vietnamese twist when it comes to Cho Lon. Now what we can find in a Vietnamese popiah roll is lettuce, fresh herbs, lap cheong (sweet sausage) slices, fried egg strips and stir-fried jicama (củ sắn), served along with sweet black bean dip. The roll is made exclusively tiny and sold extremely cheap. When you order Popiah, don’t order one but make it a dozen to fill your stomach.
*Khổ Qua Cà Ớt – bitter melon, aubergine, chilli, tomato, tofu, okra, etc. stuffed with fish paste and cooked in broth. It takes several efforts to cook this dish, but the result worths the time they spend to make it. Because what you will get is a cheerful bowl filled with a feast of colours. For now, this dish is sold in many regions outside Chinatown. But the authentic should be tasted inside the place where it is created.
Address: 52, Lão Tử St, Dist 5.
Price range: 20k – 40k VND
Dinner time starts around 5.30 pm. At this time, the streets are filled with tempting food fragrance. You might be lost in the jungle of food in Cho Lon, however, here are some options you can choose to satisfy your hungry belly.
*Mì (Noodles soup) – Slurping a hot bowl of noodles soup is my dinner fantasy in Chinatown. Choices vary from chicken, duck, pork, seafood to vegetarian options. Noodles (or dumplings) are then bathed in the smoking hot broth and served immediately. What I recommend to try is Mì Vịt Tiềm (Chinese Style Braised Duck noodles). The dish is signature for its herby black broth and flavorful tender duck thigh.
Address: Mì Vịt Tiềm Thượng Hải 481 – Hẻm 481 Nguyễn Tri Phương St, Ward 8, Dist 10.
Price range: 60,000 – 80,000 VND
*Vịt Quay (Roasted duck) – In this neighbourhood, there’s a street that exclusively sells roasted ducks. When entering Bùi Hữu Nghĩa street (Dist 5) for the first time, it is quite odd seeing those ducks hung in lines everywhere. They may look quite naked, but their smell is tempting and immediately your mouth starts watering. The duck meat is excellent, greasy yet meaty. The marinade is so special that you might want to marry the chef to eat roasted duck every day. However, it is not a daily meal for local people, but they do eat it often, especially on special occasions.
Address : Vịt Quay Phát Thành – 157-159, Bùi Hữu Nghĩa St, Ward 7, Dist 5.
Price range: 300,000 – 400,000 VND / whole duck
Who would NOT love desserts? Dear fellows, let’s go for a treat outside. We know that sweet treats are the perfect choice for a good ending of a “food-ful” day.
*Hong Kong style pastries (Guilty pleasure alert!) – Inside the little bakery lies many little fluffy golden treasures lying ready-to-pick-up on the trays. The popular dessert pastries are pineapple buns, egg tarts, egg waffles, taro/pandan/durian puff pastries, etc. Those delightful rascals will manage to trick your mind to consume some more calories to your diet. They’re irresistible!
Chè (Dessert soups) – ‘Eating desserts is good for your health!’ This weird declaration applies only to Chinese chè. Ingredients for cooking Chinese chè are water chestnuts, dried longans (fruit), seaweeds, silver tree-ear fungus, lotus roots, dried jujubes, etc. braised in rock sugars. It might be a bit scary hearing those unfamiliar ingredients. In fact, for thousands of years, the Chinese have been practising healing health problem with food. Chinese chè encourages the body’s detoxification process, enhances metabolism and balance body’s temperature.
Address: Chè Hà Ký – 138, Châu Văn Liêm Street, District 5.
Price range: 15,000 – 25,000 VND
At the end of the day, we’ve had many memorable and impressive food experience. Enjoy your good sleep, and may tomorrow bring you another feast in Chinatown. Dear folks, I hope you’ll have a unique food experience in Saigon Chinatown following some of my suggestions. Much love!
Chinatown, located among districts 5, 6 and 11, has a rich and colourful culture built by the Chinese Vietnamese locals. The town fascinates people by its variety of religions, temples, lifestyles but more importantly, cuisine. There’s an old saying regarding an ideal life as “ Ăn cơm Tàu, ở nhà Tây” ( Eat Chinese food, live in Western houses). If you happen to visit this charming town, why not experience a once in a lifetime feast of joyful Chinese food? Chinatown’s food will serve your appetite perfectly.
One of the most remarkable food experiences I’ve had so far belongs to the food in Chinatown. I always remember celebrating many splendid occasions and eating the tastiest food ever in this delightful town. Now, please let me guide you through every meal they eat daily. Just like the Spanish diet, the locals enjoy 5 meals a day, all of which are colourful, flavorful and wonderful.
The most important meal of the day. On weekdays, these are signature breakfast dishes that you must try:
Bánh Mì Chảo(Bread and a Pan) – a small loaf of bread serves along with fried-eggs and liver paté and meatballs in tomato sauce.
Address: Bánh Mì Chảo Cô Phương. 4A, Lê Quang Sung St, Ward 6, Dist 6.
Price range: 20,000 – 40,000 VND
Hủ Tiếu Hồ (Teocheow’s noodles) – chewy flat rice noodles cooked with pickled mustard green, pork and intestines.
Address: 237 Cao Văn Lầu St, Dist 6.
Price range: 25,000 – 60,000 VND
Dimsum – Weekends are the time for special treats. Eating a dim sum brunch in restaurants is a popular tradition maintained in many family reunions in Chinatown. On the table, there are small steam pots loaded with a plethora of dumplings prepared in different styles. There is no limit for ordering food. The restaurant keeps serving new dishes as long as you are able to finish them all.
Baoz Dimsum Restaurant, 86-88 Nguyễn Tri Phương St, Ward 7, Dist 5.
Dim Tu Tac, 29B, Trần Hưng Đạo St, Ward 6, Dist 5.
Price range: 150,000 – 1,000,000 VND
Lunch meals are served from 11 a.m until late noon (3 p.m). Portions of food are ready to serve instantly when you arrive at the food stalls, delivery service is also available. But hurry up! The later you eat, the fewer options you can choose.
Sa Tế Nai(Satay Noodles) – rice noodles cooked in special broth with peanut fragrance and chilli oil, topped with slices of beef or deer meat and fresh herbs.
Address: Lâm Phát Ký – 311 Lê Quang Sung St, Ward 6, Dist 6.
Price range: 30,000 – 60,000 VND
Cơm Gà Hải Nam (Hainanese Chicken Rice) – The notorious Hainanese Chicken Rice is a wonderful choice for lunch. Each portion contains tender chicken pieces served with rice cooked in the same broth they cook the chicken and soy or chilli sauce on the side. Having its first bite makes you realize you haven’t had anything as “chicken” as this, keep enjoying until its last bite, you might fall in love with the chicken!
Address: Cơm Gà Hải Nam – 934, Trần Hưng Đạo St, Dist 5.
Price range: 30,000 – 60,000 VND
Looks like we’ve spent half a day satisfying our hungry tummies. Now, please take a long walk around to discover the beauty of Saigon Chinatown. I’ll be back in a short while and show you where to eat for the rest of the day later!
Can Tho is one of the most popular destinations in Mekong Delta for any visitor. Roughly 03 hours from Ho Chi Minh City, you will find yourself arrived in a charming peaceful place. These top five must-visit destinations in Can Tho should be on your list. And the top five special food listed below should not be ignored, either.
1/ Bánh xèo (lit. Sizzling Cake)
Bánh xèo is a Vietnamese-style savory crepe named for the sizzling sound made when rice batter is poured into a frying pan. Its batter has the yellow color of turmeric as well as green color of spring onions. A typical Bánh xèo is stuffed with pork, prawns, bean sprouts and garnished fresh herbs. In South-western Vietnam as Cần Thơ, you may find minced duck meat or minced pork with cassava or apical buds of adult coconut plants inside its yellow crispy batter.
Bánh xèo definitely loses its flavor in the absence of fresh herbs and dipping sauce. The herbs served with Banh xeo include lettuce leaves, coriander, mint, Thai basil leaves, piper lolot, etc. As for dipping sauce, it fundamentally contains fish sauce, water, fresh lime juice, garlic clove, long fresh red chilli and sugar. The best dipping sauce is a perfect combination of salty, sweet, and sour.
1/Bánh xèo Mười Xiềm: 13/3 đường 917, P. Trà Nóc, Q. Bình Thủy, TP Cần Thơ.
3/Bánh xèo Ngọc Ngân: 74 Đại Lộ Lê Lợi, Quận Ninh Kiều, Cần Thơ. (Đối diện Sân Vận Động Cần Thơ)
(74 Lê Lợi Avenue, Ninh Kiều District, Cần Thơ) (Opposite to Cần Thơ Stadium)
2/ Cá lóc nướng trui (Grilled Snakehead fish)
Grilled snakehead fish is processed by Southern farmers after work ends. When the men go fishing, the women go back to the fields to pick vegetables and then go home to make the sauces. The fresh fish will be washed and cooked in the middle of the windy field, then everyone will enjoy the delicious meal together. The grilled snakehead fish undergo preliminary treatment, which means no scaling, no scraping viscous, no eviscerate, not marinating. Snakehead fishes are caught from the rivers, washed, grilled using a long stick, and afterwards be buried in a dry haystack on fire. Then, the farmers plug the stick into the ground or cover it up with burning straws until there are only ashes.
2/11 Lê Lai , Ninh Kiều District.
78 Võ Văn Kiệt, Ninh Kiều District.
3/ Lẩu mắm (Mắm Hotpot)
One of the most famous dishes is lẩu mắm. Its ingredients include mắm cá linh (a kind of dried and salted fish), side pork, shrimps, squids, and cá hú (a kind of fish). The dish is served with two trays of various fresh herbs and vegetables like luffa, cucurbit, bitter melon, and so on. The combined taste of the hotpot soup, fresh seafood and vegetables, along with fish source makes customers truly feel the simplicity and diversity of Southwestern soul.
3/ Lẩu mắm Cát Tiên 2: số 264 Võ Văn Kiệt, Phường An Thới, Quận Bình Thủy, Cần Thơ. (264 Võ Văn Kiệt Street, An Thới Ward, Bình Thủy District, Cần Thơ.)
4/ Pizza Hủ tiếu (Vietnamese Rice Noodles Pizza)
Pizza Hủ tiếu is a very special dish of Cần Thơ. It is fried Hủ tiếu (rice noodles) in the shape of a pizza, with different kinds of toppings for the customers to choose. This is a very interesting combination of Western and Eastern cuisines, a definite must-try when you come to Cần Thơ.
5/ Bánh tét lá cẩm (Sticky rice cake wrapped in magenta plant leaves)
Instead of the green coat as other normal Bánh tét (cylindric sticky rice cake, a Southern vision of Bánh chưng in square,) Bánh tét lá cẩm has a magenta color, which makes it become more attractive to foodaholics. It was created and has been made by the Huỳnh in Bình Thủy District (Cần Thơ.) The cake has an unforgettably special taste of the combination of magenta plant leaves, green beans, pork fat and coconut milk. It is often seen on many special occasions, especially on New Year’s Day, when it is brought to the altar for ancestral offerings, a tradition of Vietnamese culture.