Two tips for foodies in Saigon

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Tip No. 1:

There’s this hole in the wall (I mean this literally) in downtown Saigon called Pho Ha, where the kitchen is actually a tiny hallway and all of the seating is street side at these teeny tables surrounded by what could be considered plastic kiddie chairs.

Do not be afraid.

Just sit down and prepare for a happy tummy.

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They have two specialties: a boiled chicken dish …

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… and burnt rice. They’re really known for the burnt rice. Now, what the heck is burnt rice? It doesn’t sound at all appetizing, does it?

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Well, it’s not really burnt. It’s more like twice cooked. We kept debating exactly HOW this rice is made because we each want to make it a home, it’s so good. The best we can come up with is that a thin layer of cooked rice is fried in a hot wok until the bottom is crispy, but the top stays soft and becomes almost chewy. Then it is sprinkled lightly with a dried, savory shredded pork. Holy cow, it is so simple and yet incredibly addictive!!!

Here’s what it looks like … like a flat pancake of rice. Sorry my pictures are so blurry, but it was dark and I refuse to use flash. Plus, I was really busy eating.

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Tip No. 2:

Pho Ha is conveniently located across the street from Nhu Lan, known to be the best sandwich deli (banh mi) in town. Seriously, it’s famous. Everyone know it. If you ask locals where to go for the best banh mi they’ll point you here.

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Before we even finished eating our burnt rice Joe was already talking about running over to Nhu Lan to pick up some sandwiches to take home for a midnight snack.

I’m telling you, this food obsession is genetic.

Anyway, that’s what we did.

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Here’s the typical BBQ pork carved off a rotisserie … holy yum!

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Minh, Joe and I also came back the next day and picked up some banh mi for a mid-morning snack before we hit the town for some marathon DVD shopping.

According to our triumverate consensus, I’m sorry to report that they were NOT the best banh mi that we’ve ever had. We were so disappointed. In fact, there’s a little kiosk near our house where a little old lady dishes up better sandwiches. However, we did try several kinds of banh mi and determined that the best banh mi are the ones that have a little pâté in them. So, there’s our advice … don’t assume this joint’s got the best banh mi in town, but do go for the ones that include pâté, you won’t be sorry. They are still quite delicious!

But don’t forget Tip No. 1, go to Pho Ha!! It’s a little hidden secret.

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4 responses »

  1. I’m really enjoying your blog postcards from this trip, starting with packing the basics, then the amazing post on the humanitarian work your family does. Thank you! (P.S. My son tells me he ate at the Bin Tan Market quite a bit during his visit.)

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