Over the last weekend, Tz & I tagged along with my hubby on his business trip to Ho Chi Minh. We have not been back there since 2007. Missed the food and the old street charms a lot but I must say I was very disappointed as the place has changed into a little metropolitan with many foreign franchaises flooding the street shops and malls.
I am a big fan of Oc ( snails) cooked in various styles. During my last trip in 2007, to look for restaurants specializing in snails cuisine is not easy. Only the locals eat them. I especially love snails cooked in clay pot with herbs and lemongrass. Now I can find snails everywhere, there is even a snail street market selling many types of snails. I should be elated but again disappointed as the quality of the snails were not as good as before. They are mainly catering to foreign tourists and not the locals. I will have to travel to the old restaurants in district 3 if i want to taste good Oc dishes again. But for consolation, I managed to savour great silkworm dish in this restaurant known as Red Bricks Cafe and Restaurant.
L’usine is my favourite place for a afternoon coffee or breakfast. It’s a multi-label high end boutique cum a bistro space. I love the raw feel of the place. It’s set on the 2nd floor of a row of shops facing the opera house. It’s a favourite haunt for many expats and edgy youngsters. This time I had breakfast in their new section which is next to the main boutique cafe. It’s less crowded and simple in design, just a big open kitchen, long communal dining table and a balcony with seating overlooking the opera house. The food was good. I was quite impressed with the Vietnamese baguette Banh Mi and the fluffy pancakes. The setting was accompanied with old 30s Jazz music playing in the background.
The highlight of my trip was definitely the dinner with my hubby’s Vietnamese client. Two very nice motherly ladies in their 70s brought us to this Hue restaurant set in home of the ex-head chef of royal Hue cuisine in the Palace. He’s already in his 90s so the restaurant is run by his staff. The entrance to the restaurant is through a back alley door leading into a little courtyard with a fish pond and the dining area which looks like the chef’s living room, very simply furnished. The Hue food here is very different from the usual hue or vietnamese dishes I was exposed to.
This is a rice flour cake dish with round pieces of thin cakes with shrimp and scallion toppings. The texture of the cakes reminds me of the ‘Sun kueh” we have in Singapore, chewy, slightly oily and smooth mochi-like. It goes with a slightly sweet salty fish sauce dressing. Its so good that Tz had 2 plates by himself.
Savoury Omelette fried with potato flour. They are quite thick slices which we wrap in lettuce with mint, basil leaves and scallions and then dip in the sweet fish sauce. In the background are very tasty grilled pork and again we eat with a lettuce wrap.
Another rice flour roll with shrimps inside with a peanut satay like dipping sauce
Sorry for this almost empty beef noodle soup bowl here. It was so delicious that i forgot about taking a photo. This hue style noodle soup is not Pho. The noodle they use here is similar to the noodles used in laksa. The beef stock is so light and tasty, reminds me of Penang Laksa (minus the shrimp paste) when the usual green herbs (mint, basil, saw leaves) are added in with a drizzle of lemon. The stock is slightly spicy.
You have to book a table a day in advance as they are very packed with locals every day. Its not easy to find but its worth it. If i were to go there to HCMC, this is the only place I will eat again.