Thursday, December 9, 2010

Savoring Saigon: Pho 24

When: November 21, 2010

A trip to Vietnam will never be complete without trying its signature dish - phở! I could still remember my first taste of phở at Phở Hoa a few months ago. I fell in love with it, of course, even though the cilantro left an undesirable taste on my tongue. So, on our first night in Ho Chi Minh City, we absolutely came into agreement to try authentic phở in Phở 24.

 I saw the sign!

Phở 24 has a several branches scattered all over the city. The phở restaurants that are closer in proximity to our hotel are Phở 24 and Phở 2000, which are both located near Ben Thanh Market. We were apprehensive enough to try the phở inside Ben Thanh Market or those being sold at the night market outside Ben Thanh. My folks are not that adventurous enough to try street food much less in a foreign country.

Phở bò viên or phở with beef meat balls (45,000 VND or Php 112.50)

We all enjoyed our own variants of phở. My folks picked phở bò (beef phở), BF got phở gà (chicken phở) and I picked phở bò viên (phở with beef meat balls). Each order of phở  came with a plate filled with cilantro, basil, lime, chili, bean sprouts and onions.

Dessert: bánh flan or caramel flan

I love this creamy custard because it's not too sweet like our leche flan. Phở 24 also had a wide variety of fruit juices. Their pineapple juice was surprisingly superb as it came straight from fresh pineapple fruit and not from the can.

Courtesy of the friendly waiter

I couldn't help but noticed that the prices are budget-friendly compared to Vietnamese restaurants in Manila. Nothing beats eating phở in the land where it originated!

Phở 24
134 Le Thanh Ton Street (near Ben Thanh Market)
Ho Chi Minh City

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Savoring Saigon: Kim Cafe

When: November 21, 2010

On our first day at Ho Chi Minh City, we agreed to book a guided city tour for only USD 13/pax. We were picked up by a mini-coaster bus at 8:30 a.m. at the hotel and the tour was indeed a sensory overload that is Ho Chi Minh City. The entire tour was very entertaining  mainly because of the funny accent of our tour guide named Po. The tour includes a "limited lunch", which was aptly described as rice with pork and steamed vegetables, at Kim Cafe. The said cafe is very popular with backpackers in District 1 as it served low-priced yet authentic Vietnamese dishes and also offers package tours all around Vietnam and Cambodia.

We still felt full from our hotel's breakfast buffet so we decided to skip the limited lunch and have a light lunch instead. What's a light lunch? For us, it means Saigon bia (beer), gỏi cuốn (summer rolls) and bánh xèo (sizzling cake or popularly known as Vietnamese pancake).

Ma & Pa

Saigon bia and softdrinks

Since it was sweltering hot outside, I ordered Fanta orange. I suddenly remember my freshman year at St. Mary's School in CDO where I had my daily Fanta fix, only because it's the most popular softdrink then. Gone are those days.

Gỏi cuốn with lotsa lotsa peanut sauce!

I noticed that in Vietnamese restos in Manila, they usually give small amounts of peanut sauce for summer rolls.

Cholimex hot sauce

Our tour guide suggested that gỏi cuốn is best enjoyed with peanut sauce and hot sauce. I totally agree!

Saigon beer and summer rolls = perfect duo!

Bánh xèo (Vietnamese pancakes) with nuoc cham (Vietnamese fish sauce thinned with water and lemon)

I felt so healthy while eating this. I've been looking for some authentic bánh xèo in the metro for weeks now.
Ready for our next stop

Lunch at Kim Cafe was indeed a wonderful starter for our search for authentic Vietnamese fare. Good thing it's included in the package tour. Steaming bowls of phở were constantly delivered to the tables straight from the kitchen. The place has the same ambiance with our local carenderia here  in the Philippines, but the tourists clearly enjoyed the affordability and authenticity of this food joint. 

Kim Cafe
268 Dê Tham Street
Ho Chi Minh City

Monday, November 29, 2010

Savoring Saigon: Fanny Ice Cream

 When: November 24, 2010

After our delicious lunch at Lemongrass in Dong Khoi area, we continued exploring the city on foot. Since Vietnam and the Philippines are blessed with tropical climates, the best way to cool down is to have some ice cream, right? Mrs. Martinez, a famous lifestyle blogger, recommended this ice cream parlor when she learned that I'll be going to Ho Chi Minh City. It was such a huge relief on my part to just rely on other people's recommendation and most of them are significantly true to their words. Fanny Ice Cream  reportedly serves the best ice cream in town.

Lots of ice cream flavors

 Cute water pitcher and glasses

In Vietnam, it's almost mandatory that they serve complimentary green tea or water to the diners. I have to commend the staff for serving us bottomless ice-cold water during our brief stay. At first, we were cautious about drinking water served in the restos since we're in a foreign country. Good thing there's a convenience store similar to 7-11 right infront of our hotel where we buy our daily supply of bottled water. :)
My choice: chili chocolate or chocolat piment (26,000 VND or Php 58.47)

I didn't regret ordering this unique flavor. I happened to love the exciting combination of sweet chocolate and the spicy kick of chili. I can easily compare it with FIC brand in the Philippines due to the rich flavor. It  also reminds me of my new favorite wasabi ice cream in Yaku at The Podium.

 Folks enjoying kem sura (ice cream)

 Mama's choice: durian or sau rieng (28, 000 VND or Php 62.97)

 Papa's choice: passion fruit sorbet (24,000 VND or Php 53.98)

BF's choice: rum raisins or rum nho (28, 000 VND or Php 62.97)

I'd say you'll get giddy if you order rum raisins. The alcohol content in it will make you eat a bit more slowly than the usual.

 Kem sura lovers unite!

Two thumbs up for Fanny

Even with just one scoop, it's more than enough to tell that Fanny is certainly one of the best ice creams I've had in my life. Armed with a city map and pen and paper, we were able to find this quiet ice cream spot in District 1. Never hesitate to ask the locals in case you get lost since they are most helpful in finding the exact spot. :)

Fanny Ice Cream
29-31 Ton That Thiep Street, District 1
Ho Chi Minh City
(beside Temple Club resto)

Savoring Saigon: Lemongrass Vietnamese Cuisine

When: November 24, 2010

Prior to our HCMC getaway, I've been browsing travel guides for gastronomic adventures in the city. I was totally hooked to the travellers-slash-foodies' recommendations that I almost suffered from Vietnamese cuisine info overload. We made sure that we sampled authentic Vietnamese food since it's predominantly vegetarian owing to the Buddhist values. And since my family are certified veggie lovers, we definitely made the most logical choice to go food tripping. 

On our last day in HCMC, we had our lunch at Lemongrass, a seemingly hip but homey resto that serves Vietnamese cuisine. We were seated comfortably at the 2nd floor and the crew were all friendly and polite. We noticed that we were the only Asians dining in the resto. Most of them are Europeans who are trying out the ubiquitous phở.

The menu

Wacky folks

Papa & his guava juice (49,000 VND or Php 110.20)

In Vietnam, one will never get disappointed with fruit juices. One little sip and you can immediately tell it was made from fresh fruit hence very refreshing.

Dragon fruit juice (49, 000 VND or Php 110.20) and iced tea (10,000 VND or Php 22.50)

Their iced tea was more of cold herbal tea. If you're used to sweet iced tea, then this one's not for you.

Complimentary prawn crackers

In less than ten minutes, our orders arrived piping hot! Just looking at the pictures now made me oh-so hungry.

BF's pick: Grilled skewer seafood with satay (99,000 VND or Php 222.65)

Steamed rice in a big bowl (19,000 VND or Php 42.75)

My order: rice-vermicelli with sauteed beef and onion (89,000 VND or Php 200.16)

This was the best Vietnamese meal I've had! This dish is to die for! The beef strips were very tender and flavorful and the vegetables on the side are so fresh and crunchy. The sauce is similar to our fish sauce (patis) with sugar and chili bits. Try sprinkling some sauce to the noodles to fully enjoy the complete burst of flavors in your mouth.

Mama's order: rice-vermicelli soup with fish (69,000 VND or Php 155.18)

Note that this dish has the same garnishes as phở: cilantro, basil, lime, bean sprouts, onions and peppers.

Papa's order: fried rice with seafood in clay pot (119,000 VND or Php 267.63)

One hungry tummy indeed
Post-lunch pics

After settling our bill, BF and I stayed for a while for some camwhoring. My folks went out to buy some Communist T-shirts as souvenirs just outside the resto. Ho Chi Minh is a city that surely tantalizes one's taste buds. You'll never run out of choices whether you love Chinese, Italian or French cuisine because the city is filled with bustling restos ranging from budget to splurge categories. Lemongrass, for instance, is classified by Wikitravel as mid-range.

4 Nguyen Thiep Street
Ho Chi Minh City
(near Saigon Opera House in Dong Khoi)

Friday Food Trip: Jatujak + Choco Moist & Fruits

 When: November 26, 2010

After savoring healthy and delicious Vietnamese food in our recent Saigon (now: Ho Chi Minh City) getaway, we decided to check out another superb Asian cuisine - Thai food! While writing this post, I suddenly have this crazy craving to find the most delish bánh xèo (Vietnamese pancake) in Manila. But for now, let's go Thai at Jatujak. The resto name is quite catchy; it refers to the largest market in Thailand.
 Very round spoon eh?

 Thai iced tea (Php 78 each)

I must admit that their iced tea was superb. It's certainly not powdered ice tea mix that you blend with water but it was real tea with milk. It totally reminded me of my favorite nai cha or the Hong Kong-style milk tea.

Pla Mug Kratiem Prig Thai (Php 220) ~ squid with cilantro, garlic and pepper

The waiter told us that the dishes are good for sharing, so we didn't bother ordering more. Perfect for  budget-conscious people like us. The squid dish was rich in flavor and not overcooked. Perfect with the fried rice below.

Kao Pad Ruamit (Php 155) ~ fried rice with chicken, pork and shrimps

Their generous serving of fried rice can feed three people, thus we carbo-loaded that night. Whew.

Since I'm not in the mood for sticky rice dessert, we capped off our delicious dinner with yummy choco moist from SM Supermarket. I have grown to love chocolate cake as a dessert and I discovered this affordable but yummy chocolate cake a few months ago at the grocery area. Last week, this was only priced at Php 69 so I was surprised when I saw this! A five-peso increase in a week? Oh c'mon!

Choco moist (Php 74) at SM Supermarket bread section

Affordable, perfect for sharing, moist and not cloyingly sweet.

Grapes and orange wedges (with rock salt please)

Inspired by the healthy lifestyle of the Vietnamese, I munched on fruits when I got home. Burp! I love love love Friday food trips! 

UG/F Building A
SM Megamall

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Army Navy

When: November 19, 2010

I was tad curious about this fierce-sounding burger joint in the metro. My friends had warned me that the burger is not that impressive as compared to Chili's but my curiosity reigned as always.

After placing our orders, I took the chance to take a good look at the interiors. I find their wall signs unique. I could picture out a giant burrito monster at the end.

It seems that only a few members of the crew manned the kitchen that night. After a major, major delay, our orders came out from the small window in installment basis. Argh. First off, the fries.

Freedom fries (Php 60) ~ seasoned thin cut, crispy, zesty fries

I love these fries! Very flavorful and less oily than Mcdonald's twister fries. They vanished in the blink of an eye.

After what seemed like forever, the burgers arrived in metal plates.

Classic burger (Php 135) ~ single quarter-pound beef patty with lettuce, tomato slice and onions

True enough, it was not an all-beef patty. It's high on extenders. The toasted sesame seed kaiser bun saved the day though.

Small bite

Big bites!

Good thing there's unlimited supply of mayo in the condiments area. I literally splattered my burger with it. Yummy nevertheless.

Army Navy
Glorietta 5