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