September is monsoon season in Saigon which means less time on my motorbike (I don’t like being wet unless it’s in the shower) and less time to scour the outer city centre for hidden local dinning gems. My wife has told me of some awesome places I need to visit out in District 6 but I figure it can wait until the monsoon season is over.
Lucky for me, I found a place situated in an alley next to the Sofitel Saigon Hotel between Le Duan and Nguyen Du. I found this eatery rather by chance. To avoid traffic on Ton Duc Thang Street, I took a shortcut through this no-name alley and realised a hidden gem in the heart of District 1.
Tarps drape over what passes for a kitchen, metal tables and chairs. A steady crowd hovers all around with customers ordering takeaway or dining on the spot. It was the same every morning as I passed through this new discovered alley. I realised this was a place I needed to investigate. My rule of thumb on eating local fare is simple – go where the locals go because they know best.
Open since 2000, owner Huong and her family run their business five days a week. The menu changes daily and is open from 6am-10am. Just to show how popular and busy they are, I decided to drop by after 9am to avoid the early morning crowds and, believe it or not, they were sold out. I’ve since come by earlier and tasted all five dishes. I chatted with Huong for the column but she was so reluctant and, to be honest, she doesn’t need more exposure.
Monday – hu tiu mi
Tuesday – pho
Wednesday – bun moc
Thursday – hu tiu nam vang
Friday – bun bo
I have written reviews on other noodle dishes before with an exception to bun moc. I am not a big bun moc fan but I like it. Originating from northern Vietnam, bun moc is a vermicelli noodle soup made from pork bones and pork paste. The best part about this soup are the pork balls made with pork paste, sugar, salt, spring onions and mushrooms (shiitake or black fungus), and it’s topped with slices of cha lua (pork sausage), bean sprouts, cilantro and green onions. It’s a delicious and light soup.
There are a few local eateries in this short alley but Huong’s is the most popular amongst the locals. The food here is consistently good. It is nice that they offer something different everyday, so drop by and sample a bowl but be sure to make it early.
Tristan Ngo is the Chef Patron and Owner of Skewers Restaurant and The Elbow Room.