Bot chien, or fried flour cakes, is actually one of my favourite Vietnamese in-between-meal snacks. The dish is made of rice flour and tapioca starch and is steamed in a pan for about 30 to 40 minutes until it is done. Bot chien is normally cut into rectangular cubes, thick, starchy and sticky, sort of like Italian gnocchi. The cubes are fried in a large amount of lard with chopped green onions and an egg or two on a skillet until golden brown and crispy on the outside yet soft on the inside.
Bot chien is quite popular among both the young and the old in Saigon, especially in the Chinese community. It is meant to be a classic street stall or hawker dish, but is also served as dim sum in most high-end Chinese restaurants. There is no one particular go-to place that is a must-try, but here are some locations which I think are a good start if you happen to be in these particular areas of the city:
A husband and wife team runs a cart with their family on Cay Keo near the corner of Luy Ban Bich in Tan Phu District near Dam Sen Park. I love these kinds of places because they represent life on a Saigon street. It is quite well-known in this area and the bot chien is tasty.
Tan Phu District
4pm – 11pm
VND 22,000 per plate
Another very popular bot chien spot is on Vo Van Tan between Nguyen Thuong Hien and Cach Mang Thang Tam in District 3. This place has been around for a long time and is always full, especially around 8pm.
Bot Chien Dat Thanh
277 Vo Van Tan, D3
1.30pm – 11pm
VND 23,000 per plate
Another popular yet unlikely District 3 bot chien spot is Che Ky Dong. This very popular family-owned che (dessert) establishment has been open since 1981 and has since expanded their dessert selection to include bot chien. The dish is made fresh daily and fried to order.
Che Ky Dong
16C Ky Dong, D3
VND 22,000 per plate
A long-time local bot chien cart sits on Hai Thuong Lan Ong just opposite the Post Office in District 5. According to most patrons, this standing cart is practically an institution that has been around for as long as most can remember. The difference here is that the bot chien is cut into long, thick strips rather than rectangles or cubes like at the others.
190 Hai Thuong Lan Ong, D5
4pm until late
VND 25,000 per plate
Tristan Ngo is the Chef Patron and Owner of Skewers Restaurant and The Elbow Room.