There is something cool about an old eatery that always fascinates me. Just being there, feeling the history, seeing the people and eating the food does it for me every time. Founded by chance on Nguyen Cong Tru between Calmette and Ky Con is a place called Vinh Thai Tra Gia. A family-owned noodle house operated continuously for the past 60 years. I guess if this is what we call an institution, Vinh Thai Tra Gia is an institution.
The beauty about this place is that there is no menu, no wall decorations and no table cloths. There is a simple old-style sign in front, but even their sign doesn’t have the word restaurant. About six metal tables with an open front kitchen entice the passerby. It is airy and clean so come on in and find a seat and be prepared to share your table with other guests. Someone will ask what you like to eat and if you don’t know what to eat they will proceeds to tell you what’s available. They only open for four hours and can get pretty busy.
It’s a pretty simple and straight forward menu: Chinese noodle soup, bo kho and dim sum.
Chinese noodle soup is served dry or in broth. There is a choice of either hu tieu (flat white noodles), mi (egg noodles) or a combination and you can choose your meat from chicken, fish, shrimp or a combination including innards. Dry noodles are served with a sweet soy based sauce, with a hint of oyster sauce, vinegar, spring onions, chives and a small bowl of broth on the side. My suggestion is to try it dry and add the broth in later.
Bo kho is a Vietnamese beef stew. Bo (beef) and Kho (to braise, stew or simmer) includes tendon, carrots, onion, garlic, lemongrass and tomatoes. Bo kho is actually one of my favorite go to dishes. In America it’s called the old standby like meatloaf or beef bourguignon in France. Bo kho is hearty, savory and absolutely delicious. You have a choice of having it with noodles or with banh mi.
Dim sum are homemade with choice of siu mai (shumai or pork dumplings), ha cao (steamed shrimps wonton) and pate chou. They are brought to the table hot with soy sauce and a side of chilli. Wait a minute: pate chou, baguette, beef stew, Chinese noodles and dim sum? I suppose it’s French, American, Vietnamese and Chinese history all summed up into a simple breakfast menu in a 60 years old establishment.
Vinh Thai Tra Gia
280 Nguyen Cong Tru, D1
7 days a week
Tristan Ngo is the Chef Patron and Owner of Skewers Restaurant and The Elbow Room.