Since this column first appeared in AsiaLIFE, I’ve received a lot of feedback and recommendations from local expats on their favourite local eateries. I’m quite happy and flattered because it means that the column is achieving what it set out to do, reaching out to people living throughout the city.
Recently, I was invited by some of my close friends and foodies to try one of their hidden gems, Tiem Com Tho Cho Cu Chuyen Ky. It is quite a long name and literally means Chuyen Ky potted rice place in the old market. But to the locals it is simply known as Chuyen Ky. I had no expectations, just a good old local luncheon with friends, but it really took me by surprise.
We ordered Chuyen Ky’s signature rice with steamed ginger chicken cooked in a little clay pot, which was very tender and succulent. The ginger was powerful and made the dish outstanding. Next was the deep-fried salted fish cutlets in sate sauce. It was savoury, spicy and literally an explosion of flavour. We finished with the sweet and sour pork and a side of stir-fried spinach in garlic sauce. The pork was nothing special but the spinach in garlic sauce was simple and delicious.
Beside their steamed ginger chicken, they are known for the double-boiled black chicken soup (ga ac tiem) which we did not have the chance to try since we were so stuffed. Flavoured with traditional Chinese herbs such as ginseng roots, dried red dates and wolf berries, this soup is believed to be invigorating and nutritious. It would be a great cure for a hangover if you can get over the blackness of the chicken.
In a previous column I mentioned that restaurant Thien Nam on Nam Ky Khoi Nghia Street in District 1 (established in 1963) was arguably one of the oldest continuous (same location and family-owned) restaurants in Ho Chi Minh City. Well, I’d like to rescind my previous comment and safely say that Chuyen Ky is now the oldest continuous restaurant in Ho Chi Minh City that I’ve come across.
Since 1948, Tiem Com Tho Cho Cu Chuyen Ky has been passed down three generations, from grandmother to mother and now daughter. This very humble eatery also happened to be their home situated across from the bun thit nuong lady in the Old Market (Cho Cu). The current owner, My, proudly told me that they are the oldest in the city. Until I find another old establishment, Chuyen Ky and Thien Nam are the relics of the old Saigon.
65-67 Ton That Dam, D1
Cho Cu (Old Market)
08 38 29 01 50