Two years ago I found a gem of a Chinese-style noodle house in District 1 but they didn’t stay open long despite how good they were due to a personal decision by the owner. I was sad for a while since I didn’t have a go to place near my home for a noodle-style breakfast and had to go all the way to District 5 which is a bit of a ride.
Recently I was taken to breakfast at this simple noodle house on Ky Con street offering amazing wonton, noodles, shrimp dumpling and bo kho (beef stew). The wontons and shrimp dumpling are literally made to order and the taste of their fillings is spot on. The broth is well flavored, hardy and comforting. I had written about wonton noodle before in previous articles so I didn’t want to re-write it again but this place was so good I figure I had to find something to write about beside their wonton.
So on my following visits, my wife suggested that I try the wonton again but in their bo kho broth and if I like it I should try their bowl of bo kho next. t is that good. I never realized that bo kho is proably one of my all-time favorite Vietnamese dishes next to pho. Back in college days, I’d often cook to save money by making pots of casserole, pasta or bo kho and invite over a few friends to try my cooking and save what was left for the rest for the week.
Bo kho is a sort of like a combination of an American beef stew and the French beef Bourguignon. It is what I would call the “old standby” meaning when you’re not sure of what to eat go with what you know. Bo kho’s distinct taste comes from the use of ginger, lemongrass, star anise, curry powder, cinnamon and Chinese five spices. The tomato paste and annatto seeds give it the deep red broth color. The pot is simmered with beef and tendon until it literally falls off the bone before adding chunks of potatoes and carrots. Bo kho is normally served either with egg noodles or baguettes. I normally prefer the airy Vietnamese French baguettes.
I love this style of noodle house. A simple, Chinese family owned and operated place right in the heart of District 1. Like I’ve mentioned, their wonton and dumpling are made to order. The broth is flavorful and balanced. Despite being opened for six years, their taste is as if they have been around for a decade. Make sure to order a bowl of xi quach (chunks of beef or pork bones with meat and cartilage attached) as a side dish. They use these to make the broth so everything literally falls of the bones. Also, order their homemade soybean drink, quite refreshing.
Diem Tam 134
134 Ky Con Street, District 1, HCMC
Open daily from 5:30am to 12pm
Tristan Ngo is the Chef Patron and Owner of Skewers Restaurant and The Elbow Room.