Rice has been, and always will be, a quintessential part of Vietnamese cuisine. Rice is served with just about every meal in Vietnam, like Italian pastas or American meat and potatoes.
You can pretty much find a com binh dan (local rice) everywhere in the city, but which is the one you should drop in on and try? I have a sensitive stomach, so my criteria is quite simple: good taste, clean and relatively cheap. Here, in no particular order, are some of my go-to com binh dan places that meet pretty much all my criteria.
Com Tam Kieu Van
A hidden gem inside an alley off the intersection of Nguyen Trai, Le Thi Rieng and Ton That Tung in District 1. With a friendly owner, good service and cleanliness despite being in an alley, some of their notable main dishes are caramelised ginger chicken, caramelised catfish (my favourite), rotisserie drumstick and roasted pork belly. The marinated fish sauce is particularly nice.
Com Tam Thuan Kieu
Perhaps a step up from your average binh dan spot, Thuan Kieu is a food chain with many locations throughout the city but I prefer the original location at 54 Thuan Kieu, District 11. Notable dishes are grilled pork chop, minced pork wrapped in tofu, caramelised shrimp and stuffed squid.
Com Tam Di Nam
A classic hole in the wall at 255 Khanh Hoi in District 4.
The spare rib, pha lau (braised intestines and innards), mam chung (Vietnamese meatloaf) and squid sautéed in spicy sa te sauce are all interesting and crowd favourites.
Com Tam An Duong Vuong
Another crowded classic place at 500 An Duong Vuong in District 5. Grilled pork chop, bi (thinly shredded pork mixed with shredded pork skin) and mam chung are must-haves here.
Most com binh dan offer around 10 to 40 different dishes made in advance and displayed in trays. My recommendation is to see what looks good and order away.
Tristan Ngo is the Chef Patron and Owner of Skewers Restaurant and The Elbow Room.