A Downtown Chinese Noodle House
Right in the heart of Ho Chi Minh City near the Elbow Room I happened to find this gem of a Chinese-style noodle house. This clean restaurant opened a few months ago and offers some tasty dishes.

I love this style of noodle house, with food ranging from hoanh thanh mi (wonton noodles), mi bo kho (beef stew) and my favorite sui cao (shrimp dumpling). The wontons and dumplings are well-made and the taste is spot on. What I find surprising is that the broth is well-flavoured and nuanced, a taste that usually takes years to get just right. Make sure to order a large bowl of xi quach as a side dish to your noodles. Xi quach are chunks of beef or pork bones with some meat and cartilage attached. They normally use these to make the broth so that everything literally falls off the bones. Also order a fresh hot or cold soybean drink, or an herbal one, quite refreshing.

Hung Ky
252 Nguyen Cong Tru, D1
6am to 1pm, 4pm to 11pm
VND 30-35,000/bowl

Vegetarian Food For Skeptics
Vegetarian restaurants have become popular and chic in recent years. With a large population of Buddhists in Vietnam, eating vegetarian a few times a month for health and spiritual enlightenment is a good thing. I have to admit that I am not a big fan of vegetarian cuisine and am very skeptical when it comes to meat-free eateries. They simply are not as tasty and most try to copy meat dishes for flavour and texture.

Skepticism aside, I found An Nhien Quan, a cosy but busy restaurant that is located on a quiet street in District 1 and that seats 35 to 40. Soybean, tofu, green beans and other vegetables dominate the menu here. I ordered an assorted dish of banh beo, fried rice, banana flower salad, mushroom spring rolls, hot pot, and iced tea. As advertised, they use actual vegetarian products such as straw mushrooms, corn and okra as the base for most of their dishes. The result is pleasant and flavourful.

Our bill for four came to VND 487,000. The owners were attentive and friendly, and would not accept tips of any kind.

An Nhien Quan
94 Nguyen Van Thu, D1
9.30am to 10pm
08 39 10 11 29

Tristan Ngo is the chef and owner of The Elbow Room and Skewers, two popular restaurants in District 1. You can contact him at ngotristan@yahoo.com. 

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