Different types of Pho in Vietnam

By: Nhu Tong

Which image first comes to mind when you think of Vietnamese phở? A hot bowl of rice noodles in beef-bone broth, served with various additives that differ depending on geographical origin? Well, there are far more wonderful dishes made from bánh phở than you may think.

The Great Phở Debate: North Vs South

Due to its versatility and popularity, Vietnamese eat phở at any time of the day almost every day. However, there is nonstop discussion among Vietnamese over which phở tastes better, the Northern or Southern version?

It only takes one look at a bowl of phở to recognise its origin.

Phở Bắc (Northern Phở)

Phở is believed to have originated in Northern Vietnam.

Primarily, Northern phở has an intense and delicate flavour due to its clear and simple broth. Beside the beef bone, anise, cloves and cinnamon harmonised into one subtle undertone flavour, Hanoians prefer eating phở tái (rare beef)—phở served with thinly sliced rare beef cooked quickly in the hot broth.

Condiments such as green onions, thinly sliced white onion, chopped cilantro or mint are put on top rather than served alongside.

vietnamese foodPhở Bắc is known for its simplicity.
Image source: Mark Wiens

 Price: VND30,000-55,000

Where to try it: Phở Bát Đàn

Address: 49 Bat Dan Street, Cua Dong Ward, Hoan Kiem District, Hanoi
Opening hours: 6:00-10:00 AM; 6:00-8:30 PM
Phone: 024 6683 3535

Phở Nam (Southern Phở)

In Southern Vietnam, with its abundant produce, herbs and other ingredients are used liberally in cooking. The Southern phở is often served in bigger bowls, with loads of garnish — mint, cilantro, rice paddy herb, sawtooth herb, bean sprouts, lime, chilli, basil and hoisin sauce, for instance. The broth is even prepared with other ingredients such as chicken or tripe.

While Hanoians prefer a dish with a broth-based soup, Saigonese are much likelier to prefer a well self-seasoned one, using hoisin sauce, Thai basil, veggies, lime, green onions, mint, cilantro and bean sprouts, and the optional chilli or sriracha sauce to enrich the broth’s flavour.

vietnamese foodPhở Nam with lavish condiments served alongside.
Image source: i.pinimg.com

Price: VND40,000-55,000

Where to try it: Phở Hòa Pasteur

Address: 260C Pasteur St, Ward 8, District 3, HCMC
Opening hours: 6:00 AM-12:00 AM
Phone: 838297943

Watch a video of YouTuber Sonny Side from the Best Ever Food Review Show Channel trying phở bắc and phở nam:

Video source: Best Ever Food Review Show

More Phở Varieties

Apart from the famous rice noodle soup, there are six popular phở options you should definitely try.

Phở Gà — Vietnamese Noodle Chicken Soup

If you are looking for a lighter version of phở, go for phở gà. This dish is said to have emerged in 1930s in response to a government ban on slaughtering cows. Over the years it was finally recognised as one of Vietnam’s specialities. Nowadays, many eatery shophouses serve phở gà exclusively.

The broth is clear, light and gently flavoured with a slight pepperiness. It is not particularly fragrant, relying on the condiments and herbs for complexity of flavour. Each bowl is served with a little plate of Thai basil, curls of shredded morning glory and bean sprouts.

vietnamese foodPhở Gà with with its clear broth, topped with curls of shredded morning glory and bean sprouts.
Image source: assets.epicurious.com

Price: VND40,000

Where to try it: Phở Miến Gà Kỳ Đồng
Address: 14/5 Ky Dong St, District 3, HCMC
Opening hours: 5:00 AM-1:30 AM
Phone: 028 3843 5630

Turn left from Ky Dong Street into Hem 14 and head down to number five; there’s a real sense of industry here, the shop is likely to be full. Good dishes always take time. You can order your broth with customised options such as hủ tiếu, bún, mì trụng, mì gói or bánh phở. Don’t forget to order a cup of cà phê sữa đá (Vietnamese milk coffee) and enjoy your meal.

Phở Xào — Stir-Fried Pho/Stir-Fried Flat Rice Noodles

At first sight, it is a simple dish, made from fried rice noodles with beef, loads of oyster-like bean sprouts, onions and spring onions. Dark soy sauce is added to give the noodles their attractive and intense brown colour. What makes this simple dish stand out is probably the smoky flavour. To get that special flavour, the dish needs preparing in a very hot wok by a skilled cook. In case you don’t want beef, there are also options with chicken or shrimp and even pork.

vietnamese foodPhở xào bò, with its attractive and intense brown colour.
Image source: cdn.tgdd.vn

We ordered a dish of stir-fried phở with beef in Bat Dan shophouse eatery, which we accidentally bumped into when strolling down Mieu Noi Street. The dish’s quality was way beyond our expectation and the owners were also very friendly. The price was clearly posted up on the menu so we didn’t have to worry about being ripped off.

Price: Normally, a dish of Phở xào costs around VND45.000.

Where to try it: Phở xào Bát Đàn — Miếu Nổi

Address: 5 Mieu Noi St, Ward 2, Phu Nhuan District, HCMC

Opening hours: 6:00-2:00 PM, 4:00-10:00 PM

Phone: 0979 46 49 68

Phở Cuốn — Rice Noodle Roll

Phở cuốn is probably a perfect choice if you are on a diet. It is considered the healthiest option among all types of phở, and became a part of Hanoi cuisine in the last two decades.

In order to make phở cuốn, Vietnamese people use uncut sheets of bánh phở to roll with beef, lettuce, and other spice veggies. A highlight of phở cuốn is the light sauce made of fish sauce, vinegar, sugar, garlic and chili served alongside.

vietnamese foodPhở cuốn is considered the healthiest option among all types of Phở.
Image source: icachlam.vn

Price: VND100,000 for two people

Where to try it: Phở cuốn Thanh Hằng
Address: 29B Ngu Xa St, Truc Bach Ward, Ba Dinh District, Hanoi
Opening hours: 8 AM-10 PM
Phone: 98 316 03 17

Local insight: We also ordered a dish of Vietnamese spring rolls (nem or chả giò) with the phở cuốn, definitely a perfect combination. If this is your first visit to Ngu Xa street, you might get annoyed by the enthusiastic staff of the shophouse eateries here. The solution is to search for one shop that you like/are recommended and stick to it.

Phở Chiên Phồng — Deep Fried Phở (Rice Noodles) with Beef Sauce

The phở most favoured by foreigners is probably phở chiên phồng, which looks like piles of fried pillows topped with saucy meat and greens.

Small stacks of bánh phở, which is slightly larger than a postage stamp, are tossed in a wok with bubbling hot oil until they transform into golden and crispy cushions. These cushions are then scattered on a plate and smothered in thick sauce, fried beef, green broccoli or lettuce. The crispy crunch of fried noodles, a brittle of beef, the natural sweetness from veggies and the tasty sauce make this a memorable experience.

vietnamese foodPhở chiên phồng is popular among foreigners.
Image source: 4.bp.blogspot.com

Price: VND60.000

Local insight: If you can’t decide what to eat, order different dishes and share them with friends. Don’t hesitate to ask for personal bowls, the staff are more than willing to provide them.

Where to try it:  Phở cuốn 31
Address: 31 Ngu Xa, Truc Bach, Ba Dinh District, Hanoi
Opening hours: 24/24
Phone: 437153679

Phở Chua — Sour Pho

Not complex or classy, this dish captures the different cultures of Northern Vietnam. A delicious bowl of phở chua contains six main ingredients: noodles, sour sauce, pickles, peanuts and Northern sauce. For delicious noodles, choose the “pink rice” which is mostly planted in the Northwest region. The sour sauce is taken from the pickle jar.

vietnamese foodPhở chua is more delicious if it is paired with the chili sauce favoured by the Northern people.
Image source: asiatourist.co

Price: VND25,000-40,000

Local insight: You might not like this dish at first, but you’ll change your mind as you become more familiar with it.

Where to try it: Phở Chua Thành
Address: 242/101 Nguyen Thien Thuat Street, Ward 3, District 3, HCMC
Opening hours: 3:30-7:30 PM

Phở trộn — Rice Noodle Salad

Flat rice noodles, a pork chop, herbs, peanuts and dried scallions are added to a bowl before a spoonful of sour sauce is sprinkled on top, giving this dish an extraordinary taste. The sauce is the key ingredient: no rice noodle salad is complete without it. That’s why vendors distinguish themselves by owning a “secret” recipe. It is likely you’ll never experience the same flavour of this dish in Hanoi.

vietnamese foodPhở trộn is beautifully topped with pork chops, herbs, peanuts and dried scallions.
Image source: trbimg.com

Price: VND40,000

Local insight: The sour sauce already lightens the flavour, but some people prefer drizzling a little less juice over the meat. Mix everything together and enjoy!

Where to try it: Phở trộn - Miến trộn than

Address: 127 Thich Quang Duc St, Ward 4, Phu Nhuan District, HCMC

Opening hours: 6:00 AM-10:00 PM

Phone: 090 231 32 81

International Innovations

Want to experience something more out of the ordinary? Check these dishes created by phở lovers around the world.

Phở Burger

A phở option for fast-food lovers. Eat it like a burger but get the taste of phở. Burger phở is made with deep-fried rice-noodle buns, Vietnamese-style coleslaw and juicy fried beef. The side servings are a fragrant phở stock with strong notes of roasted small spring onion, along with a dipping bowl of Hoisin and Sriracha sauce.

vietnamese foodBurger Phở looks like a fantastic combination of phở ingredients in burger form.
Image source: sea-globe-xdu34h413chai.stackpathdns.com

Learn how to cook Phở Burger in this video:

Video source: Foodbeast

Phở + Burrito = Phorrito

Phorrito gives Vietnamese food a Mexican twist. Made with thinly sliced rib-eye steak, bean sprouts, cilantro, onions, Thai basil, jalapeño, lime juice and phở noodles, the burrito is wrapped in a large flour tortilla and served with sriracha and hoisin sauce. It tastes surprisingly like a bowl of phở.

vietnamese foodWhat's phở stuffed into a burrito called? A phoritto!
Image source: assets.adamriff.com

Watch this video to learn how to cook it:

Video source: INSIDER

Phở Pizza

An interesting harmony of Italian and Vietnamese cuisine, pho pizza with its crispy base is made with deep-fried rice noodles topped with stir-fried beef and veggies. Sprinkle some pepper, fried shallots and chili slices on top and that’s it. Pho pizza best served while it’s hot and the base is still crispy.

vietnamese foodAn interesting combination of Italian and Vietnamese cuisine, phở pizza.
Image source: cdn.foodbeast.com

Check the recipe in this video:

Video source: Foodbeast

Banner Image source: ibb.co


Top Places to Celebrate Lunar New Year-Tet 2016 in Vietnam

By: Trung Vo

Ignite your 2016 Vietnamese Lunar New Year with exciting deals all over Vietnam. Citypassguide.com has carefully selected the top venues and offers to ensure a wonderful Tet experience. Also, check out our website for even more places to go, things to do and great memories to be made!

Enjoy the holidays - spoil yourself, you know you deserve it!


SHERATON HANOI

Time: 6th - 14th February

Oven D’or Restaurant

  • Lunch Buffet for Tet with free flow lobster, foie gras and arrays of seafood, delight carving, abalone soup
  • VND1,100,000++/person, includes free flow of wine, beer and soft drinks

Hemispheres Restaurant

  • Tet Dinner with Australia Angus Ribeye 250gr with choice of salads/soup/dessert
  • VND400,000++/set and additional wine package for VND 250,000++/(free flow of wine)

Reservation and more


SOFITEL PLAZA HANOI

Celebrate Lunar New Year’s Eve at Summit Party

  • Time: 7th February, 9:00 p.m. – 1:00 a.m.
  • Summit Lounge | 20th floor
  • Price: VND780,000++/person
  • Welcome in the “Year of the Monkey” with an exceptional fireworks countdown party including drinks, canapés and superb live entertainment.

Family Celebration

  • Time: 7th February, 9:30 p.m. – 12:30 a.m.
  • Le Panorama | 19th floor
  • Price: VND580,000++/Adult including 2 drinks & 4 canapés. VND380,000++/Child including 2 drinks/ ice creams & 4 kid’s snacks

Reservation and more


HOTEL DE L'OPERA HANOI

Welcome in the year of the Monkey 2016

  • Time: 7th February 2016,from 10 p.m. till late.
  • Venue: Splash Bar Terrace
  • Price: VND200,000++/person
  • Enjoy the midnight fireworks spectacle and a glass of house wine to perfect the occasion in the heart of the historic Trang Tien Street

Reservation and more



NOVOTEL DANANG PREMIER HAN RIVER

Time: 6th - 10th February 6 p.m. to 10 p.m.

  • Tet Eve Buffet: enjoy our signature and mouthwatering foods along with music performance, from VND 650,000++/ person (food only) to VND 1,000,000++/person (includes beer, soft drinks, chilled juice & wines)
  • 2nd day of Tet: Seafood Buffet from VND750,000++/person (food only) to VND1,100,000++/person (includes beer, soft drinks, chilled juice & wines).
  • 3rd day of Tet: Buffet from VND650,000++/person (food only) to VND1,000,000++/person (includes beer, soft drinks, chilled juice & wines).

Reservation and more

Lunar New year 2016 Danang


GRAND MERCURE DANANG

Tet BBQ Seafood Buffet

  • 5th, 9th & 12th February from 6 p.m.
  • La Rive Gauche: for VND600,000++/person, includes free flow of draft beer and soft drinks

Tet BBQ Seafood Buffet

  • 1st - 15th February
  • La Rive Gauche: for VND400,000++/person

Imperial Set Menu

  • 1st - 15th February
  • Golden Dragon: for VND1,200,000++/person.

Reservation and more

Lunar New Year 2016 Vietnam


NOVOTEL NHA TRANG

Lunar New Year Fireworks Celebrations

  • Price: VND500,000++ per person.
  • Buffet time: 07:00pm – 10:00pm
  • Featuring: BBQ dinner including free flow beer and soft drinks. There will be live music and fireworks

Reservation and more

Lunar New Year 2016 Nha Trang



NEW WORLD SAIGON HOTEL

Lunar New Year and Vietnamese Tet are a time of togetherness, family gatherings and feasts galore. Celebrate at New World Saigon Hotel with copious good eats to ring in the Lunar New Year and Tet.

February 1 - February 21: Tet Holiday Reunion Set Menu for a table of 10 persons - 6,800,000 VND (includes a bottle of house wine)

February 7 - February 11:

  • Lunch Buffet at Parkview: VND680,000 per person.
  • Dinner Buffet at Parkview: VND980,000 per person
  • 30% discount for CLub Epicure members

February 8:

  • Tet Brunch Buffet at Dynasty: VND1,088,000 per person (includes house wine, beer, soft drinks and tea)
  • Freaturing: lion dance.
  • Special price for Club Epicure members - 888,000 VND per person.

February 9 - February 21:

  • Tet Dim Sum Buffet - 450,000 VND per person
  • 10% discount for Club Epicure members

Reservation and more

 


LE MÉRIDIEN SAIGON

Treat your family to a special celebration at ‪Latest Recipe‬ or Bamboo Chic with all Asian and Vietnamese delicacies.

Time: 01 Feb to 15 Feb 2016

Promotion on Lunar Mew Year Eve 2016

Reservation and more


RENAISSANCE RIVERSIDE HOTEL SAIGON

Buffet Dinner with Vietnamese Traditional Food

Time: 7th February, 2016

Riverside Cafe, ground floor

- 6 p.m. to 10 p.m.

Price: VND1,300,000++/person, buffet only.

VND1,500,000++/ person, buffet and free flow of sparkling wine of Liquid Gold - Italia, beer, soft drink, house wine, cocktail Tettini.

Kabin Restaurant

- 6 p.m. to 10 p.m.

Price: VND999,000++/person, buffet only.

VND1,500,000++/ person, buffet and free flow of sparkling wine of Liquid Gold - Italia, beer, soft drink, house wine, cocktail Tettini.

Reservation and more


CHILL SKY BAR - DINING

Chill Dining Restaurant: Tet Sharing Menu for Lunar New Year Dinner - VND1,500,000 per person.

Tet Celebration

  • Time: 7th February 2016
  • Featuring: The Voice Viet Nam - Bao Anh singer and DJ – Greg Katona along with stunning firework display

Reservation and more


AIR 360 SKY BAR

Lunar New Year’s Eve party

  • Time: 7thFebruary 2016
  • Hosted by: Thu Thuy - Celebrity artist.
  • Featuring: DJ Eskerod and full view of firework show.

Reservation and more


LIBERTY CENTRAL SAIGON RIVERSIDE

Lunar New Year’s Eve dinner party

  • Time: 7thFebruary 2016, 8p.m. - 12 a.m.
  • Add: 17 Ton Duc Thang, D1
  • Price:
    • VND999,000/adult- VND499,000/child (5-12 years old)
    • Beverage package: 299,000net, includes, free flow Sparkling wine, house wines, Tiger Draught Beer and soft drinks.

Lunar New Year Saigon


LIBERTY CENTRAL SAIGON CITYPOINT

Lunar New Year’s Eve dinner party

  • Time: 7thFebruary 2016, 8p.m. - 12 a.m.
  • Add: The Rooftop Bar - perfect spot for watching firework
  • Price: VDN499,000++/person, includes a glass of sparkling wine or mocktail of the day.


Organic Seafood Production in Vietnam: an Interview with Antoine Bui

By: Karen Wise

Today’s consumers are increasingly socially and environmentally conscious. No longer are they eating simply to survive. A growing number want to be sure of the quality of what they are consuming, know where it has come from, how it’s been produced and any subsequent impact on the natural environment. Local producers are taking note of this trend thanks to people like Antoine Bui, a man with a passion for developing local organic production here in Vietnam. Bui is Representative Office Manager of Binca, a German company that distributes seafood products in Europe and Vietnam.

organic seafoodImage source: delamer.ca

Bui’s interest in organic food production started early in his career during a stint as a consultant conducting market studies related to Vietnam. Already someone at the forefront of new trends having opened a pasta restaurant in Poitiers, a student city in the West of France, at a time when pasta was just beginning to hit the food scene Bui moved back to Vietnam to work as Sales and Marketing Director at Aquaservice, specialists in tilapia production. It is here that he learnt about organic seafood production and certification from Mr Philippe Serene, General Director of Proconco and Aquaservice and a consultant for a German company distributing seafood products in Europe.

Since foreign companies could not purchase land Bui’s first mission was to secure partnerships with local fish farmers willing to go organic. Not an easy sell, 15 years ago, when the focus was on quantity, minimising costs and making a modest living. As it happened all that was needed was one person Ms Nguyen Thi Dung, an aquaculture engineer by training, who had her concerns about farming processes at the time. She was shocked to see that whole ponds were being treated with antibiotics without any distinction between sick and healthy fish and that epidemics were prevalent in the high density farms. Her misgivings made her immediately receptive to Bui’s approaches. A collaboration was formed and Ms Dung set up her first organic farm at Long Xuyen.

organic seafoodImage source: rd.com

Challenges and Opportunities for Organic Producers in Vietnam

At the heart of organic seafood is the quality of the environment, adherence to recognised stringent criteria; profits, with perseverance, come later. Organic is not for those seeking to make a quick buck or wanting to cut corners. You need to be a true believer working with a partner as devoted as you are. Converting a conventional fish farm into an organic one can take up to three years. Radical changes must be made throughout the entire business including seemingly basic hygiene matters such as not throwing used cigarette butts anywhere. In order to get certification, the whole farm must be organic - a mix of conventional and organic is not allowed - something that not everyone appreciates. Regulations must be met. The European Union, for example, forbids the use of reproductive hormones. Creation of optimal atmospheric conditions for the natural reproduction of pangasius presents a huge challenge for organic farmers in Vietnam. Nevertheless, certification labels are important as they give producers credibility in the overseas market.

For those that are unable to get organic certification, the Global GAP Aquaculture and Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC) standards, which allow the use of antibiotics under certain conditions and with strict tracking, offer an intermediary option. Producers in the Mekong Delta, seeing the growing concern over food safety among the middle class, are taking an interest in these intermediary labels. Bui hopes that once they understand them he will be able recruit more suppliers.

organic seafoodImage source: psmag.com

Seafood is not the only organic food item today’s consumers are looking for. Demand for vegetables, fruits and poultry is also on the rise. Producers, recognising this and having heard of Bui’s work, are approaching him for advice on how to switch to organic farming. The organically certified, EU and Naturland, fruits and vegetables of this first collaboration will be available on the domestic market in early 2019.

According to Bui this organic movement offers a lot of opportunities. Shortages at stores are common particularly in Hanoi where consumers are perhaps more affluent. He also suspects Hanoians are wary of the many Chinese products flooding the market and have a greater trust in local produce. He has yet to witness such shortages in Ho Chi Minh City however he estimates that of the 10 million inhabitants of the metropolis 1.4 percent of them consume organic products on a regular basis spending around VND1,000,000 per month. He is convinced that a similar study in Hanoi would show even greater numbers.

The Future of Organic in Vietnam; Will the Trend Last?

One might wonder if this trend is sustainable in Vietnam. In Bui’s opinion, yes. Over the past two to three years the Vietnamese consumer has grown increasingly sophisticated and organic is seen as a guarantee of quality compared to products traditionally available to them. The numbers of farms declaring themselves organic producers are increasing particularly in the Hanoi area so much so that the Vietnamese government recognises that clarity around what is truly organic is going to be needed. In fact, Bui would go as far as to say that, were he a younger man, he’d start a chain of organic stores selling an extensive range of organic products including cosmetics highlighting the international appeal of such items.

organic seafoodImage source: nymag.com

As to how the trend first started. Bui puts it down to the Vietnamese diaspora, especially those emanating from California where, of course, organic production has been popular for many years. He goes on to cite the example of an organic pepper producer who converted following the advice of his brother living in California.

Like this article? Read more about organic production in the Blog section on CityPassGuide.com

Banner Image source: Shutter Stock


Finding Vietnamese Food in Singapore

By: Sivaraj Pragasm

Have you ever wondered what Vietnamese cuisine is like outside of Vietnam? There have been numerous articles about Vietnamese food in faraway lands, such as Australia and the United States, thanks to the large Vietnamese diaspora in these places. However, not much is known about Vietnamese cuisine in neighboring countries, especially in my homeland: a little sunny island about a 2 hour flight away from Saigon called Singapore.

If you happen to be there and have a sudden craving for authentic phở, Hủ tiếu Nam Vang and bánh xèo, would be able to find them? Well the good news is, yes, you can.

Now, you might be thinking, “no, wait. It’s going to be super expensive”! Well, you’re both right and wrong. You’re right that Vietnamese food in Singapore can be overwhelmingly pricey, however, if you know where to look, and don’t mind a little bit of adventure while searching, you can actually find a decent bowl of phở for almost the same price as in Saigon. Curious? Read on.

foodImage source: cdn.vox-cdn.com

First of all, a little background information. Due to Singapore’s proximity to Vietnam, and the large number of Vietnamese students and professionals who’ve moved to Singapore to study and work, there has been an explosion of eateries catering to this demographic over the last decade. Most of these eateries were opened either by Vietnamese migrants, or enterprising Singaporeans with a love for Vietnamese cuisine.

So here comes the disclaimer: the dishes here may be authentic, but they aren’t region-specific. To a Singaporean, a phở is a phở, regardless of whether it’s prepared in the style typical of Saigon or Hanoi.

The eateries featured here have some of the best Vietnamese food you can find in Singapore, and some of them are also highly recommended by Vietnamese people who have visited the country or live there. They are listed from “as pricey as you’d expect” to “for real”?

Saigon Alley

Located in Novena Gardens along Thomson Road, Saigon Alley is the closest you can get to an authentic upper-class dining experience in Saigon, save two details: the impressive English proficiency of the mainly Vietnamese staff and the prices.

foodImage source: 3.bp.blogspot.com

One of their most popular dishes, spicy Australian beef noodles, costs about SGD14 (VND240,000). For that price you’ll get something that looks like bun bo hue, but with a slightly spicier broth, and with a very generous serving of sliced Australian beef and brisket, as well as herbs like mint and basil. They are also quite well known for their fresh spring rolls, which are actually new interpretations because you won’t find these versions in Vietnam.

foodImage source: juice.com.sg

The fresh Vietnamese tiger prawn rolls are huge, simply because of the size of the prawn, which is tightly packed into and yet, still clearly visible through the rice paper. The crab spring rolls are another great variation, containing a generous amount of real crab meat. Each roll costs SGD8 (VND137,000).

Although the dishes are pricey, it’s probably one of the best places in Singapore to get delicious Vietnamese food, including a few imaginative variants of popular Vietnamese dishes in a clean restaurant with great ambience. Perfect if you’re missing Vietnam, and have money to spend.

GET THERE

Nam Nam Noodle Bar

I experienced Vietnamese food for the first time in my life on a rainy day in Singapore in 2013. I walked past this restaurant in Raffles City, and my friend remarked that she had “heard some good things about this place”, so we decided to check it out. It didn’t change my life, but it definitely opened my eyes because it’s where I had my first phở.

foodImage source: 1.bp.blogspot.com

What I found interesting about Nam Nam is that there is a huge diagram on the wall that teaches you how to eat phở. The restaurant specialises in Hanoi phở, and the toppings range from chicken (SGD9.90/VND170,000), to beef steak slices (SGD10.90/VND187,000), and medium rare wagyu beef (SGD19.90/VND341,000).

foodImage source: 1.bp.blogspot.com

You can also find bánh mì with toppings such as smoked salmon, cold-cut meats, and caramelised pork belly for not-so-authentic prices, like VND130,000.

GET THERE

Sandwich Saigon Cafe

Just by its name, you know this entry is going to be all about bánh mì. Sandwich Saigon Cafe has some of the best bánh mì you will find outside Vietnam with just one drawback: it costs about SGD7 (VND120,000), which is about 10 times the price of what you’ll get in Saigon.

However, if you look beyond the price, the authenticity of the taste, texture and ingredients will remind you of Vietnam. This is the place Singaporeans go after returning from a trip to Vietnam to recapture their favourite food moments. Vietnamese expats also head to this place when they start missing the tastes of home.

foodImage source: sandwichsaigon.com

The bánh mì xíu mại is to die for, with its giant pork meatballs and vegetables. One additional condiment used here is mayonnaise, which is not commonly used in Vietnam. But it works like a charm.

The baguette is crusty, yet airy, a perfect contrast of crunchiness and softness in one bite. There are also a wide range of fillings available, such as pork-chops, garlic chicken, roast beef and more.

GET THERE

Little Vietnam Restaurant and Cafe

Located at Grandlink Square in Singapore’s Geylang district, Little Vietnam is a charming little eatery serving decently-priced Vietnamese fare in a comfortable setting.

They are known for their fried spring rolls, which are served in sets of 5, for SGD5 (VND86,000). Filled with chicken, vegetables and glass noodles, the rolls are slightly larger than what you’d find in Vietnam and are deep-fried to perfection.

They have a pretty huge menu with offerings such as chạo tôm going for SGD5 (VND86,000), gỏi ngó sen for SGD6 (VND103,000) and phở, starting from SGD6, depending on what toppings you choose.

foodImage source: static.straitstimes.com.sg

The bún thịt nướng served here costs about SGD6 (VND103,000) but looks and tastes exactly like what you find in Vietnam. It’s a very popular dish in this restaurant.

Take note that if you’re planning to have a beer here you will need to reserve a table inside the restaurant due to alcohol restriction laws in Singapore. You can’t drink outside the establishment. The place is very popular and often filled to capacity so making a reservation is highly recommended.

Earlier in the article, I mentioned that if you know where to look, you can find some excellent Vietnamese food at almost authentic prices. Here are two places you might want to consider. One of them will be a bit of an adventure.

GET THERE

Saigon Food Street

For fans of bánh xèo, this is probably one of the best places in Singapore to get authentic versions of the famous Vietnamese crepe.

Located in Bukit Panjang Hawker Center, Saigon Food Street is actually a stall in a residential neighbourhood accompanied by other street food stalls. This means that you can choose your seat, and buy a variety of dishes from different stalls at the same time.

foodImage source: eatbook.sg

The hawker center is a Singaporean concept, in which a bunch of street food vendors are centralised in one complex. It is the model behind Ben Thanh Street Food Market in Saigon’s District 1.

The bánh xèo in this stall is priced at SGD5 (VND86,000) and is made to order. With fresh and succulent shrimp and slices of delicious pork wrapped up in a razor-thin pancake, it’s as good as some of the best bánh xèo I’ve tried in Saigon.

Video source: Eatbook

You can also find other dishes at authentic Saigon prices, like phở for SGD2.50 (VND43,000) and spring rolls for SGD5 (VND86,000).

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Thien Long Vietnamese Restaurant

If you take Bui Vien and compress the entire street into one building, you will get Orchard Towers, one of the seediest parts of Singapore and also colloquially known as the “four floors of whores”.

Made up of establishments where you can find some of the cheapest booze in the country, massage parlours and gogo bars, it’s also home to one of the best and most affordable Vietnamese eateries you will ever find in Singapore.

foodImage source: eatbook.sg

Located on the 4th level, Thien Long is one of only two eateries along the stretch with tables and chairs spilling onto the walkway. It is also where you will find the best hủ tiếu nam vang and bánh canh cua in Singapore for only about SGD5 (VND86,000).

Although their regular phở is not bad, they have a “spicy” version, which remains one of the best post-drinking supper recommendations I can give. I should also add that this restaurant doesn’t close until 4:00 am.

Video source: Eatbook

So, if you’re in Singapore and suddenly feeling a massive craving for Vietnamese food at 3 in the morning, you don’t want to empty your wallet, and you don’t mind some chaos along the way, then head to Thien Long Vietnamese Restaurant.

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Banner Image source: eatbook.sg


Chef David Thai on the Future of Vietnamese Food

By: Keely Burkey

How did you enter into the food business in Vietnam?

My father was in the Air Force in Vietnam during the war, and suddenly I became a boat person. When I was in my 20s, I said that one day I would go back to Vietnam. I started working for Park Hyatt, and they sent me to Jordan and Dubai to open Vietnamese restaurants. In 1996 I started working for Park Hyatt in Saigon. And then, when I was working in the Park Hyatt in Paris in 2002, I called up my embassy and said, “I want to go to Vietnam.”

Do you think it’s easy to cook popular food in Vietnam?

I think we are improving but we’re not finished yet. How many restaurants can you find in Saigon that are both presentable and commercial? None. Maybe Wrap and Roll, because [the founder] knows what to make to make it popular all around the world.

David ThaiImage source: danang.huongnghiepaau.com

Do you think street food is real Vietnamese cuisine?

No matter where we eat today, we still don’t find real Vietnamese cuisine. Because it’s not supported, it’s not understood. And when it comes to street food, no one has a fixed hygiene routine. It’s sad to see that. Me, I’m scared to eat somewhere here on the street. People just want to play a game. I want to tell the chef, cooking is not a game.

What’s the future of Vietnamese chefs?

Now young chefs try to be more modern. There has been a lot of progress since I’ve been here. The presentation of food is much more interesting today. With so much competition in an area like District 1 it’s more demanding to be number one. The cooks, the chefs used to not want to be chefs. But now, they are happier to be chefs. They’ll know about truffles and goose liver, but they don’t understand Vietnamese leaves. Bamboo? I used to eat fresh bamboo, it’s very nice. Why don’t we find these things now?

David ThaiImage source: danang.huongnghiepaau.com

Do you think Vietnamese food can get more famous internationally?

When I was 18 or 19, Vietnamese cuisine was unknown. Look around the world today, it’s number one, and it’s the same cuisine, this is what we eat every day. Vietnamese cuisine for me is the best Asian food I have ever eaten. I don’t say that because I’m Vietnamese, because that’s not the entire part of my identity. I’m from France. I feel in France, things are much more rigid. Here, you can go for pho, you can have some steak frites, you can have some fries.

What makes Vietnamese food better than Western food, in your opinion?

One thing I would say to my French competitor: You might have a steak, some foie gras… But me, when I cook Vietnamese cuisine, I have the opportunity to use six spices. Having more spices brings diversity of flavour and texture. With the crispness, the leaves, the slow cooking, the tenderness. So in one meal, I can pick up different things that you otherwise miss out on.

Banner image source: David Thai


How to Unite the World's Vietnamese Food Lovers

By: Keely Burkey

Why did you start Vietnamese Food Lovers (VFL)?

Because for over 11 years, as I’ve promoted Vietnam with City Pass Guide, I’ve come to the conclusion that tourism in the country is portrayed all wrong. The essence of what makes Vietnam a special place isn’t its attractions or its monuments or its landmarks. What really makes it stand out is the people and the food. You can’t really export people too much, but you can export food, and Vietnam definitely has one of the most interesting cuisines—especially now that everyone is becoming aware of the importance of eating healthier. Green, light food, diverse food, easy, simple but fresh, which are attributes of the Vietnamese cuisine.

foodImage source: The Gourmet Gourmand

How will VFL change the experience of eating Vietnamese food?

I hope that we will be able to support the Vietnamese restaurants in order to ensure higher quality and safety standards, an important area in which improvement must be made. Our aim is really to make a stand for Vietnamese cuisine worldwide.

How do you plan to do that?

It’s a long-term goal that requires ample resources and time. And this is what we’re currently building. Vietnamese Food Lovers aims to recruit the best food supply chain stakeholders and to work together with them to support the promotion of Vietnamese cuisine and food, not only marketing-wise, but sales-wise. Vietnamese Food Lovers plans to be active in international trade fairs for hospitality, F&B sectors, gastronomy and other related trade fairs. The aim is to help local producers who are producing quality food-related products to export to the rest of the world. Vietnam has not yet tapped into this huge potential in this huge industry.

foodImage source: serenitydentalclinic.com

Why do you think Vietnamese cuisine isn’t more widely celebrated in the world?

I think it’s a combination of things. First, Vietnam has truly opened its doors to the rest of the world only for the last 25 years. And for the first 10 years, tourism was very minimal. The second reason is that to make good Vietnamese food you require some basic raw ingredients that are still not yet available in most countries around the world.

VFL now has a website. What’s the purpose of the website, and what can foodies get out of it?

We just launched the English version, with a Vietnamese version coming soon. Basically, the website aims to be a one-door portal where demand and supply can meet in order to do more Vietnamese cooking. That includes recipes, a very large database of food suppliers from around the world, a large database of restaurants and hotels that have an interest in Vietnamese cuisine, and daily news and films and data that is relevant to Vietnamese Food Lovers.

foodImage source: vietnamtastelondon.com

What are your goals for VFL by 2020?

By 2020 Vietnamese Food Lovers will have organised over eight Vietnamese Food Festivals across Vietnam. We will have received a million pledges of Vietnamese food lovers around the world. Vietnamese Food Lovers will be the largest database of food supply chain and demand contacts worldwide, so we can unite all Vietnamese food lovers under one portal. It will be the largest media agency responsible for promoting both Vietnamese cuisine and Vietnam’s finest food producers.

Banner image source: serenitydentalclinic.com

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