Banh Xeo Muoi Xiem

Centrally located, Banh Xeo Muoi Xiem restaurant offers traditional Southern dishes such as Banh Xeo, Banh Khot and Che. These 100 year old recipes were handed down to the restaurant’s namesake: Madame Muoi Xiem.

GALLERY

Southern Vietnamese

Southern Vietnamese cuisine relies heavily on sugar and spices and an abundance of herbs and fresh vegetables. This is not a problem in Ho Chi Minh City, as the tropical climate nurtures a long and plentiful growing season, sometimes two. Dish preparation is simple with many cooking techniques borrowed from neighbouring Cambodia, China and Thailand. To sample a taste of the south, read below.

Banh Xeo: These fried pancakes are made of flour, egg and salt. They come stuffed with meat, vegetables, prawns and pork, accompanied by herbs and garlic/chili infused fish sauce.
Bun Mam: The sausage of Vietnamese soups made with everything but the proverbial kitchen sink. Ingredients include shrimp paste, aubergine, squid, prawn and much more. Be warned, it's not for the squeamish or those with a sensitive nose!
Canh Chua Ca Loc: This sweet and sour fish soup is a visual feast with red, green and white colours floating in a dark tamarind-flavoured broth. Typically Canh Chua Ca Loc is made with Mekong fish, pineapple, tomatoes and okra.
Hu Tieu: A soup-based dish consisting of long, thin, rice flour noodles served with barbequed pork, shrimp and fish.
Bun Thit Nuong: A delightfully fresh and simple dish. Vermicelli noodles blanketed in herbs, peanuts, sliced cucumber and topped with grilled, marinated pork. This is an easy one to eat. In fact, it's hard to eat only one! All of the above dishes can be enjoyed at most Vietnamese restaurants and street kitchens in Ho Chi Minh City.

GALLERY

Riverside Cafe

The Riverside Cafe is a popular venue for all day dining, serving International and Vietnamese dishes. Its tantalizing seafood offering is a favorite amongst all diners.

GALLERY

Dau Homemade

Dau Homemade brings the best of Hanoi’s traditional culture to guests of all origins. Enjoy amazing fried tofu and rice vermicelli cakes with an added treat—a classical water puppet performance—all in the heart of Saigon’s city centre.

dau homemade

When one discusses Vietnamese food, especially that of northern origin, dishes like beef Pho and Bun Cha, a barbecued meat vermicelli dish made famous by ex-president Barack Obama and late gourmet extraordinaire Anthony Bourdain, are often mentioned. However, unbeknownst to many travellers, Bun Dau Mam Tom, which translates simply to “vermicelli, tofu and shrimp paste”, might actually take the top spot in the hearts of many locals.

Dau Homemade: Hanoian Gastronomy and Performance Arts in the Heart of Saigon’s District 1

Ms Giang, a true-blue Hanoian and cabin crew member for 15 years, decided to open Dau Homemade in Saigon to appease the demanding taste buds of local foodies and gourmet travellers. The restaurant has now expanded to a total of six branches. Every location of Dau Homemade features stunning Vietnamese-style imagery and wall art depicting the lives of locals, especially those of Hanoi.

dau homemade

“You’ll find a Bun Dau place in almost every alley and market in Hanoi”, Giang said proudly.

Bun Dau Mam Tom is a gourmet Vietnamese fried tofu specialty for many reasons. Frying perfect tofu isn’t child’s play. Dau Homemade makes its tofu in-house because it is practically impossible to acquire so it is suitable for the dish. It is traditionally made in Mo village, 20 km from Hanoi’s mesmerising Old Quarter.

Tofu at Dau Homemade is always fresh and never refrigerated: its centre becomes rigid when chilled. The chefs at Dau Homemade also assure that the oil’s temperature stays between 70°C and 100°C. No deep-fryers are used here, only traditional woks. The resultant masterpiece is pleasingly crispy yet both sweet and fluffy inside. Fragrant herbs and vegetables such as Vietnamese balm, perilla and cucumber—essential pairings that balance well with the fried tofu—are grown at a select farm in Lam Dong province. The dish is also enjoyed with sliced pork leg and pressed rice vermicelli cakes, something considered unique to Vietnam. The star of the show, Mam Tom, or Vietnamese fermented shrimp paste, is an extremely savoury dipping paste that has been considered the blue cheese of Vietnam, meaning it is an acquired taste.

dau homemade

Giang explained the process of creating a perfect dipping sauce based on fermented shrimp paste: “Squeeze kumquat juice into it, [and] a little sugar, it has to be brown sugar! [And] also hot oil and a little bit of rice wine. Add some chillies if you like. That’s our secret”.

It’s a true food culture experience.

For diners who prefer a lighter dipping sauce, Dau Homemade also offers soy sauce and a light sweet and sour fish sauce mix. Vegetarians may request the chefs to fry the tofu in a new batch of oil so that they can dine in comfort with no worries about cross-contamination.

Exotic Vietnamese Delicacies at Saigon’s Dau Homemade Restaurant

Lau Rieu, a slightly sour and highly savoury freshwater crab hot pot with beef is yet another gourmet dish served at Dau Homemade, a testimony to Giang’s dedication and love of food. Naturally-sweet freshwater crabs are ground, boiled, filtered and lightly sauteed with spices to create a pure and tasty base—most other places use fillers such a tofu and eggs. The impressive Vietnamese crab hot pot broth is finally completed with pork bones and special northern-Vietnamese vinegar. Enjoy this dish with fresh rice vermicelli, Vietnamese sausage and slices of beef.

dau homemade

Other exotic delicacies such as steamed escargots with pork, mushroom and ginger leaf as well as cha ruoi (grilled chopped clam worm), are an absolute favourite amongst Japanese and Korean guests. Finish your meal here with the pickled dracontomelon drink, yet another exotic beverage that could be described as a cross between plum juice and lemonade. Dau Homemade’s Special Sweet Soup appears in its dessert menu: the soft chilled tofu served with jasmine syrup is a delight.

Water Puppet Theatre and Delicious Vietnamese Food at Dau Homemade Near Ben Thanh Market

Beyond food, Giang’s commitment to the preservation of traditional culture has led her to study traditional Vietnamese water puppetry with grandmaster Mr. Phan Thanh Liem, the seventh-generation descendant of a renowned Hanoian puppeteer family clan. Liem pioneered the mini-theatre for the traditional art and has thus performed in multiple countries abroad. He chose Giang as the only student outside of his family—the clan has never before accepted apprentices beyond the bloodline.

dau homemade

Giang also organises performances at primary schools on a regular basis, a core activity that has led her to become a member of Vietnam’s prestigious Center for Research Conservation and Development of National Culture (CRCDC), which strives to preserve and disseminate the beauty of local performing arts including the likes of Cai Luong theatre and music of ethnic minorities.

Guests at Dau Homemade can enjoy the shows for free at 8 pm every sunday at Dau Homemade’s outlet at 52 Le Lai, 50 metres from Ben Thanh Market.

 

GALLERY

Quan Bui Restaurant

Not far from the monolithic Deutsches Haus and the French and American consulates, along the same tree-lined street where you’ll find the Saigon botanical garden, sits the newest Quan Bui restaurant. Spanning the corner of Le Duan and Dinh Tien Hoang, Quan Bui Central is a welcome local addition to a neighbourhood filled with international chains such as Hard Rock Cafe and Starbucks.

Bui Restaurant

Rather than sitting down to a mundane burger, guests at Quan Bui Central can experience Vietnamese comfort food in style. Deep terracotta tones merge with hardwood and artfully selected ceramic tiles to create a homey atmosphere from a different era. Indochine-style art graces the walls and the warm lighting puts a soft focus on everything. This is the perfect place for a business lunch or a dinner date because the restaurant can accomodate intimate get-togethers as easily as it does large groups.

Bui Restaurant

Traditional Cuisine Done Well

The dishes at Quan Bui are meant to be shared “family-style”. Start with a spring roll platter so that you can taste the differences in flavours between northern Vietnamese spring rolls (filled with crab and prawns), the central version (stuffed with minced pork and sausage), and fried Saigonese rolls, which are a mix of both worlds and feature shrimp and pork equally.

A classic green mango salad is a nice side dish to pair with the restaurant’s signature basa fish with passionfruit sauce, but for those who prefer beef, chicken or vegetarian food there are options for every palate. One of the reasons that Vietnamese food has become a beloved world cuisine is the combination of flavours that excite even the most refined tastes. Quan Bui’s chefs know how to utilise the punch of lime and chili with the depth of fish sauce and a touch of sweetness to create dishes that are traditional yet sophisticated. The fact that no MSG is used in the restaurants can take away any worry about indulging in the delicious food.  

Bui Restaurant

Pair the meal with a tra da (iced tea) in the afternoon or in the evening partake of one of the restaurant’s signature cocktails. The cocktail list changes monthly, which makes this a perfect place to come for repeated visits.

Prices ranging from VND69,000 for spring rolls to VND360,000 for a special fillet of seabass remain reasonable for the area.

Other Locations also Ideal for Events

Quan Bui Original on Ngo Van Nam is the most well-known location in the Quan Bui group and the first to have opened after the beloved flagship restaurant previously located in Saigon’s “little Hollywood”. The group includes two other locations as well, Quan Bui Bistro centrally located at the junction of Hai Bai Trung and Ly Tu Trong in District 1, and Quan Bui Garden, which features an open-air patio in District 2.

Bui Restaurant

The rooftop at Quan Bui Original or the Garden in District 2 are perfect for events such as birthday or corporate parties or a small wedding reception, while an intimate wine tasting or business dinner can be organised at the Bistro or Central locations.

Events can be created sur mesure and the Quan Bui team will work with you to find the perfect combination of food, drinks and ambience. International and Vietnamese guests will equally appreciate the restaurants’ attention to detail and high quality Vietnamese food combined with modern style.

What Others Say

The restaurant group scored an excellent 4.5 out 5 on TripAdvisor with 787 reviews at the time this article was written. Many reviews talk about the quality of the food and the fact that diners can try dishes from regions across Vietnam in one location. The general consensus is that while the restaurant is more expensive than street-food, it is less expensive than most restaurants in the area. The price is worth it for the delicious flavours and comfortable atmosphere. No tiny plastic stools here!

What City Pass Guide Says

Easily one of the best sit down Vietnamese restaurants to be found in HCMC. Excellent professionalism, presentation and selection, with well thought out decor. It is everything one hopes to find in a Vietnamese restaurant when visiting the country, and is a great choice for residents to return to again and again.

 

GALLERY

Song Ngu Restaurant

Seafood runs deep in Vietnam’s roots. It’s everywhere and in every form, notably in coastal cities like Nha Trang and down south in the Delta. Ho Chi Minh City gets more than its fair share from both ends.

While street joints fill with all manners of fried and skewered sea life, distinguished Vietnamese restaurants specializing in crustaceans and fish fare are not as abundant as one might think. Fortunately, those with some cash to burn and a craving for refined seafood in a comfortable environment have Song Ngu as an option, which won TripAdvisor's Certificate of Excellence award for 2015.

Song Ngu Restaurant

For nearly 20 years Song Ngu has been serving traditional seafood recipes, grouping Japanese, Chinese, Thai, Malaysian and a number of other cuisines into a nuanced menu.

While the focal point of Vietnamese eateries has been “fresh” seafood ad naseam, the statement appears kitschy coming from a country where processed food is more expensive. Song Ngu takes a step in the right direction by instead highlighting technique, timing and preparation rather than the evident freshness of its food; the restaurant’s hygienic kitchen is also a more palpable selling point.

Simply put, it’s great seafood at dignitary prices (think VND 800,000++ or more per person).

Inset past a pair of green walls are two bridged French villas. The interior is quoted to resemble the style of the Cham people, although it’s more reminiscent of the Viet-Franco art deco you see in Dalat than a Cham hut. The crowd is polite – mostly Asian and American businessmen or upper-middle class families (hence the abundance of private rooms that seat 8-50 people). Unless you’re sat by a company dinner party, expect a quiet meal. Prepare for a formal atmosphere and dress business casual, though the restaurant accepts most manners and styles of dress. Beginning at 7 p.m. a live band navigates the restaurant playing traditional Vietnamese songs on classic instruments such as the t’rung, a type of bamboo xylophone.

Song Ngu Restaurant

The staff is accustomed to dealing with high-profilers – prime ministers and other dignitaries have eaten at Song Ngu on occasion. So expect courtesy, prompt service and a professional attitude. The wait staff speaks little English but pointing to an item on the large menu should suffice. A fair warning: water is not served here in any other form other than bottled, which is a bit of a setback. On a more positive (read: boozy) note, cocktails are around the VND 70,000++ mark, which is oddly affordable for the fine establishment. And yes, they are quite good, as are the mocktails. They also have free Wi-Fi.

Seafood is the heart, soul, blood, bones and marrow of Song Ngu. In other words, you’re coming here because you are determined to splurge on crustaceans made with the precision and skill of a samurai swordsman. This doesn’t mean skimp out on the other offerings. We began with a Song Ngu Style house cocktail, consisting of vodka, orange curacao and pineapple juice, and two fresh spring rolls. The cocktail was balanced, not overly sweet and (we had to do a double take) VND 70,000++, while the rolls (VND 40,000++ a piece) went down clean with homemade peanut sauce. You can also order fried spring rolls of your choice for VND 40,000++ each. If we had to choose one, we’d pick the seafood spring roll four times over. The roll is breaded and fried, a tad crunchy and filled with squid, shrimp, scallops and banana bits. The banana gives the filling a soft texture and semi-sweet savor. The roll pairs well with a mayonnaise dip. After the appetizers, we moved on to the three main courses of seafood.

Song Ngu Restaurant

Drunken Tiger Shrimp (VND 250,000++):

As our host pointed at something behind us, we turned our necks to a waiter promptly lighting a bowl of skittering shrimp on fire, then sliding the critters into a clear pot of Chinese cooking wine over a dancing flame. The shrimp were then taken back to the kitchen to be boiled in water. The wine adds some bitterness to the shrimp while the boiling water takes the acridity to a more balanced level. A short while later we were brought the finished tiger shrimp on a platter. The best way to eat these guys is to take the rostrum (the horn-like part atop the head), pull upwards to break the upper shell and suck out the juices.

Mantis Shrimp (minimum VND 400,000++):

This giant shrimp is quite rare outside its peak season (between the first and second quarter of the year). They’re typically VND 2 million++ per kilogram, so expect to pay a minimum of VND 400,000++ per dish. Mid-season, try and ask for a mantis with eggs – they’ll be the ones with coagulated red “yolk” inside. The recipe is quite basic. The shrimp is fried in garlic and served with a side of salt and lime. But as our host explained, the art lies with timing and preparation. You may want to ask one of the waiters to show you how to eat a mantis shrimp. We were able to get a mantis shrimp with the eggs still inside. The coagulated red substance was waxy, like hardened yolk, and quite protein-rich – it may be an acquired taste for some. The meat was soft and buttery, with a subtle hint of garlic, which cooked through the shell evenly. With a bit of lime and a dash of salt, this was our favorite meal of the afternoon.

Song Ngu Fish Hotpot (VND 235,000++ for small pot with 1 tilapia and VND 335,000++ for a large pot with 2 tilapias):

The tilapia is cooked in pork and chicken stock, radishes and onions. While the fish is soft and relatively flavorless, the stock is reminiscent of a somewhat spicy tomato and vegetable soup, and has a rich, smooth mouthfeel. If you’ve had fish soup in central Vietnam, this is a less intense, more accessible alternative, and quite addictive. By this point we were full, but ordered a fruit platter to clear the seafood smell. Complimentary green tea is given at the end of each meal as well.

From over 40 reviews, Song Ngu averages 4 out of 5 bubbles on TripAdvisor. Reviews praise the excellent seafood, in particular the mantis shrimp. There are few complaints, and even those are minor. People don’t seem to mind the high prices, asserting that the quality of food is worth it.

GALLERY

  Thank you for Signing Up
Please correct the marked field(s) below.

IS THERE A STORY OR TIP

YOU WOULD LIKE TO SHARE WITH US?

GET IN TOUCH