The travel nibbles are back and this time, I’m posting about Vietnam.
It’s been a while since I’ve visited Vietnam. A lot has changed in the five years. There’s more commercial chain stores around the world popping up in Saigon that, it’s difficult to find an authentic food stall. Don’t get me wrong, there’s still plenty great street food stalls around on the sidewalks to eat. However, due to my poor immune system I’ve signed a food poisoning sentence that has me limited in my choices.
I walked into ‘Cho Ben Thanh,’ Saigon’s most famous market with a mission. I knew cooked foods were more unlikely to set me up. I had an extreme craving for Vietnamese clear dumplings with prawns and pork (Banh Bot Loc) drizzled with fish sauce. It is available in Sydney but, difficult to access and can be quite expensive unless you order in bulk / time consuming to make. There were several stores that sold them in the markets but, they sold other different Vietnamese dishes as well which meant that the food may not be as fresh. As Mum and I were circling the food stalls, we found a place called ‘Ha Oanh’ that served dishes of Banh Bot Loc and Banh Beo (steamed rice flour cakes). There were not only tourists eating but also locals so it was a sign that we had to try this out.
Where: Cho Ben Thanh, ‘Food Court’ right near Gate 7
If we didn’t see people eating at ‘Ha Oanh’ it would be extremely easy to miss as theres no large sign displaying its name. I can’t give direct locations of the stall as Cho Ben Thanh is quite large but if you head over to were theres a ‘food court’ / food stall type of area, it should be where you can see Gate 7 sign.
Service was quick and you can either take away or have there. Mum and I had our plates there as there was available seating. The rice flour cakes and clear dumplings were made in front of us so it was nice to see how things were made and their efficient system.
|Small signage of store name ‘Ha Oanh’ drink prices|
Mum and I ate their standard mixed plate that consisted of Banh Bot Loc and Banh Beo together sprinkled with fried breadcrumbs and fish sauce. Each plate was priced at 17,000 VND which is approx. ($0.85 AUD as of July/August 2014) which is a total bargain! Add in fresh coconut juice for 20,000 VND ($1 AUD) and there’s lunch done for less than $2 AUD.
Mum makes Banh Beo at home so if she says these steamed rice cakes were good, it means they’re good. They were small in size but had great chewy texture and mixed in with the slightly sweet, salty fish sauce it was an explosion in my mouth. Add the chives oil, a few slices of salty Vietnamese pork loaf (Cha Lua) and breadcrumbs, it had every element you could ask for.
|Banh Bot Loc and Banh Beo drenched in fish sauce with Cha Lua and fried breadcrumbs. 17,000 VND|
The Banh Bot Loc was small but the overall portions of the plates was good for Vietnamese usual standards. There wasn’t any prawns in the dumplings and the meat inside was more the fat layer of the pork rather than the meat, it was still satisfying. Having a combined plate of Banh Bot Loc and Banh Beo added different dimensions to the plate. While the Banh Beo rice cake was a softer texture, the Banh Bot Loc batter was more dense and the flavour was enhanced by the braised meat inside.
I loved everything about this place and didn’t suffer hours after. It may be difficult to eat if you haven’t had anything like this before. The flavours of the fish sauce are intense and slightly spicy so beware if your spice tolerance is low. Give it a try / share a plate with a friend if you’re unsure. I can guarantee you’ll be wanting more. But if you’re wanting authentic Vietnamese Banh Bot Loc and Banh Beo in Saigon, this is the place to go. Definitely found a hidden gem here.
If you ever find yourself in Vietnam and give this a go, let me know in the comments below! OR what’s your hidden gem place?
P.s. Mum and I went back for seconds #sorrynotsorry