Category Archives: foreign cultures

Ho Chi Minh Food Travelogue

Ho Chi Minh City, also named as Saigon, is often mistaken to be the capital of Vietnam. The largest city in the country, it is named after the first leader of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam. A city notoriously known for its incessant honking and congested roads, a myriad of unique local dishes lies deep within its dark(ok, not that dark) alleys and streets waiting to be discovered.

What I love about this list is that whenever we’re there trying out the food, I noticed the lack of tourists and instead, their own locals eating there as well. It only means one thing: Eating delicious local food without the mark up in prices. (Think Sab x 2 in BKK)

And how did we know our list is good? We showed some of the locals in Ben Thanh Market our list to validate our research and they were surprised. The ladies chattered excitedly among themselves pointing to my list before asking how we got this paper(It was my itinerary btw).

Pho So 1 Hanoi

Thanks to globalisation, I am sure almost every Singaporean has been introduced to one of the most common dishes in Vietnam, the Pho(pronounced as fuh, but who cares actually). But it is a totally different experience eating Pho in its area of origin. Same same but different.

Generous serving of rice noodles, shredded chicken meat, herbs, a halved lime and a simple yet flavourful broth, you would be thinking that it’s practically the same as what you’re queuing for at Nam Nam Noodle Bar. But here in Vietnam, a bowl of Pho comes along with a plate piled with Thai Basil, pickled garlic and chilies. When the staff saw our plate left untouched, he approached us with much amusement and gestured us to put some into our bowl of Pho. So we decided to observe the locals.

First, they plucked off the leaves of the Thai Basil and threw into their bowls. Then, they added at least 4-5 pickled garlic, chilies. Lastly, sauce is added into the soup. This is the local way. To be honest, do not be pressured to eat their way. The magic of Pho lies in its incredibly power-packed broth, so do try out the soup first before you add anything extra. Otherwise, I recommend you to savour its simplicity.

You can find shops selling Pho in every corner of the streets but I did some research prior and this place was recommended.

25 Nguyen Thi Minh Khai, Dist.1

Bánh Canh Cua

This was the first dish I tried upon landing and boy did it start my holiday right. Ban Canh, simply means soup cake, is a dish that comprises of silver needle noodles(mee tai mak) and crab stock. I’m still not sure which part of the dish is my favourite. The light yet refreshing crab-infused gravy? The variety of ingredients made up by chunks of crabmeat, prawn, crab nugget, pork slices and pig’s blood cube? The plate of dough fritters(you tiao) that you can pair with? Or the part that everything just tastes so good together.

Although the staff are not versed in English, the shop only sells Ban Canh. So simply indicate how many bowls you’re having and you’ll be served.

One of our favourite dishes of the trip, this dish is highly recommended!87 Trần Khắc Chân, Quận 1, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
2 pm – 9:30 pm daily

Ban Xeo

IMG_0354Banh Xeo is a savoury crepe that comprises of fatty pork, shrimp and bean sprouts. The batter is made of rice flour and water, hence resulting in a crispy and thin pancake layer. This makes a good afternoon snack. Be sure to check out their opening hours though. 

46 Đinh Công Tráng, Tân Định, 1, Hồ Chí Minh, Vietnam

Bánh Mì Hòa Mã

Best breakfast of our trip. This beats any American or hotel continental breakfast set hands down. Our research claims that this place makes the best Banh Mi Op La. And they were not kidding. Low tables and stools that lined the sides of the road beside – Classic Vietnam style – were filled with locals happily munching on their breakfast. Surprised to see tourists, the staff quickly got us seats and we ordered 2 sets and a cup of iced coffee. Each set comes along with a large roll of freshly baked Banh Mi, a portion of pate and a hotplate of fried egg and mixed meat. Well-seasoned and piping hot from the stove, this dish is breakfast for champions.

53 Cao Thắng, District 3, Ho Chi Minh City
Opening Hours: 7am – 10am or until they sell out, Daily

Penang Travelogue: Bak Kut Teh

IMG_5464To most Singaporeans, Bak Kut Teh shouldn’t be the unknown. Pork Ribs served in delicious peppery broth, who could resist. Yet, how many knows of the difference between Singaporean and Malaysian BKT. Since I was in Penang for holiday, a place unparalleled for its diversity and quality in hawker fare, I was in luck to give Malaysian BKT a try.
IMG_5467Bak Kut Teh (Malaysian style): Visually, the difference is distinct. The clay pot is overflowing with ingredients. Besides the mandatory pork ribs, this particular style comprises of mushroom and beancurd skin as well. In addition, as compared to the slightly translucent looking soup of Singaporean BKT, the broth here is brown and clear looking instead. Taste wise, the broths are poles apart. The soup here tastes distinctively of herbs but yet, definitely still delicious in its own way.
IMG_5465Fried Lotus Slice: I seriously believe that despite us being close neighbours, we sure have distinct palates and culinary talents as well. Who would have known that sliced lotus roots would taste so delicious sautéed with vegetables and you tiao? This is definitely the work of a hidden culinary prodigy.
IMG_5474Steamed Pomfret with kway teow and bee hoon: As if brunch isn’t bizarre enough, our steamed pomfret appears on a bed of kway teow and bee hoon. And just like this, you can have your protein and carbohydrates all in one single dish. One key aspect that ties the dish together is the light and savoury sauce that the crew will not hesitate to refill for you.
IMG_5484Hokkien Mee: Once again, we agree to disagree. Another variation to a name that we’re familiar with. This dish was so popular and delectable that the boys wiped out the plate within minutes. 

Zealand Seafood
62 Gurney Drive 10250 Penang
Opening hours: 6.30am – 2.45pm, 6pm-11.30pm

Penang Travelogue: Sungai Pinang

IMG_5496When people talk about food in Penang, most would mention Gurney Drive, the street famous for its local fare at night. I was looking forward to having a taste of the authentic flavours, but my evening flight back home clashed with Gurney Drive’s late opening hours. So what happens if you’re in Penang and you really want to try Penang local cuisine? You head to Sungai Pinang.
IMG_5501Penang Laksa: It was my first attempt of the famed Penang Laksa and there is no better place to try it than its place of origins. I hope I can find a mean version back in Singapore because the bar has been set pretty high. Spicy, sour and salty. All the different flavours packed into a small bowl. The plain white thick beehoon goes exceptionally well with the feisty broth. Slices of raw onion, cucumber and coriander leaves are just perfect finishing touches to this dish. If you have not tried Penang Laksa, I strongly recommend that you do.
IMG_5504Oyster Omelette: This dish possesses multiple forms and taste in different countries such as Singapore, Malaysia and Taiwan. Penang serves oyster omelette that is entirely similar to our local’s fare. Tasty and yet less starchy than the rendition in Taiwan. IMG_5519Penang Fried Kway Teow: This is distinctively different from Singapore’s Char Kway Teow. Firstly, the former is much lighter in appearance. This is due to the lack of dark soya sauce as compared to our version. The taste is the second difference. The dominant flavour of the Penang Fried Kway Teow is salty, instead of the sweet soya sauce found in our Char Kway Teow. Thanks to a strong wok-fire, the street is taste and flavourful
IMG_5511Grilled Scallops: Something that you do not get to see often in Singapore. The shellfish are well-seasoned and grilled to perfection. Doesn’t take a shellfish lover to love this dish.
IMG_5518Barbecue Chicken Wings: Another familiar sight in Penang. The wings are well-marinated, tasty and adequately moist. I was caught devouring quite a few of them.
IMG_5538I took a walk around the area and found the place remotely similar to some of our food centres, like Newton Circus or even Chomp Chomp. But of course, the area here is much bigger and can accommodate many more tables than ours. It can get pretty stuffy during dusk but the affordable food and fruit juice will keep you distracted.

Taste of Thailand

Another one of the few places that I’ve been eating since young, this place sure has its history. From its original location at pre-renovated Sembawang Shopping Centre, it has moved to its current spot at the industrial estate nearby. First and foremost, one should not jump at the notion of getting authentic Thai food at this restaurant. The speciality dishes are influenced by the culture but the others are your typical Zi Char fare. But what sets this restaurant apart from your next door Zi Char stall are the quality of the food and the price. 5 girls, 5 dishes + 1 soup for less than 50 bucks. Good food does not necessarily come with a high cost.

Taste of ThailandPineapple Fried Rice: Served steaming hot, the rice, sprinkled with cubes of pineapple, slices of preserved sausages, shreds of omelette and topped with pork floss, is flavourful and definitely a force to be reckoned with. It scores very well with the kids and the carbo-loading men.

Taste of ThailandFried Fish: This fish may look all bones and skinny to you but do not judge too soon. Fried using a strong and powerful fire, the fish is crispy on the outside and yet, meaty and delectable within. Not to forget, have the fish with some of the chilli that they serve along. Like most, your taste buds will be in for a treat.

Taste of ThailandFried Cuttlefish: For years, this dish will never fail to be on my family’s table at the restaurant, but we still never solve the mystery that ensues this dish. Addictive and delicious at the same time, the cuttlefish is definitely well-marinated and fried. A must-try! P.S. They go well with the chilli sauce too.

Taste of ThailandSweet and Sour Pork: Something about their wok and fire-power makes their food extraordinarily tasty. A notch above the other versions I’ve tried, the sauce is of the suitable taste, neither too sweet nor too sour. Most importantly, the meat is of the right biting texture. Crispy on the outside and juicy within.

An important tip to take note is that the restaurant gets extremely crowded during the weekends. A queue starts snaking even before the sun sets for dinner time. Rumor has it that the quality of the food deteriorates when they have to be rushed during busy periods. So I suggest to try out this restaurant during the weekdays.

Taste of Thailand
1001 Yishun Industrial Park A
#01-1001 Yishun Industrial Food Centre
Tel: 67589121 Fax: 67540053

Gurney Drive: Penang Fried Kway Teow

Penang is famous for its local authentic delicacies. So when my friend told me that I could get some Penang lovin’ at Ang Mo Kio central, I was thrilled. The menu was overwhelming but I decided to follow my craving, Fried Kway Teow.

Gurney DriveIf this is what they really serve in Penang, I’m going to fly there and gorge myself to death. Its savoury, tasty and not oily at all. I actually prefer this rendition of the fried kway teow as compared to the dark and sweet-tasting ones of our local hawkers. My dish took longer than my friend’s Assam Laksa, but when it was served up hot and smoking, I guessed the wait was worth it. The portion is pretty small though.

Gurney Drive is a famous food heaven in Penang for its local hawker food. And this is what the eatery is named after. Tucked away in a little corner at Ang Mo Kio Central, Gurney Drive aims to bring a little piece of Penang to Singapore. An impressing menu to boast, you will be spoiled for choices. I will be back for sure, to try out another of their speciality dish, Assam Laksa.

Penang Fried Kway Teow S$6.90
Jubilee Square
61 Ang Mo Kio Avenue 8
#01-07 to 10 (next to Blk 722)
Singapore 569814