Just have to write a separate blog about this. Food is most certainly part of the adventure and guided by Filipino expats living in Ho Chi Minh, we found a few dining places worth visiting.

Be W.A.R.N.E.D.

Nha Hang Ngon

Our first lunch in Ho Chi Minh was in Nha Hang Ngon. Coming in cold, we were initially struck by the prices quoted in thousands. You see, US$1 here is equivalent to at least 20,000 Dong. Our expat friends suggested we drop the 3 zeroes and multiply by 2 to get the peso equivalent. So that means 100,000 Dong is approximately 200 pesos. Hmmm, that’s pretty neat.

Lunch at Nha Hang Ngon (Ngon means delicious)

Now going back to the menu in this place, we were pleasantly surprised to find that the prices are in fact very reasonable for a place oozing with local ambience, food so fresh and resto crew smiling 24/7. Nha Hang Ngon (“ngon” means delicious) has a quaint architecture and the periphery of the building is lined with foodstuff from appetizers to soups to mint-flavored dishes, to various barbecued meats and vietnamese rolls to desserts. It was a chore to choose from among the foods on display. Our version of “turo-turo” (point – point) where a diner does the mandatory circling of all food stalls and orders which ones should be served on their table.

Turo-Turo, Vietnamese Style. More Veggies, Less Meat.

The Refinery

Fine dining in Ho Chi Minh? Try The Refinery. It is the former headquarters of an opium factory which now houses a French Bistro, a Frenchy Bar and a Vietnamese outlet serving fusion cuisine. We tried the latter. Hoa Tuc is also a Saigon Cooking School much like we have CCA back in Manila. The red motif all over the place is very Frenchy, but the portions are not. No way we’d get small Frenchy portions with our Vietnamese dinner here.

Formerly an Opium Refinery in Saigon. Say what?

Want some cooking lessons? Then eat what you cook!

We left the ordering to my friend’s expat daughter and her friends. And what a selection! We enjoyed our sugarcane drink, our minty soup which tastes a bit like its Thai equivalent, the variety of barbecued meat, the fish in some savory sauce, the birthday noodles (3 of us were birthday celebrants), the crispy floured squid in tamarind sauce, the many vegetables, and the decadent , moist chocolate cake! If that dinner won’t energize you for a few rounds of walking, I don’t know what will.

Dinner at Hoa Tuc @The Refinery

Pho 2000

Naturally, we were also drawn to try this chain noodle house — rare in that it benefits from a Presidential endorsement. Ex-President Bill Clintonn once tried this Pho 2000 noodle house and raved about its Pho. No wonder his photos hang on all its walls. We tried the seafood pho, the beef pho, the chicken curry with baguette, their equivalent of the halo-halo (with fresh fruits rather than ours which are cooked in sugar syrup) , their coffee. The one we tried was at the corner of BenThanh Market.

Found one near Ben Thanh Market!

Ben Thanh Market

Yeah, right. This is a market where the shopper in you gets resurrected. While shopping for our Vietnamese coffee, cinnamon slippers and dried jackfruit slices, we found a few stalls serving desserts. Easy to grab one of those rice cakes, but we found the cold desserts most refreshing. Fresh fruits like cubed granada, papaya, watermelon were mixed in with gelatine and ice shavings — just right to make one forget all that heat and humidity inside this crowded shoppers’ paradise. We didn’t hesitate to claim a stool and partake of these sweet desserts to refresh ourselves. Besides, all that walking and shopping drained us of all energy.

It's Halo Halo without the syrup. Just plain fresh fruits, milk & ice!

Also, don’t forget to buy the fruits. Either have them as your dessert, or have them for breakfast, lunch or dinner. I kid you not. Fresh custard apples (Atis) so solid you can just peel off the moon crater-y skin and eat the fruit like an apple. Or the macopas, and the mangoes. There were also big-sized chicos and tiny apples (manzanitas) which we enjoyed.

Grab a pack and go!

Food Courts At The Malls

Then there are the food courts to be found in the Malls. If you wish to have a quick fix in an airconditioned place, check out the food courts in the malls. I tried one of their hot pots, in an effort to stay “healthy”, but really, I soon discovered that it is easy to eat healthy here in Vietnam. Their food is more veggies than meat. And all that mint must explain why I didn’t meet any local with an unpleasant body aroma. Drenched in sweat in a hot, humid market, or exposed to the sun while scootering or biking around the city, I was expecting some body scent to alert me of sweaty bodies. Can’t explain it, and neither can I explain why I didn’t find too many flies in the wet market where I found seafood on display. Must be the hygiene or level of sanitation. Or all that mint. Tempts me to use my mint breath fresheners all over my body!

You may also want to check out my blog on Ho Chi Minh……..

And do try that beer too!

Vietnamese Coffee Rocks! (They have weasel and squirrel coffee beans too!)

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Atis with Every Meal. Eat Them Like An Apple (Without The Skin)

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Typical Banh Mi (as in Panini?) Vendor