Wednesday, October 22, 2008

One day of eating in Saigon.

Even though I've managed life in Bangkok for over a year, the city of Saigon still intimidates me. I am, however, fascinated by it-- it's a colorful town with a tropical atmosphere, and its streets and sidewalks teem with activity. I almost chose to live there, rather than in Thailand, and I'm still curious about what life would have been like. Despite, I feel as though I can barely began to comprehend the city, can barely see over the traffic of whirring motorbikes-- making eating, in a sense, a challenge. Searching out a distant market seems daunting, seeking specific street-snacks seems impossible. Thankfully, there are enough good flavors and tastes in the city that I was well-fed on my last visit, despite my lack of adventurousness.

On our last full day in Saigon, Bordeaux and I took a leisurely breakfast at La Fenetre Soleil, an inviting upstairs cafe. Though it's located up a dingy staircase and down a dark hallway, it manages to attract it's fair share of fans (including a fellow blogger). My breakfast was a double dose of rich Vietnamse coffee: an iced black drip coffee, and Vietnamese coffee french toast. The latter was particularly spectacular: smooth and well-flavoured, and drizzled with sweetened milk (though I don't know what peanuts have to do with Vietnamese coffee, they added a nice crunchy texture).

For lunch, we ducked behind a downtown mosque, to a shady courtyard curry shop. The richly spiced dishes were excellent- particularly a beef curry with tender strips of okra. It was eaten with roti, which were crisped golden brown. The beverage, though simple, should be noted- bubbling soda water with two wedges of lime, and a little white sugar. After drip coffee and avocado shakes, it's my favorite Vietnamese drink-- perfect for the steamy tropical heat.

For dinner, we chose an outdoor restaurant near the central Ben Thanh market. Among our dishes were grilled shrimp on sugarcane, and a crunchy banh xeo pancake. We have another restaurant there that we favor, and we should have gone there again-- they didn't live up to the quality of their neighbor. At least the Saigon beer was cold.

Hopefully next time I'm in town I'll be better prepared, and feeling a little more adventurous. In the mean time, for an expert's guide to eating in the city, cruise Robyn's Saigon articles on Eating Asia.


Lynne said...

all looks and sounds delicious!

jess gonacha said...

wow, i'm crazy about that top photo-- all that interesting fruit that you don't see here!!

Ange said...

once again - extremely jealous! i think i'd be a little intimidated by saigon myself, but still looking forward to checking it out.

Nik Daum said...

Great food pictures and writing as usual Xander. I remember my first morning in Saigon and two bowls of delicious steaming pho. I was bamboozled to be eating soup for breakfast, but it was so good.

Elizabeth said...

Sounds delicious.
I am fascinated with your extended travels in the far east.
Yes, excellent photos.

Laura Kelley said...


As usual, all you describe seems delicious, especially in an in situ sort of way.

Loved the clay pot cooking description in the previous post as well. Still find that in Georgia and Armenia as well.

Looking for an angle to link my S. African adventures to the Silk Road - perhaps through the Portuguese? If you have better suggestions, please let me know.

Keep up the great blog!