After a sobering hour at the War Remnants Museum, we head for lunch at a place listed in my notes; Bac Hai (25 Ng The Minh Khai St) famous for its Pho and featured by Anthony Bourdain on his show, No Reservations. It’s very good pho, and we’re happy to have some as we’ve been pho-deprived for a couple of days. This bowl of noodles is served with many more condiments and herbs, a different in style from those we had in Hanoi. Our Pho Tai Bap is 20,000 VND per bowl.
Once again, we are on the hunt to find (and try) ass-weasel coffee (also known as Ca Phe Chon). Lori has found the Trung Nguyen shop we had been looking for yesterday, and we go in for our special coffee. David and I order Ca Phe Sua Da and Lori gets hers plain without the sweetened condensed milk. It is very good, but is it worth the hype? Honestly, I have no idea. But we have a great time just sitting there, chatting and relaxing. The coffee is 45,000 VND per cup (other varieties are much less).
On the way back to the hotel, we stop again at the lady selling what we’d thought was fried potato and egg. While we sit on the little plastic stools waiting for our food, there is a very old woman, neatly dressed but begging. She is going from group to group of the people eating on the street nearby and just standing near them and staring and holding out her hand. Lori buys her a plate of food and the vendor puts it in a to-go box for her. She takes it with barely any recognition and totters off to continue her work.
We are enjoying our snack when I suddenly realize these are not potatoes we are eating. I spy a large white block of…well…I have exactly no idea what it is, except that this is what the cook is cutting up and putting on to the griddle. “What is that?” we ask everyone around us? But no one speaks English well enough to answer our questions. What ever it is, it does taste good and we’re hoping it’s not unhealthy.
Later, back in the club lounge, I ask one of the waiters if he can tell me what it is, showing him a photo on my camera. He’s not sure. We confer with another waiter, and another. Finally, I get the name, bot chien. Ok, if you speak French, I know what you’re thinking, but no, this is not dog. It’s rice. More specifically rice flour that’s been formed into a solid gelataneous block and then is fried on a skillet with scallions, egg, and sweet soy sauce. And it’s good.
For dinner we head to Warda, a Lebanese place in a small alley a couple of blocks away. We’re ready for a change from Vietnamese food. The place has really pretty decor with a Moroccan/Middle Eastern vibe to it. It feels a world away from Saigon. We order all sorts of mezze for appetizers; hommous, eggplant, grilled skewers, etc.
I’m very excited to try everything and then suddenly, wham! I feel sick again. It might have been the smell of the spices on the lamb kabobs, but I find myself unable to remain at the table and I have to leave. I walk back to the hotel by myself in the rain, feeling better outside in the fresh air, but pissed that I’m missing out on such a good (and as it turns out, the most expensive) meal of our trip. David and Lori say the food was excellent.
Warda, www.wardavn.com, 71/7 Mac Thi Buoi
Who would have thought I’d go to Saigon and eat in a mosque? Right next door to the Sheraton is a mosque and behind it is a small restaurant open to the public. I’d read about it on A Girl in Asia blog and so we walk over to see what they have for lunch.
The first thing we notice are a couple of cats lounging about along with a few sleepy kittens. Instantly we are sold (we love places with cats and take it as a good sign). These cats are obviously well loved and happy and we see one of the guys who works there taking care of them throughout our meal. The restaurant is open air and has plastic chairs and picnic tables. They serve a South-Indian style of muslim food. We order a couple of curries (chicken and goat), some vegetables (okra and potatoes) and some rice. It’s all very tasty and filling, though surprisingly there is little “heat” to the meal. All that with a soda and a water is 153,000 VND.