On the weekend we had friends visiting from Phnom Penh, so spent alot of time wandering from place to place eating and drinking. Here’s where we went and what we tasted:
First stop: Trung Nguyen, Vietnam’s best-known coffee chain – think a local version of Starbucks. We went to the huge branch across the road from Diamond Plaza, which has mostly outdoor seating. Some of the tables are actually shaped like Vietnamese coffee drippers! Trung Nguyen coffee comes in various arabica and robusta blends but the type we were seeking out was that made from weasel poo! Rumour has it that weasels (or civets) digest the beans, which produce a really smooth tasting coffee, among the best in the world. Whenever we’ve gone to Trung Nguyen and tried to order it they’ve said they don’t have it. So we tried again, and they still said it wasn’t available but pointed to the Legendee coffee (my favourite) instead. So we stuck with the Legendee and I’ve since discovered that it’s made using the animal’s digestive enzymes without the coffee actually passing through a living creature. So – I guess we kind of had weasel poo coffee, in a much more palatable way.
We then headed next-door to Bamizon for their banh mi (sandwiches). I had the chicken baguette which comes with salad, coriander and chilli (my favourite Vietnamese sandwich) but unfortunately it also had a thick layer of sweet tasting butter. Will forego the butter next time and just have a drier (but healthier!) sandwich.
For lunch (the banh mi was just a snack!) we went to Annam Gourmet Foods on Hai Ba Trung. A gorgeous, gourmet supermarket packed with imported goods and beautifully packaged Vietnamese spices, teas and coffees, it has an upstairs cafe where you can help yourself to a Belgian beer from the fridge and order cheeses and meats at the deli counter. It’s one of my favourite places in Saigon and it never fails to impress visitors! With some Chilean wine and Belgian and Kiwi beers we shared some cheese and meat platters, featuring proscuitto, Serrano ham, salami, parmesan, brie and more. This is the best place for a charcuterie fix, and you can pick up interesting things to take home afterwards.
Our delicious lunch at Annam
Post-lunch dessert – time for chocolate nemesis cake at Au Parc, my favourite dessert to date in Saigon. So rich it’s hard to finish one by yourself (but I usually manage!).
Dinner – Vietnamese fare at Quan An Ngon, one of Saigon’s best-loved restaurants where stations are set up around a courtyard (with a French colonial building on the grounds) dishing up the best of Vietnam’s street snacks. We had chilli salt beef, prawns on skewers, banh xeo (pancakes with pork, prawns and bean sprouts), lemongrass clams and much, much more. A feast for the princely sum of around US$7 per person.
And somewhere in the midst of all this eating and drinking was a trip to La Fenetre Soleil, one of my favourite Saigon cafes for it’s decor, ambience and great ginger juice (read my blog post about it here). And there was also a trip to Wrap & Roll (how could I forget?) for more delicious Vietnamese snacks (the highlight – sundried beef in fresh spring rolls).
Next time out and about -will perhaps check out new dumpling bar Steam, have a drink at favourite wine bar Qing (its new location that I haven’t been to yet) and try a curry at the mosque, another thing on my to do list!
Coffee photo courtesy vncoffeeinc.com