The Astronomer and I recently traveled to Vietnam for a two-and-a-half week holiday. Three years have passed since we called Saigon home, and it felt incredible to be back. Oh, how I’ve missed the people, noise, and traffic!
The Astronomer and I used to eat here on a daily basis when we first moved to Saigon because it was located within walking distance of our office at the East Meets West Foundation. And of course, the food was worth coming back for again and again.
When we walked into the restaurant, the proprietress instantly recognized us and asked where the heck we’d been. It’s always nice to be remembered at a restaurant, and even nicer when it’s been three years. We grabbed a table near the front and placed our order with her son. Our table was decked out with the usual utensils, box of tissues, and pork sausages wrapped in banana leaves (cha).
I ordered a tall glass of passion fruit juice to start. Fresh fruit juices and smoothies are widely available in Saigon to keep residents cool from the tropical heat. The ratio of sugar to juice is always perfect for my taste.
The cha gio at Bún Bò Huế Yên Đỗ had always been some of our favorites, but the ones served this afternoon were a shadow of their former selves. While the filling was more or less the same, the wrappers weren’t the crackly things that we adored.
According to my great aunt who lives in Saigon, Chinese-style egg roll wrappers have overtaken rice paper in popularity among the local set because they’re expensive and brown more evenly. Although I grew up eating egg roll wrappers, I latched onto cha gio made with rice paper as soon as I experienced them in Vietnam. Blistered is better in my book.
I made a conscious effort throughout the trip to feast on dishes that are hard to come by in America. A bowl of bun mam was high on the list because I’ve yet to find a solid rendition anywhere close to home.
The bowl arrived steaming hot and brimming with shell-on shrimp, squid, fish cakes, pork, and slippery noodles, all swimming in a sweetly fermented broth. Oftentimes the memory of a dish can be impossible to match in reality, but that wasn’t the case here. All was right with the world as I buried my face in that bowl.
The Astronomer was equally smitten with his bun bo Hue. As he slurped the noodles and sipped the spicy broth, he kept uttering that this was one of the best bowls of bun bo Hue ever.
Even though prices have literally doubled since our last meal here, every dong spent was well worth it. Thanks for the warm welcome, Yên Đỗ.
For more Vietnamese food adventures from our summer 2011 trip, check out these posts:
- Saigon Classic: Bún Bò Huế Yên Đỗ
- Saigon Classic: Flaming Roadside Bánh Xèo
- Saigon Dinner Crawl: Squeaky Meatballs, Sesame Sludge, Spicy Duck Tongues, and More
- District 4, Saigon: Our Home Away From Home
- Saigon Classics: Goat Three Ways, Coconut Ice Cream, and Vietnamese Fried Chicken
Bún Bò Huế Yên Đỗ
252/68B Ly Chinh Thang Street
District 3, Ho Chi Minh City