Somewhere near the top of my list of must-eat restaurants in Saigon are Lau De 304, Công Trường, and Su Su. The first specializes in goat prepared a myriad of ways, the second serves the dreamiest ice cream ever, and the third fries chicken in a most unique fashion.
Old haunts like these are meant to be revisited with old friends, so we reserved these beloved spots to dine with Hawkins, a southern gentleman who came to live in Saigon by way of Georgia. It had been much too long since we broke bread with our friend.
One of my favorite dishes at Lau De 304 is the grill-it-yourself goat (de nuong). The meat is served raw and thinly sliced with a charcoal brazier. The grill’s fiery temps cook the meat in snap. Then, it’s dunked in a fermented tofu sauce for extra pow. Grill, dip, eat, repeat—that’s how we do.
The next dish to arrive was fried goat in a tangle of lemongrass threads (de xoi xa). This preparation turned the goat’s flesh slightly crispy, with a distinct lemongrass essence.
Another must-order preparation is the ca ri de made with Madras curry. As the broth bubbled and boiled aggressively, we sponged it up and scooped up the meat and vegetables with warm baguettes. This dish is as soulful and satisfying as it gets.
Following our three-course goat dinner, we motorbiked to Turtle Pond (Ho Con Rua) for dessert at Công Trường. This place is more of a snack shack than an ice cream parlor, so the choice of flavors is limited, while savory bites are available in abundance.
The best thing here is the kem trai dua: two scoops of coconut ice cream served inside a fresh young coconut topped with crushed peanuts, dried bananas, pineapple preserves, and a dried plum “cherry.” The coconut’s juice is chilled and served on the side. In the hot, hot Saigon heat, this baby tastes incredible.
Our final stop on our trip down memory lane took place the following afternoon at Su Su, which is located on a serene stretch of Tu Xuong street.
Su Su is like no other gà xối mỡ (Vietnamese Fried Chicken) slinger in town. Rather than frying chicken in a wok like everyone else, the owner here invented a contraption where a cascade of hot grease literally rains down on each wing, leg, breast, and thigh. The results are sizzling, moist, and snappy. Not to mention, absolutely mesmerizing to behold.
The freshly fried portions of chicken were served with a large scoop of tomato-tinged rice, slices of tomatoes and cucumbers, and a life-changing garlicky sauce made from chicken drippings. The Colonel ain’t got nothing on Su Su.
Is it just me or does food taste better served with a side of nostalgia?
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
Lau De 304
304 Le Van Sy
Tan Binh District, Ho Chi Minh City
Corner of Vo Van Tan & Pham Ngoc Thach
District 3, Ho Chi Minh City
59 Tu Xuong
District 3, Ho Chi Minh City