Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Tuesday Night Food-ventures

Since returning from the U.S., my Tuesday evenings have been devoted to exploring District 5 (Cholon in particular) in search of hidden food gems with my friends Mike and Vi. We're actively shunning the usual expat stomping grounds in Districts 1 and 3. Our main objective is to find some good Chinese food, but this is harder than we initially realized. Most online recommendations are of dubious reliability - one seemingly promising Trip Advisor post led us to two streets that were desolate in terms of food - and many of the best places seem to be tucked down nondescript alleys. You really need a local to find them.

Fortunately, tonight I remembered a restaurant I ate at ages ago deep in District 5, a few blocks past Cho Ray hospital. Van Hao, located at 411 Nguyen Chi Thanh, shares a corner with several restaurants at an intersection that attracts every type of street entertainment Saigon has to offer. During the course of a meal you're almost guaranteed to see fire breathers, snake eaters, dancing tranvestites, singing tranvestites, people making balloon animals, and everything in between. One of the more annoying aspects of this location is the prevalence of people pushing around those stupid music carts equipped with speakers that blare atrocious Vietnamese pop. One young man decided to park his cart next to our street-side table for almost our entire meal.

Luckily the food at Van Hao is worth it. Though the specialty is lau, hot pot, the wide variety of other options - beef, pork ribs, fish, frog, squid, veggies and tofu - are all excellent. Prices are slightly high by some standards, but if you go with a few people and eat family-style your wallet won't get hit too hard. Plus, the surroundings are awfully entertaining.

This was also the first time I've used my new camera here, and I'm extremely happy with how night pictures come out - a huge improvement over my old camera.



From left to right - fried squid, tofu, and chicken wings. We also got rau muong xao toi, a big plate of Cantonese rice, and three beers, all for VND400,000 ($20). Next week, the search for Chinese food continues!



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