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The Cocoa Project, District 3

HO CHI MINH CITY | The Cocoa Project is a bean to bar chocolatier and cafe that opened in March this year, and has been building a word of mouth reputation amongst Ho Chi Minh City’s chocolate lovers as the place to go for the good stuff.

The Cocoa Project was co-founded by ex management consultant Khanh-Linh Lê, who gave up the day job to follow her passion for chocolate. Khanh-Linh moved to Vietnam from France, to combine her Parisian upbringing and Vietnamese heritage, and create chocolate that’s uniquely Vietnamese.

Unlike other Vietnamese chocolate brands, the Cocoa Project is about creating a culture of chocolate appreciation in Vietnam, and is tailored towards Vietnamese people in Vietnam. It’s about changing the conversation, and showing locals that high quality chocolate can be accessible, and 100% Vietnamese. That’s not to say that visitors aren’t welcome too! I spent some time chatting with Khanh-Linh while at the Coco Project, and her passion and joy with what she’s trying to achieve with the Cocoa Project shines through.

Vietnam is home to several regions that are perfect for growing cocoa beans, with the unique terroir of each region leading to distinctive flavours. The chocolate here is about more than just infusing local flavours and ingredients, and the result is delicious. I’m particularly fond of the Bên Tre 81% dark chocolate and roasted coconut bar. Aussies, think next level Coconut Rough.

Along with the bar and truffle range, the cafe also offers a range of chocolate and coffee drinks, cakes and snacks. The signature classic dark chocolate (iced or hot) is fantastic, as is the almond chocolate mousse cake, and the salted 60 day chocolate chip cookie.


The Cocoa Project

143 Nguyen Dinh Chieu Street
District 3
Ho Chi Minh City
Vietnam

Telephone: +84 2838 299 188
E-mail: [email protected]
Website

Open
Mon – Fri: 7:00am to 8:00pm
Sat – Sun: 8:00am to 8:00pm

QUNICE Saigon, District 1

HO CHI MINH CITY | Serendipity is perhaps the best work to describe how I ended up enjoying a rather brilliant meal at QUNICE Saigon a few weeks ago. I was aimlessly wandering the streets of District 1, Saigon, when a beautiful French Colonial era building caught my eye. I posted about it on my IG feed, and before long was contacted bb head chef and co-owner, Julien Perraudin.

He’s the co-owner and head chef at Quince, the restaurant inside the building. He’s a French chef, who spent a decade in Melbourne from 2004-15 before moving to South East Asia. Pop in he said, if you’re keen, and have a feed. It’s on me. Looking at the rather brilliant menu of, it turns out, quite an acclaimed restaurant, how could I say no.

Two days later, I was seated at the kitchen, with full view of the multiple custom built charcoal grills and fire pits, and I knew that I was in for a treat.

Quince is all about delicious things cooked over fire, and is an offshoot of the award-winning restaurant of the same name. It offers a broadly European menu informed by local produce and flavours. For Australians, imagine if NOMAD opened a restaurant In Vietnam. The food here is exceptional. Ingredients locally sourced where possible, but not exclusively so. You’ll find figs from small scale farms in Da Lat, but also Australian O’Connor, and veggies from France, Australia, and beyond. It’s about ensuring that you get the best quality meal possible, and boy do Julien and the team deliver.

The way that Julien and the team fuse European dishes with local influences is brilliant. Be it scallops prepared tonkatsu style, with smoked marrow and seaweed, or spicy salmon nori ‘tacos’.

It’s all inspired, delicious, and week worth your time if you find yourself in Ho Chi Minh City and looking for a change after several days of strictly Vietnamese dining. Make sure you head upstairs to Madam Kew post dinner for a post dinner cocktail. The negroni up there are particularly good.


QUNICE Saigon

37bis Ky Con, P. Nguyen Thai Binh
District 1
Ho Chi Minh City
Vietnam

Telephone: +84 28 3821 6681
E-mail: [email protected]
Website

Open
Mon – Sun: 5:30am to 11:00pm

Cơm Tấm Ba Ghiền, Phú Nhuận District

HO CHI MINH CITY | This city was the first place that I tried cơm tấm. It’s was back in 2013, and it’s been one of my go to Vietnamese dishes ever since. On this trip, my quest to find the city’s best led me to Cơm Tấm Ba Ghiền.

It’s an unpretentious spot not far from Tan Son Nhat International Airport, popular with locals who appreciate its consistently delicious food, great value, and friendly service. When you’ve been consistently busy since opening in 1995, you’re clearly doing something right.

Cơm tấm, at its most basic, is broken rice with grilled pork ribs and assorted sides. At Cơm tấm Ba Ghiền, there’s six base sets that you can customise as you like, along with freshly cold pressed juices made using fruit from.the nearby market.

I opted for combo #6 ‘cơm tấm bì chả sườn trứng ốp la’, which gets you a bit of everything. That’d be a large, tender, soy sauce and sugar marinated, on-the-bone charcoal grilled pork rib cutlet, with broken rice, shredded pork skin, pork meatloaf, pork meatball, sweet and sticky pork sausage, pickled vegetables, a fried egg, and nước chấm (fish sauce) for dipping on the side.

The pork chop is the highlight of the plate, but all of the components really are wonderful. With the runny yolk coating the ingredients, and nước chấm adding the final touch, it’s a plate of goodness that’s well deserving of its reputation. Sure, you could go for one of the other combos, but trust me, you want it all.


Cơm Tấm Ba Ghiền

84 Đặng Văn Ngữ
Phú Nhuận
Ho Chi Minh City
Vietnam

Telephone: +84 2838 461 073
E-mail: n/a
Website

Open
Mon – Sun: 7:00am to 9:15pm

Bánh Mì Huynh Hoa, District 1

HO CHI MINH CITY | I’ve eaten a lot of bánh mì over the years, but none quite as loaded as the behemoth from Bánh Mì Huynh Hoa.

The popular family run spot has been operating since 1989, selling their signature bánh mì, along with the components by themselves if you just need some bread, or meats for a platter, and wines.

The signature bánh mì đặc biệt contains a light and airy Vietnamese baguette filled with pork bologna, shoulder ham, beef patties, pork floss, pork liver and skin pate, and a lathering of butter. Pickled veg and chillies are provided in a separate bag for you to add in how you like, with a plastic glove so you don’t make a mess (I still made a mess).

Definitely one to share if there’s two of you as it’s extremely filling. I wasn’t able to finish mine, and it kept me satisfied all the way until dinner.


Bánh Mì Huynh Hoa

26 Lê Thị Riêng
District 1
Ho Chi Minh City
Vietnam

Telephone: +84 896 698 811
E-mail: n/a
Website

Open
Mon – Sun: 6:30am to 9:00pm

Bò Kho Dì Út Ấn Độ, District 3

HO CHI MINH CITY | My last day in Ho Chi Minh City, just a few hours to spare, and so many places on my list that I wasn’t going to be able to get to. I had to think wisely about where to have my last meal, and Bò Kho Dì Út Ấn Độ was where I decided

It’s an unassuming, family-run hole in the wall laneway spot. And it’s where you’ll find one of the more unique noodle soup dishes in town. The speciality here is the Northern Vietnamese noodle soup dish, bò kho. It originated in China, evolving over the years for local ingredients and tastes. At its core, bò kho is a slow cooked beef stew, featuring slow braised, tender chunks of marinated beef and beef tendon, vegetables, and lemongrass. It’s hearty, yet light at the same time.

The family that runs this particular spot has Indian heritage, and what makes their version of bò kho so unique is that they infuse the soup with Indian flavours. While curry powder can be used to marinate the beef traditionally, the version here treats its Vietnamese and Indian components with equal regard.

The best way to describe this bowl of good stuff to someone unfamiliar with it, I think, is ‘curry pho’. It’s a best of both worlds kind of situation that comes together deliciously. You can order it with thin rice noodles, and/or bánh mi.


Bò Kho Dì Út Ấn Độ

Hẻm 5, 194 Võ Văn Tần
District 3
Ho Chi Minh City
Vietnam

Telephone: +84 767 700 881
E-mail: n/a
Website: n/a

Open
Mon – Sun: 3:00pm to 9:00pm

Anan Saigon, District 1

HO CHI MINH CITY | I had a big list of food and drink spots to check out when I arrived in Ho Chi Minh City, but only one spot actually booked in. That was ‘Asia’s 50 Best’ awarded modern Vietnamese restaurant, Anan Saigon.

Vietnamese-American owner/chef Peter Cuong Franklin turned his back on a career in finance in the 2000s to follow his true passion, cooking. He trained at Michelin starred restaurants such as Alinea in Chicago, Caprice in Hong Kong, and Nahm in Bangkok, before opening his own restaurants in Hong Kong. In 2016, Peter returned to his country of birth to open Anan.

It’s a multi-level venue, housed amongst the city centre’s oldest wet market, Chợ Cũ. There’s an open kitchen downstairs, dining further up, a pho bar, an indoor bar, and a rooftop bar. The offering on each level is evolving as the city comes out of the pandemic. At the moment, the full menu is available on the restaurant levels and at the two bars.

Cooking is in Peter’s blood, and his biggest inspiration is his mother’s cooking. This passion, combined with a desire to never stop learning, to dig ever deeper into the roots and diversity of Vietnamese cuisine, and to present dishes to diners that challenge preconceptions about what Vietnamese food is, and can be, has resulted in something quite special.

Bánh xèo are reimagined as crispy shell tacos. Bún chả becomes a one bite delight that encapsulates all that’s great about one of my favourite Vietnamese dishes. Nước mắm (fish sauce) infused caramel tops creamy vanilla ice-cream, with Phú Quốc island pepper and a spray of nước mắm perfume. Drinks follow the same philosophy. The ‘Phojito’ is a twist on the mojito, made using herbs commonly found in phở.

I visited twice, first at the bar, a fun space teamed by talented, chatty bartenders who ooze passion without pretentiousness. The second time I headed up to the rooftop, and was lucky enough to have a chat with Peter, and gain a deeper understanding of his food, and what makes him tick. Needless to say I walked away inspired to dig deeper into Vietnamese cuisine. The phrase ‘the more you know, the less you realise you know’ is apt.


Anan Saigon

89 Tôn Thất Đạm
District 1
Ho Chi Minh City
Vietnam

Telephone: +84 9047 929 202
E-mail: [email protected]
Website

Open
Tue – Sun: 5:00am to 11:00pm

LUA Saigon, District 2

HO CHI MINH CITY | I recently visited exciting new opening LUA Saigon. The wine bar and eatery opened four months ago, and has quietly been building a reputation amongst locals in Ho Chi Minh City’s District 2, for its unique offering.

The two young gun owners, who prefer to remain relatively anonymous and let their venue do the talking, are super passionate about what they’re doing at LỬA, which was evident when I chatted with them, and throughout the night.

It’s a casual spot, focused on a constantly changing selection of seasonal Vietnamese / French inspired share plates, made using the best quality local ingredients. Accompanying the food is a focused selection of wines from like minded wine makers, including special biodynamic house wines and kombuchas.

Everything thing is organically grown, and sourced from small, independent producers. A particular focus are the various pork dishes. LỬA sources entire free range pigs from a biodynamic farm in Vietnam’s south, and proceeds to use the entire animal for a variety of things on the menu. The wild boar meatballs with pickled egg yolk, and house charcuterie board were both recommended to me as items that the owners are particularly proud of, and they don’t disappoint. This is high quality, delicious stuff, as good as you’ll find anywhere in the world.

As much as traditional street food is a key part of Vietnam’s dining fabric, so too is the contemporary, forward thinking food that the country’s young chefs are creating. If you’re visiting Ho Chi Minh City, be sure to put LỬA on your list.


LUA Saigon

2 Đường số 11
District 2
Ho Chi Minh City
Vietnam

Telephone: +84 932 229 342
E-mail: [email protected]
Website

Open
Mon – Sat: 6:00pm to 10:00pm

Bún Riêu-Canh Bún 66, District 3

HO CHI MINH CITY | Bún riêu is a Vietnamese dish I first tried in Melbourne. It immediately became a favourite of mine, so you bet I made it my mission to hunt down a great version in Ho Chi Minh City.

It’s a traditional Vietnamese vermicelli noodle soup, and there are a few variations around. The version at Bún Riêu-Canh Bún 66 is bún riêu ốc, ồc being snails. Joining the snails are tamarind paste, fried tofu, rice vinegar, annatto seeds (hạt điều màu), huyết (congealed pig’s blood cubes), split water spinach stems, shredded banana flower, rau kinh giới, spearmint, perilla, bean sprouts, and crab cakes. Combined with vermicelli noodles in a fresh, sour, tomato and crab broth, it’s a delight.

If you’re thirsty, grab yourself a cup of iced sugar cane drink. The staff here freshly cold press the sugar cane to order.


Bún Riêu-Canh Bún 66

287/66 Nguyễn Đình Chiểu
District 3
Ho Chi Minh City
Vietnam

Telephone: n/a
E-mail: n/a
Website: n/a

Open
Mon – Sun: 11:00am to 9:00pm

Bún Thịt Nướng Chị Tuyền, District 1

HO CHI MINH CITY | Bún thịt nướng is a popular Southern Vietnamese noodle and pork dish, similar, but different, to bún chả from the North.

It consists of a bowl of cold rice-vermicelli noodles topped with grilled pork, nem nướng̣ (grilled garlic pork sausage), chả giò (spring rolls), fresh herbs and salad, and giá (bean sprouts). It’s served with nước mam fish sauce (nước chấm) either in the bowl or on the side, and topped with roasted peanuts, pickled carrots and radish.

It’s light and delicious, and one of the best versions in Ho Chi Minh City can be found at Bún Thịt Nướng Chị Tuyền. A portable cart doing a roaring take away trade can be seen from the street. Walk behind the cart to find a small, narrow room with an open kitchen, a few tables, and stools if you want to dine in.

I highly recommend it – it was one of the best meals that I enjoyed on my most recent visit to Vietnam.


Bún Thịt Nướng Chị Tuyền

175c Cô Giang
District 1
Ho Chi Minh City
Vietnam

Telephone: n/a
E-mail: n/a
Website: n/a

Open
Mon – Sun: 6:00am to 9:00pm

Cacao Bà Tám, District 5

HO CHI MINH CITY | Cacao Bà Tám is located down a small street off another small street, through and old apartment complex, past little food vendors, mechanics, hairdressers, and more. When you find it, you’ll see a small cart next to loads of parked scooters, absolutely packed with locals enjoying the same thing.

What is it? It’s an iced triple cacao drink, containing drinking chocolate, thick cacao paste, Milo, and condensed milk, over shaved ice. With it, comes bánh mì, and scissors to cut it.

I wasn’t quite sure how to eat mine, but two young girls next to me were happy to show me the technique. Crush and much it all together with the straw, cut the bánh mì into bite sized pieces, and dip. Such a vibe, sitting on my car too small plastic chair, using another chair as a table.

Simple, fun, and delicious.


Cacao Bà Tám

Chung cư Chợ Quán, 14 Trần Bình Trọng
District 5
Ho Chi Minh City
Vietnam

Telephone: +84 378 015 906
E-mail: n/a
Website: n/a

Open
Mon – Sun: 8:00am to 9:00pm