Entire countries and businesses have been greatly affected by the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.
My food trips have been canceled, the restaurant business has dipped, there are less people in malls, and tourism has almost come to a complete halt.
So, when a scheduled trip to Ho Chi Minh had to be decided on, I told my Viber group that I would go even if I’m alone. One answered back, “Let’s not let this coronavirus dictate our lives.”Off I went with my badminton buddies to simply eat and discover Vietnamese food. On Agoda, I was able to find a nice, clean and well-located hotel called Avanti. As you step out of the hotel and cross the street, you are at Ben Thanh Market, a famous tourist destination at the center of Ho Chi Minh.
Last time I was here with my kids, I tasted a black seedless champuy and fell in love with it. I asked a friend to buy me 4 kilograms of the champuy a few months back. I ate it almost every day until it ran out a few days before my trip.
This time I got my stash of champuy and had a wonderful time making tawad (haggling). I also went back to my suki and got coffee for friends, as well as kasuy and some dehydrated fruits.Our first meal was at Pho 2000. This is a pho (Vietnamese noodle soup) place near the market where Bill Clinton ate. The pho was OK, but I wouldn’t go back.
The next day, we walked and looked for the No. 1 banh mi place in the city. Banh Mi Huynh Hoa had a line in the middle of the afternoon. That made it more exciting. We also went to another place called Banh Mi Hong Hoa, and all of us agreed this was even better. Hong Hoa makes its own bread and many banh mi stalls buy from them.
The bread is made with rice flour and is light, crunchy and crumbly. It is prepared by first wiping butter, then adding a filling of four kinds of meat (pork flakes, ham, bacon and embutido), lots of liver pâté, sliced cucumber, pickled carrots and radish, wansuy, seasoning sauce and sliced jalapeño chilies. It is the combination of flavors and textures that takes me to heaven. Then a burst of unexpected spice from the chili. I took home some for my family to try.
We ate at two more really good restaurants called Quan Bui and Ganh. The menus were authentic and very creative. I look forward to returning. In the evenings, we hung out at the Ben Thanh Seafood market where we enjoyed a variety of local food with chilled beer.
I’ll be back soon.