Archive for the 'Breakfast' Category

Cơm Tấm Bì Chả Sườn Trứng Ốp La

A special dish for a special day. Happy February 29th everyone!

I’m not sure what your plans are, but I celebrated over a hefty plate of cơm tấm bì chả sườn trứng for lunch today. A bed of warm broken rice (cơm tấm) accented with a slab of grilled pork chop marinated in sugar and fish sauce (sườn), a slice of pork loaf topped with egg yolks (chả), and a mixture of pork skin and thinly shredded pork (). Pork prepared three different ways in one dish truly is magical! The mountain of meat and rice is topped with a runny, deep-fried egg (trứng Ốp La), a scallion and oil mixture, and a lovely fish sauce vinaigrette (nuoc mam).

Hungry yet?


Xôi Gấc

Another day, another xôi!

Xôi gấc is a sweet, coconut flavored sticky rice. The gấc fruit departs a deep orange hue upon the rice, but is fairly “gray” in the flavor department. I’ve read in a number of places on the information super highway that xôi gấc is only eaten during the Lunar New Year and at wedding celebrations. However, in lovely District 4, it’s sold every morning by a handful of ladies. Woot!

Hủ Tiếu Bò Kho

While the world is nuts about phở, my Vietnamese noodle/broth combination of choice is bò kho.

Bò kho is a beef stew deeply infused with star anise and lemongrass. The hunks of meat and carrots in bò kho are tender as can be due to hours of simmering.

Back in California, my family ate bò kho with a wide(ish) rice noodle that sometimes veered toward tender. In Saigon, bò kho is served with a thinner and more al dente rice noodle.

The fabulous bowl of bò kho featured up top is from a hidden stall on Ton That Thuyet Street in District 4. The Astronomer and I, along with his sister Rosalind and gas•tron•o•my reader Shay from LA (!), shared two bowls (10,000 VND each) on our early morning food tour today.




For a lovely bò kho recipe from Andrea Nguyen, click below.

Continue reading ‘Hủ Tiếu Bò Kho’

Xôi Lá Dứa

xôi lá d?a small

Even though I haven’t dedicated any postings to xoi lately, I’m still very fond of the sticky staple. In fact, I’ve recently started carrying money with me on my morning runs in order to grab some xoi for breakfast. I love multi-tasking.

I’ve encountered many different varietals of xoi while running down Ton That Thuyet Street in District 4, and will try every last one before long. First up, xôi lá dứa.

Sweaty, out of breath, and shirtless, I ordered 4,000 VND of xôi lá dứa from the dealer. I was expecting her to hand over a nice hunk of green sticky rice, but instead she surprised me with a little layering action.

First, she grabbed a banh trang (rice cracker) and placed it on a newspaper/plastic sheet. Then she scooped some pandan-flavored and colored xoi on top of the cracker. Next, she spread on some dau xanh (mung bean paste) on top of the xoi. Lastly, she sprinkled on some mui me (salt and sesame seed mixture) and dried coconut on top of the mung bean paste. She bundled up the xoi using the newspaper/plastic wrapper and included a gelato spoon and a packet of granulated sugar.

When I got back to my apartment, I skipped out on stretching and abs and dug right in. The heat from the xoi softened up the rice cracker to the point where the two textures were barely discernible. The bulk of the xoi’s flavors came from the mui me mixture because the unsweetened shredded coconut and mung bean paste were fairly neutral. I didn’t sprinkle on any extra sugar, but in retrospect, I probably should have because salty plus sweet equals wow.

A good xoi, but the flavors just didn’t POP.

Bánh Mì Thịt Nướng


Cuisine: Vietnamese, Sandwich

Binh Van Dan Street/Ong Lanh Bridge
District 4, Ho Chi Minh City

Phone: none
Website: none


Banh Mi Thit Nuong (5,000 VND)

The Astronomer: One of the best parts about living in Vietnam is the opportunity to build relationships with small restaurant owners and street vendors through repeated visits to their establishments. In my case, these relationships tend to be rather superficial due to my limited language skills—usually restricted to an exchange of knowing smiles and a well-placed “Rat Ngon!“—but nevertheless they are quite satisfying.

I recently made a new friend on the drive to work: a man selling banh mi thit nuong from a cart that he pushes daily over Ong Lanh Bridge between District 4 and District 1. I’m a big fan of banh mi—the classic Vietnamese baguette sandwich with meat, pate, fish, or egg—and an even bigger fan of thit nuong, but until recently I had not been lucky enough to enjoy the two combined into a single treat. It turns out banh mi thit nuong is eaten almost exclusively in the morning, and due to my Western prejudices, I’ve been clinging stubbornly to cereal as the breakfast food of choice. However, I think I’m coming around.

Banh mi thit nuong vendors typically carry a small grill directly on their cart and cook up fresh pork slabs throughout the morning. My man cooks the meat in small pieces on skewers—bite-sized tidbits that are perfect for a sandwich. He expertly slices open a baguette with scissors (this rivals the ubiquitous rubber band magic for the most impressive feat I’ve seen from a street vendor), loads in the thit nuong off one skewer, adds a bit of bi (a mixture of pork and pork skin) and a generous helping of scallion oil and do chua (pickled vegetables), and tops it all off with a dousing of nuoc mam.

It really doesn’t get any better than this. Thit nuong with nuoc mam is, in my opinion, one of the greatest partnerships ever devised in the culinary world. After my initial discovery of this vendor, I started a banh mi thit nuong eating streak lasting at least 6 or 7 business days. Every morning we pull up behind him as he walks toward District 1; I say “chao anh!” and he turns around with a smile. With The Gastronomer’s help, I have learned that he has one child and sells approximately 50 sandwiches per morning. Sometimes we pass him before he has started his walk, so we now also know where he lives. This bodes well for my future breakfast prospects.

The Gastronomer has so far passed on this terrific opportunity to enjoy thit nuong on the way to work, preferring to stick with her old fibrous standbys from Trader Joes and Maximark. In this respect, at least, I may be more Vietnamese than she is. I’ll admit that grilled meat in the morning still feels a little strange, but I can’t deny that it’s delicious. Why limit yourself to only two truly exciting meals per day?