Tuesday, February 07, 2017

Ho Chi Minh City: Dinner at Mon Hue (Hue Cuisine) Dong Khoi Street

So it seems I have been bitten by the love bug. I am in love with Vietnamese food! =)

I have sampled Vietnamese food many times before but mostly in passing and outside Vietnam. I have never really paid any serious attention to it, maybe because Vietnamese food is not your every day commercialised grub here in the Netherlands, well except for the ‘loempia’ stands of course. Many years back though, I have visited a Vietnamese restaurant near the Red Light District in Amsterdam, this was after an old colleague insisted we have dinner there, he swore the restaurant was that good. Et voila, it was one of the best dinners I have had.

For this holiday trip, I found the variety of Vietnamese food we have eaten to be quite light, healthy and very delicious. I was afraid that if I have stayed longer in the country, I might have gained an extra 5 kilos. Oh dear, that would have been a catastrophe.

Mon Hue

In Vietnam, they have of course regional food specialties. The pho in the south is different from the pho in the north for example but the base ingredients and how it is cooked are generally similar. The province of Hue situated in central Vietnam is known for its imperial cuisine. I haven’t been to this part of the country but I have tasted some of its dishes at Mon Hue, a traditional chain restaurant in Vietnam specialising in Hue cuisine.

My sister and I found this restaurant whilst walking on posh Dong Khoi street. We were strolling the city centre and enjoying the beautiful city lights when we passed by this restaurant. When I looked up I saw the open balconies and thought it would be nice to dine up there with the view of the street below. I told the sister my plan and she was quick to agree.

So we went back to the hotel to wake the parents up for dinner. My mom however was in deep sleep state and no amount of whispered promises of savoury Vietnamese food waiting for her is going to dislodge her from her deep sleep. Nada. Zilch. Poor her, she must have been very tired. So the dining party was just my dad, sister and I. We’ll just bring something for her so that when she wakes up hungry later tonight, she has a snack ready. We didn’t want to waste much time walking so we hailed a cab.

Mon Hue is very easy to find on Dong Khoi street because it is right across Gucci.

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The restaurant is located on the upper floor and its interior is designed in contemporary Vietnamese imperial style which is quite similar to Chinese. The hanging lamps were golden yellow which symbolise royalty, prosperity and wealth in Vietnamese culture and beliefs. White and blue porcelain adorn the main decorative detached wall and the lighted recessed ceiling. It was very interesting to see the suspended plates above fastened on the spherical recessed ceiling. But we preferred to eat alfresco so we informed the wait staff that we will take our order outside in the balcony. Here we had a good view of the thriving Dong Khoi street below.

We decided to order 3 dishes to share. Surely we cannot be gluttons, haha.

We started with the ‘Banh Uot Thit Nurong’ for our appetizer. A BBQ pork rolled in a steamed rice cake. This was delicious. I honestly could eat this every single day for a week as a snack. The peanut sauce just gave the right oomph and the thinness of the rolled rice cake wrapper was just right. We figured out my mom would love this so we ordered a takeaway for her.

Then came the steamed rice pancake called ‘Banh Dap Mam Nem’. They call this on the menu – ‘Beating pancakes with man nem sauce’. Perhaps because you need to crush the rice pancake to eat it? I love the whole yin-yang fusion of salty shrimp sprinkles, the mam nem dipping sauce (fermented anchovy) and the a bit sweetly flavoured thin wafer sheets of sticky rice. But the crunchy cracker-like pancake cover is what really makes this dish THE dish. Just oh so good! This is for sure the stellar dish on the table tonight.

Next is the rice noodle with marinated char-grilled pork ‘Bun Thit Nurong’. They served this with a separate sweet and sour light sauce, and you have to mix it together with the noodles and vegetables. I found this quite nice as well and very refreshing to the palate. You cannot go wrong ordering this.

My favourite though would have to be none other than the rice pancake. Banh Dap! One way or another I will need to find a restaurant offering this dish soon here in the Netherlands or somewhere near me in Europe. I am craving.

After this lovely Vietnamese Hue cuisine dinner, we hit the famous cafes of Dong Khoi for some coffee and tea.

‘Twas a great first day and night in Saigon.

Mon Hue Dong Khoi

Inside the interior of the Mon Hue restaurant on Dong Khoi street.

Mon Hue Balcony
Bahn Uot Thit Nurong

‘Banh Uot Thit Nurong’ - Steamed rice cake roll with pork with peanut sauce.

Bun Thit Nurong

‘Bun Thit Nurong’ - Rice noodle with char-grilled pork.

Banh Dap Mam Nem

‘Banh Dap Mam Nem’ - The imperial style Hue pancake. They also call this rice paper cracker.

Dining alfresco at the balcony.

Coffee and tea before going back to the hotel.

Travel Period: December 2016
Destination: Saigon/Ho Chi Minh City (Southeast), Vietnam

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Happy Travels! Enjoy Life =)

All pictures were taken by a point and shoot pocket camera or a smartphone.

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