Tuesday, February 9, 2010
Quan An Ngon
No trip to Ho Chi Minh City is complete without the obligatory visit to Quan An Ngon. Quan An Ngon serves all of the street food favorites, made by small, individual "vendors" who specialize in one or two dishes. But instead of subjecting you to the indignity of eating on plastic chairs six inches off the ground (and the rats are at least four inches tall) in 95 degree weather, they serve it all up to you in a giant French colonial mansion with shaded porch tables and, if you're lucky, a fan aimed at the back of your head.
The weather in Saigon was so hot that I was unable to muster up more energy than it took to waddle downstairs and and get a bowl of hủ tiếu (which I had thought was pho, but was actually its more subtle cousin). But I had heard from a variety of sources that Quan An Ngon was worth a visit.
And it was, if only to get me off those plastic stools for a few hours. It's a great restaurant for those who don't get a thrill from spending days chasing down obscure dishes from random street vendors with varied approaches to hygiene. If you've ever thought, "I'm not going to eat meat that's been sitting in a plastic case attached to some dude's bike in the sun all day," this is the place for you.
Of course I don't operate that way, the more putrid the pâté the more of it I want on my bánh mì, but I'm living in an alternate reality--traveling for a year is definitely not the real world. I believe that my body needs to man up, and subjecting it to the local water and the rancid meats is the best way to make that happen. But I recognize that others don't feel this way, so Quan An Ngon is a great introduction to Vietnamese street food in a safe and sane environment for people who don't take great pleasure in sitting on the sidewalk.
As with most places in Vietnam, the service is horrendous but the smoothies are lovely.
Bún thịt nướng, one of my favorite and most simple Vietnamese dishes. Cold vermicelli noodles, fresh vegetables topped with hot barbecued pork and served with the ubiquitous nước chấm sauce, made of fish sauce, sugar, chili, daikon radish and carrots. I never get sick of this one.
Snails steamed with lemongrass.
Some sort of prawns served with chili salt. Simon actually ordered something else but ended up with this, so we don't know what it's called. I was also unclear as to whether one is supposed to remove the shells before eating, or whether the roughage makes it all worth it. I left him to deal with it.
Each table is a small kitchen set up to make just a few dishes. There are more than a dozen.
It's not street food for connoisseurs, and it's still worth eating on those tiny plastic chairs on sidewalk, but is worth a visit if you only have a few days in town or if you prefer to eat at table with relatively clean cutlery.
You can find Quan An Ngon at 160 Pasteur St, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam