UPDATE (27/2/2012): Last time we checked, this place is still closed to the public...aarrgghh!
Living in Istanbul, the ever-present sight of lithe minarets piercing the gray sky was a constant reminder of the influence of religion on daily life. While Saigon has numerous pagodas, Roman Catholic churches, temples, and various other houses of worship (check out the infinitely fascinating and strange brand of syncretism embodied by Caodaism), the topic of spirituality is rarely broached. Apropos, we recently visited one of the few local mosques not to worship, but to rejoice and bathe ourselves in the mystical powers of curry.
Quan Com Cary An Do Hoi Giao (Special Mosque Rice Curry Restaurant) is an unassuming outdoor eatery situated behind the cerulean mosque on 66 Dong Du in the bustling atria of District 1, in the midst of the hotel and tourist area, on a street littered with Halal Indian, Malaysian, and Turkish restaurants. The relatively small population of ethnic Malays, Muslim tourists, and expats frequent this spot. A good place to run into co-workers and disciples alike.
To access the resturant you must first drive your motorbike into the front courtyard of the mosque. A parking attendant will help you find a spot, then with appropriate trepidation, walk back into the complex. You may feel as though you are going someplace you shouldn't be wandering, this is natural, but summon your inner courage and continue on until fragrant wafts of exotic spices mingle with your nostril tufts.
The cafe is tucked between the mosque and the Imam's spartan lodgings. We got the pleasure of seeing him shuffle home from work after his midday prayer session.
The dishes here are served in small portions and are family style. The menu is concise and practical. Mutton, chicken, beef, or fish curry and a few vegetable sides. We chose chicken curry, diced potatoes, stalks of spicy okra, peas, a bowl of white rice and naan bread. The potatoes and okra were so popular at the table that we had to order second helpings!
The naan proved to be the perfect compliment. It was soft, flavorful, chewy and a tad greasy.
I loaded my plate up with the veggie curry, potatoes, and peas - then tucked in.
After working up a sweat during your next prayer session, treat yourself to a delightful meal and nourish your inner core with a little Malaysian comfort food.