Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Our Return to Cholon

Saigonese aphorism #643: sleep in District 3, drink in District 1, and eat in District 5 (Cholon).  After our whirlwind, rain-drenched excursion there a few months ago, we realized it was time to make our return, this time with a strategic battle plan.  I picked a Chinese restaurant called Tiem An Nam Long, located at 47 Pham Dinh Ho, just one block from the expansive Binh Tay Market.  Our drive down through the distinctively dingy and cramped by-ways of District 5 was fairly exhilarating, especially once we finally turned down Pham Dinh Ho street.  Lining the sullen block before the restaurant are animal shops - displaying stacks of puppies and chickens in rudimentary cages.  Call me skeptical, but I don't think these sad specimens are destined to become Spot the beloved family pet as thit cho restaurants abound in this country.

Never turn an upmarket foot away from dreary restaurants, they often serve the best food in the city.  After looking over the menu, we ordered a rice vermicelli with vegetables (on the menu), a chow fun noodle with beef, and wonton soup (off the menu). 

I observed as the cook freshly made the delectable wontons before tossing them into the steaming sweet broth and serving them.  Hands down the best wonton soup I have ever had in my life.  Next time we go, I will order an entire vat of these fluffy, floating clouds to eat by myself. 

Our noodle dishes were also tasty and left us full.  The Chinese influence was apparent as heavier, more gelatinous sauces ruled the day.  Corpulent and ruddy, we were ready to take a stroll though the hood to visit the market.

Unfortunately, the Binh Tay Market is a tourist trap.  As we arrived, a bus was unloading dozens of elderly Europeans onto the littered pavement.  Eyes wide as they plodded through the vast milieu, hands springing towards their purses as they parted with their dong for cheap ornamental porcelain, dried goods, and useless crap.  Gavin and I managed to avoid the herds, escaping into the bowels of the market on a mission to find some pistachios to replenish our stash at home.

For a heavily trafficked tourist destination, we were put off by the unabashedly cold salespeople and wide-open gawking.  One would think that most of the folks in the market would be quite used to the foreign hordes.  I guess Gav and I just look a little goofy.

After trading some dirty, colorful paper for some pistachios, a tea pot and rice paper, I started to feel a bit claustrophobic and needed some air.  In order to do so we had to twist though narrow, cramped walkways overflowing with kitchen supplies, stacks of hats, reams of cloth and piles of take away containers.

Once outside I took a deep breath.  I think next time I will go home after lunch.


Anonymous said...

You forgot, "...Get robbed in District 4!"

Nellie said...

I am Teacher Mark: I guess I have only been robbed in Tan Binh and District 3 so I forgot to mention that one!

Carol said...

We had Chow Fun Noodle (gravy style) with Beef last weekend in the ID. I thought the beef was very questionable, kind of a strange texture, tender but mushroom like and I called it 'mystery meat' and decided not to eat it. But after the dog portion of your post, it has me thinking.....naw, couldn't be....could it?

Anonymous said...

According to some of my students the Vietnamese saying goes:
Want entertainment? D1
Want food? D5
Want to get robbed? D4

Have you really been robbed twice already?

There is an excellent restaurant at the following address:

My Phuoc Apartment Buildings Building A
280/29 Bui Huu Nghia St., Ward 12, Binh Thanh Dist., HCMC

The restaurant, whose name escapes me, is on the ground floor. There are 2 seating areas, but it's actually the same place.

I also love the food at:

Ca Phe Trung Nguyen
710b, Le Hong Phong
Wrd 12, Dist 10

You have to go to Trung's between 7am and 1pm, Mon-Sat, for food.

I'm in my 3rd year here, so if you need anything, or have any questions, feel free to email me at teachermark11@gmail.com

Your blog is great!

Nellie said...

I am Teacher Mark: I have in fact been robbed twice here. Luckily noting of value was taken, but the incidents (both happened while I was driving) left me a little shook up!

Thanks for the restaurant info, we are always looking for somewhere new to go to! Will get in touch if we ever need some help!