Saigon has always been one of my favorite cities. Since 2001, I have been visiting Saigon for many times. And my latest visit was on 11-14 January 2011. This visit was very special because I decided to make it as my culinary journey which I would like to share the experience with all my Blog visitors.
For the many times I visited Saigon, I usually stayed at Caravelle hotel and one of my favorite hang out places in Saigon is Saigon Bar at the roof top of Caravelle…..
but this time I stayed at Movenpick hotel. It seems that Movenpick hotel is so popular for wedding party. During I stayed there, every evening I witnessed different wedding party.
Saigon or Ho Chi Minh City?
Saigon, the name most Vietnamese use when referring to Ho Chi Minh City, is in the midst of a makeover. Ten years ago, its orderly downtown grid was lined with mostly low-rise shophouses, those two- or three-story structures ubiquitous in Asian cities that traditionally housed a street-level business and living quarters upstairs. These days, lofty hotels, shopping malls and office towers punctuate the skyline and nearly every city block is marred by a construction site, or three.
Saigon or Ho Chi Minh City (Vietnamese: Thành Phố Hồ Chí Minh) or by the abbreviations HCMC is the most populated and largest city in Vietnam.
One factor that makes HCMC exceptional is the contrast between the old and the new. This is the country’s business centre, and there are many areas under development, but there are also many places and buildings from earlier eras that are well preserved and well worth visiting to see the French colonial influences as well as ancient Buddhist sites. From fine art to war memorabilia, the list of things to see in HCMC is seemingly endless. And the following are the must-visit places:
Ben Thanh Market
The Opera House
Located at the intersection of Le Loi St and Dong Khoi St in District 1, just next to my favorite hotel Caravelle.
Notre Dame Cathedral Basilica
The cathedral is located in the heart of the city at the intersection of Dong Khoi and Han Thuyen Streets
My 3-days culinary journey in Saigon:
Cuc Gach Quan
One of my Vietnamese friends took me to one of the most stunning, inspiring, elegant, amazing restaurants!. I can’t believe I’ve only been introduced to this place now in 2011 after I have visited Saigon for many times since the first time in 2001.
Cuc Gach Quan is a Vietnamese ‘country’ style restaurant, with its menu offering a nod to the way dishes were once prepared – without msg or ingredients affected by fertilisers. The food is delicious and the decor is amazing, with antique/distressed wood furniture. They put chopstick in an old milk can for customers to pick them before eating; a natural gesture for them as if they were back home. The restaurant is architect owned and designed – and it shows!
When I was there, the Vietnamese are preparing for Tet , the lunar New year. The restaurant put colorful paper flowers for decoration. I looked at them as beautiful because they’re not lying: at the very first glance, you can tell that they’re made of papers and not pretending otherwise.
These were the foods we had for dinner:
For the drink, we ordered the unique black bean drinks. Natural and simple, they are considered now as the “drinks to have” following the general trend of a greener life, simple but sophisticated in their preparation process.
Day 2: 12 January 2011
In the day time we had our workshop attended by participants from 7 countries (Indonesia, Malaysia, Middle East, Netherlands, Nigeria, Thailand and Vietnam).
In the evening our colleagues from Vietnam invited us to dinner at Ngoc Suong restaurant located at 6, Hoang Viet, Ward 4, Tan Binh district, HCMC, a famous seafood restaurant in Saigon.
We started with the famous Vietnamese fresh spring rolls
First the fresh vegie
Then the fish
Put the vegie and fish on a piece of rice paper, then roll it to make a fresh spring roll and eat it with peanut sauce
For those who don’t like fresh spring rolls, they also served fried spring rolls.
Next was the Clam Soup
Folowed by Boiled Vegie
Continued by ‘Mu’ Fish Soup – this one was the best!
And this was how they served the ‘Mu’ fish on the plate with fish sauce and chopped chilies:
The last one was Steamed Crab served with salt and pepper
and a bottle of white wine was the perfect drink to accompany the sea food
Day 3: 13 January 2011
At lunch time, a friend took me to his restaurant (wow I just found out that he owns a restaurant in Saigon). This time it was not Vietnamese restaurant. The name is Alibi Bar & Restaurant located at 5A Nguyen Sieu Street Distric 1, HCMC. It opens from 10 am – late.
I love the interior of Alibi Bar and Restaurant. It gives you warm and cozy feeling.
As for the lunch, we started with Alibi Caesar salad
Really, this salad was not just ordinary Ceasar salad …..
Alibi restaurant has 2 types of menu: small plate and big plate. For myself I took the small plate of Alibi Grilled Squid
So delicious and just right size for me ….
While my friend had the big plate of Chicken Breast with tomatoes
We closed the lunch with coffee: expresso for my friend and cafe late for me and this is my favorite spot of Alibi Bar and Restaurant
After lunch I said good bye to my friend and then went for a walk in the surrounding areas of Caravelle hotel where many souvenir shops are located. I had to buy some stuffs for my DNAs.
At around 3.30 pm I went to visit another friend who works as the COO of Hanh Phuc International Women and Children Hospital. It’s a brand new hospital which was just opened on 1st January 2011. It covers over 41,000 square meters in Vinh Phu commune, Thuan An District in southern Binh Duong province, some 30km from Ho Chi Minh City downtown. This hospital includes 260 beds with between 30-40 medical suites dedicated to obstetrics, gynecology and pediatric services, 9 operating rooms, 16 delivery rooms, a massage area for postnatal mothers, basement area and a heli-pad.
and this is a closer look at the hospital building and its helipad
and this is the view from the window of my friend’s office room
My friend took me for a hospital tour from the 1st to the 8th floor….even up to the helipad ….wow this is really a big and state of the art hospital…..
Then we went out for dinner at a Thai-chained-restaurant named MK. It’s a mixture of Thai and Chinese cuisine. The main menu features Thai-style suki that is a hot pot of fresh meats and vegetables
and then we cooked the vegie and meat
The uniqueness of this restaurant is that from time to time, they will play a certain music and suddenly the waiters and waitresses will be dancing as you can see from this picture
MK Hot Pot closed my culinary journey in Saigon.
The 3 days in Saigon were wonderfully spent with good friends and good foods…….