Everyones’ favourite Vietnamese celebrity chef spills the juice on where he likes to hang out in Ho Chi Minh City; and if anyone knows the inside dining scoop, it’s Luke Nguyen.
This is where his family roots are and despite growing up in Sydney, Australia, these days the TV star, producer, cook book author, food consultant, chef and restaurateur calls the city home. He’s just opened a stunning Vietnamese restaurant right in District 1 and runs his acclaimed cooking school, Grain by Luke, on Hai Bà Trưng.
Luke Nguyen shares three food hot spots he enjoys dining at when in Vietnam’s street food capital.
Cơm Gà Xối Mỡ Su Su
1067 – 1069 Hoàng Sa, P. 11, D. 3, 11am – 9pm, daily
“What makes this fried chicken and rice place special is that the owner invented his own oil frying ‘waterfall’ contraption for cooking the chicken. You order leg/thigh or wing/breast meat and it’s cooked on a metal rack while a literal shower of oil rains down on it.
“The chook is way less greasy than if it were deep fried, the skin is super-crispy and the flesh is very juicy. The rice is fried until it’s golden and you eat everything slathered in their secret sauce that’s sweet and garlicky. Locals go nuts for this fried chicken.”
Bánh mì 37
Hẻm 39, Nguyễn Trãi, D.1, 2pm – 7pm, daily
“Located down a little alley in District 1, the lady here sells possibly the best pick-me-up bahn mi snack in all of HCMC. And it’s yours for a bargain price. Sold from a mobile cart, you get four little pork balls in a crusty baguette, along with slices of fresh cucumber, pickled radish and carrots, sweet thick soy sauce, coriander and chilis.
“Simple, delicious, fast street food but be warned, you often have to join a queue.”
Hẻm 212B Nguyễn Trãi, D.1, 10am – 10.30pm, daily
“You haven’t really travelled to HCMC if you don’t try ốc, or sea snails. One of the spots I like to take my friends for snails is this place. Not only is it popular with travellers, but it’s well patronised by locals too. Their seafood is so fresh and cooked with the best local herbs and ingredients.
“I always order oc huong, or snails grilled with chili salt. And oc toi, where the snails are stir-fried in butter; you eat them with fresh chunks of banh mi, for dipping in the buttery juices. Their clam congee (cháo hến) is also a must!”
This is an edited extract from Ho Chi Minh City in 12 Dishes by Antony Suvalko and Leanne Kitchen (Red Pork Press, RRP $24.95), available online and in all good bookstores now.
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Image credit: Red Pork Press