Saigon’s Best Kept Secret

Ho Ba Kien is a sleepy little street in Saigon tucked away in District 10, far from all the tourists & fancy high-rise buildings of District 1. It also happens to be home, where our little 2nd floor apartment overlooks one of the best restaurants in Saigon! The line of motorbikes waiting to get in & park every night proves it. The place is always packed and keeps growing, the owner owns half of our little alleyway with all of the building dedicated to his restaurant. The owner is a funny old Vietnamese man. He’s got a plump Santa Clause belly and sits at the same table every night, propped up in his chair with a cold beer in his hand just looking around at all the people, the money he is making, and his servers running around like they’re mental catering to everyone’s needs. He has a wad of cash in his front top pocket and is the only one allowed to touch the money. The staff come to him with bills to be paid and he counts it out and gives them change. Every night, same chair, same table, same routine.

Lau (hot pot) is the restaurant’s signature dish and they’ve got every kind of hot pot you could possible want. A hot pot is you guessed it.. a giant pot that sits over hot coals and everything inside bubbles and boils together into a tasty stew. Delicious. Not only does Ho Ba Kien‘s restaurant serve up the best Lau in Saigon, it serves it for dirt cheap. Everytime I leave I am ‘roll me over on Thanksgiving Day‘ kind of stuffed and I’ve never paid more than $5 dollars. Beer & food included. The waiters have all come to know us, & know exactly what we are going to order as we walk in. Our favorite-go-to-dishes are:

1. Thai Lau (Thai Hot Pot) It has the perfect amount of spice added to it and is jam packed full with seafood. Clumps of fish, shrimp, squid, clams, mussels all steamed together in a spicy broth. The pot boils over coals at your table & you’re free to take your bowl and dig in. Take some noddles or rice and pour the steaming hot seafood soup over top. My stomach is growling just thinking about it! Easily one of my favorite Vietnamese dishes.

Thai Hot Pot_Lau

Look at all that seafood.. for less than $5!

2. Bo Nuong Vi  (Seasoned Beef) I don’t know what they use to season the beef [maybe lemon grass?], but it is so very tasty! The beef is cut into thin slices and a grill is brought out to your table so you’re able to cook the meat yourself. Our friends come over to our apartment just so we can go next door and indulge in some of this tasty treat!

Bo Nuong Vi

Dinner sizzling away on our table

3. Goi Ngo Sen(Lotus Salad with Shrimp & Pork) Whenever the sad day is that I head back to the US of A I don’t know what I will do without this salad accompanying most of my meals. Most Vietnamese restaurants serve it, everyone loves it. It may sound like a funny combination with the shrimp and pork, but it’s not.. trust me! The salad is normally sprinkled with peanuts and the lotus serves up the perfect tangy taste mixed with the other flavors to have a little tasting party in your mouth. MmmMMmm, good.

ngo sen goi_lotus salad

My favorite Vietnamese dish, Lotus Salad

4. Com Chien (Fried Rice) Rice is a given. It’s apart of every meal in Asia. Whether its seafood, vegtable, or fish fried rice I certainly am a fan.

Ho Ba Kien Restaurant is one of the best neighbors I’ve ever had. It’s never to loud (closes at 11), is always ready to feed us, sells beer for  50 cents, and is one of the tastiest places to eat in Saigon. It’s one of Saigon’s best kept secrets if you ask me!

4 Responses to “Saigon’s Best Kept Secret”
  1. The hot pot meals are so delicious! I am a bit jealous that you have constant access to such fabulous food! Thanks for sharing!

  2. Samual James says:

    Thai Lau is really mouth- watering, I am going to Google the recipe straight away and try at this weekend with my girl friend as she love spicy sea food.
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  3. I totally miss Vietnamese food in Saigon. You’ve got me wanting to discover some new dishes 🙂

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