Relish the taste of Vietnam
Here are four of the best eateries in Ho Chi Minh City
According to noted Professor Nguyen Nha, who holds a doctorate in history, the soupy beefy pho noodles has a French connection.
Prof Nha, who heads the Vietnam Cuisine for the World project, says: "After the occupying French forces were done with preparing their beef steaks, the bones were discarded and the poorer folks made a broth of it and introduced thin rice noodles with scraps of beef slices plus a pile of greens."
There are many stories from this learned senior scholar on all things related to culture and food in Vietnam. He believes there are up to 3,000 different dishes found both on the streets and at home.
I have the stories of four delicious makan targets for you to zero in on, for now. So if you are heading to Ho Chi Minh City any time soon, check them out.
Lion City Cafe and Restaurant
42, Le Anh Xuan Street, Ben Thanh Ward, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City
Tel: +84 9381-11212
This is the biggest chain of Singapore restaurants in Vietnam with 10 outlets. Owner Harry Ang moved there some 20 years ago to set up this legacy. He specialises in seafood and a teppanyaki-style chilli crab, but one of the items that struck me is their Teochew-style fish porridge. Instead of pomfret or mackerel slices, he uses red snapper. It sits in a very agreeable broth with bits of skin of salted fish instead of teepo and it works.
Pho Phu Vuong
339, Le Van Suy, 1, Tan Binh, Ho Chi Minh City
7am-1pm and 4.30pm-9.30pm daily
Tel: +84 8 3991 8295
Said to be the most popular pho restaurant in Ho Chi Minh, it started as a humble pushcart and now occupies two shop lots offering up to 200 seats.
You can tell this is notches above any you can get in Singapore although "there are much humbler and better ones", says Ang, my Vietnam-based makan guide for the day.
The broth is rich and charged with umami, yet not overly beefy like the Teochew versions here and the squeeze of lime lifts the moreish appeal. The slices of shin beef are soft and not sinewy at all.
Have a raw egg over the hot broth and take the experience to another level.
Banh Xeo 46A
46A, D Dinh Cong Trang, District 3, Ho Chi Minh City
Tel: +84 8824 1110
This banh xeo - or seafood pancake - is an icon of sorts, much like Tian Tian Chicken Rice is on our island.
The place has been polished and refurbished since my first visit some 10 years ago.
They no longer squat over low wood fired woks in a sooty enclosure out in front. It's all shiny and nice now.
The banh xeo comes huge freckled with mung beans, prawns, pork and bean sprouts. The crispy exterior with a hot and moist centre is still there, and still delicious, but I noted it is a tad oilier than I remember.
Try also their chicken salad, wonderfully sweet and tangy, and done with freshly pickled lotus stems.
Banh Xeo Bun Thit Nuong
118/12, Tran Ke Xuong, P7,
2pm-8pm, closed on Sundays
Tel: +84 838418625 (call them for directions)
This is the one Professor Nha proclaims as "much better and more importantly, much less oily".
And it is true. If you can find this back lane stall, you will not be disappointed.
Indeed, the light crispiness lasts longer, and the filling is humble but more flavourful.
This is a true local spot where hardly any tourists are seen, unless you are visiting friends in the 'hood.
KF Seetoh, the founder of Makansutra, dabbles in street food businesses like Food Markets, his own TV shows on cable, publishing food guides, consultancy and online content. He is also the creator of the World Street Food Congress. Follow him on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.