BackEat & Drink » Saigon Hẻm Gems » Hẻm Gems: Quan 249’s Wondrous Cơm Chiên Emporium

Hẻm Gems: Quan 249’s Wondrous Cơm Chiên Emporium

It’s 6pm on a Thursday, and I’m up to my eyeballs in cơm chiên. Page after page, Quan 249’s excessively handled menu features a laundry list of fried rice combinations, some you’ve heard of, some you haven’t. There are other options – a bit of mì xào, a smattering of hủ tiếu, but no other dish on the menu manages to take up so much space or venture quite so far into the realm of foreign cuisine.

From the stainless steel cart out front of 249 Nguyen Cong Tru, this brightly lit sidewalk spot confidently provides more cơm chiên combinations than you have fingers and toes. Or teeth. Or all three combined. Every evening from around 6 o'clock, in the dust and sticky humidity of rush-hour Saigon, it’s these 70-odd variations of fried rice that have people settling into the lime green plastic chairs facing the street.

Though the folks in charge of Quan 249 don’t divulge much history – no one can remember how many years the place has been open, only that it’s been there “a long time” – the ease with which this well-oiled rice machine runs is a clear indication of its longevity.

From the moment we sit down, a pajama-clad woman bustles to and fro gathering glasses and dispensing moist towelettes, arranging chopsticks, wiping down tables and giving recommendations. She rattles off several rice-related suggestions in addition to plugging the hủ tiếu xào hải sản đặc biệt. We oblige on the noodles, but opt to choose our own cơm chiên, which results in my Spanish dining buddy going for a Vietnamese rendition of cơm chiên Tây Ban Nha, or Spanish fried rice.

After a few clanks and clatters from the nearby wok, our dishes arrive in a hurry. Chinese-style hủ tiếu, smothered in oyster sauce, sits beneath a pile of crab meat, shrimp, cá viên and octopus. The resulting combination is a tasty, solid rendition of a Chinese-Vietnamese dish, but the local interpretation of Spanish rice winds up stealing the show.

When our waitress plunks down the plastic plate of cơm chiên Tây Ban Nha on the table, the fried egg resting atop its perfectly formed half-sphere bounces on impact. Beside the rice is a curious mixture of bell peppers and beans, peas and chicken that does nothing to represent actual Spanish cuisine but nonetheless receives the approval of an actual Spanish person, who digs in immediately.

And with good reason: the dish is neither greasy nor particularly carb-heavy, choosing to accentuate its many varied flavors rather than rely upon one single ingredient. Taken together, the separate pieces of the meal form a savory, well-balanced dish that does well to showcase the more creative side of Quan 249’s menu.

Beyond its pseudo-European offerings, this streetside spot also doles out helpings of local favorites like cơm chiên Dương Châu and fried rice with fish sauce fried chicken while adding in a few more unexpected options like cơm chiên Phúc Kiến, mushroom fried rice and a few international renditions, such as American fried rice (a helping and a half of beef, chicken and carbs, I’m told) and Indian fried rice.

Equally pleasant and unexpected was the sữa quế, a drink of condensed milk and, allegedly, cinnamon, though the spice seemed not to make an appearance in the beverage itself. Still, the resulting concoction made for a nice, sweet treat with a yogurt-like consistency.

By the time we’d cleaned our plates and prepared to depart from the sidewalk at 249, a steady crush of diners had turned up to fill the rest of the food cart’s outdoor seats. Bellies full, we sped off into the tail end of rush hour traffic, eager to return and tick another couple varieties of cơm chiên off the list.


To sum up:

Taste: 4/5

Price: 4/5 – fried rice ranges from VND40,000-75,000/serving

Atmosphere: 5/5

Friendliness: 4/5

Location: 5/5


Dana is 70% caffeine, 50% fish sauce and hasn't taken a math class since 2004.

Quan 249

249 Nguyen Cong Tru, Nguyen Thai Binh Ward, D1


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