Saigoneer

Hẻm Gems: Phieu Ky’s Fantastic Phở Sa Tế

While Pho Phieu Ky’s white walls and fluorescent lighting are nothing special, the hideaway shop in District 5 makes up for its bland color scheme by pasting neon characters – Roman and Chinese – across the glossy tiles along with wall calendars, rotating fans and a particularly jovial, glitter-covered cartoon rendition of Ong Tao riding a fish to heaven. The bright whites are certainly harsh, but on a dreary, rain-soaked afternoon this is not necessarily unwelcome. Nor, mind you, is the meal for which we’ve come: phở sa tế.

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Hẻm Gems: Cô Nhi and Chú Den's Humble Nui Xào Bò Cart

At this point in our Hẻm Gem journey, I’ve stopped thinking of us – a two-person team consisting of me and my photographer colleague Brandon – as mere food reviewers, but rather food hunters from hunting-gathering bands of the Paleolithic age.

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Hẻm Gems: Praise Be to Cheap, Tender, Delicious Chicken by the Mosque

Thanks to central Saigon's blistering pace of development and the short-lived sidewalk-clearing campaign of 2017's early months, the downtown area can be something of a street food desert.

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Hẻm Gems: Chef Badeh Brings Syrian Cuisine to Saigon

In the small covered area outside the front door, Chef Badeh brings together two of my favorite things: bread and fire.

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Hẻm Gems: Kickin' It at Kim Thao's Hột Vịt Lộn Hangout

In the thick of rainy season, afternoon snack spots are hard to come by. Street vendors make do with cement-weighted umbrellas and heavily used tarpaulin, carving out (relatively) dry patches on the sidewalk from which to operate, occasionally disrupted by a tide of rainwater rising to overtake their carts. For the most part, however, outdoor dining is not at its best in the monsoon months.

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Hẻm Gems: In Search of Saigon's Best Home-Cooked Char Kway Teow

Saigon’s street vendors are a special bunch. They come in various shapes, sizes and backgrounds, but all have one raison d'être: creating the most enticing and memorable dishes that leave patrons yearning for more after a visit.

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Hẻm Gems: The Bowl of Cao Lầu Worth a Run Across the City

Hoi An's cuisine makes a modest appearance in District 7's food paradise.

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Hẻm Gems: The D5 Beefsteak Joint That Means Business

There is no shortage of restaurants slinging beef-based dishes in Saigon, but every now and then one comes along and stands out from the pack.

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Hẻm Gems: Co Huoi and Her West-of-the-Border Delights

One of my favorite Saigon pastimes is wandering around strange neighborhoods. If you’re feeling lost or bored or lonely or just a little too comfortable, have someone drop you off in a district you don’t know and just walk around for a while. In this exercise, two things are guaranteed: 1) You will learn something new. 2) There will definitely be food.

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Hẻm Gems: The Life-Changing Beauty of Bánh Cuốn Trứng

If I have to drive eight kilometers across the city to get breakfast, it’d better be damn good.

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Hẻm Gems: Pasteur Street's Well-Hidden Cơm Trưa Mother Lode

Every once in a while, you come across a simple Vietnamese restaurant that absolutely blows you away.

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