Saigoneer

Hẻm Gems: The Best Bún Chả in Hanoi…in Saigon

The weather was truly Hanoian earlier this week. Outside, rain fell in sheets, flooding the pockmarked alley outside our office door. The sun had disappeared. Though a few particularly photo-obsessed teens continued to pose before the graffiti splashed across 3A Station's walls, most had given up and retreated to shops and cafes.

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Hẻm Gems: The Legend of Baby African

You'll have to clear an afternoon to get to Baby African.

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[Video] Hẻm Gems: The Long but Worthwhile Wait for Xôi Chiên

They say the best things in life are worth waiting for. In the case of the elusive xôi chiên, they're right.

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Hẻm Gems: Binh Thanh's Delectable Bánh Căn

Located on a busy street in Binh Thanh District, Hai Ton Quan is a small, family-run restaurant that serves up Phan Rang-style cuisine, that glorious mixture of tasty, golden-brown rice cakes and fresh seafood.

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[Video] Hẻm Gems: D5’s Glorious Goat Curry

One of the benefits or writing this column is that it allows us to sample some of Saigon’s best local eateries. We may be well versed in the ways of street noshing, but once in a blue moon, we come across a dish that has us high fiving and silently pigging out without a word exchanged. Behold District 5’s Musa Cà Ri Dê Ấn Độ.

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Hẻm Gems: Saigon's Sủi Cảo Street

Saigon is, in essence, a giant food court. From District 1 to Binh Chanh, the city streets are pretty much a macro version of the cooked food section at your local market, spread out over miles of uneven sidewalk and cramped alley space. And in the great food court of the south, District 11's Ha Ton Quyen is where you go for sủi cảo.

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Hẻm Gems: Saigon's Street Food Unicorn

Not only are unicorns real, they are edible. In fact, these beauties are an animal of such mythic deliciousness that you should count yourself lucky to even catch a glimpse of one, much less feast on its flesh. On a busy corner in District 1 during rush hour traffic, I had the privilege of spotting the great cá da bò – known to English speakers as the unicorn leatherback – before it promptly disappeared at the hands of our hungry dining group.

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[Video] Hẻm Gems: D5's Drop-Dead Delicious Xôi Mặn

Saigon street food tastes best when the whole experience feels like a secret. Head to some of the city's most successful street carts and there are no place names or proper business hours, no phone numbers, no signage, no menus. In almost mafia-like fashion, all you can do is show up during the designated window of time and hope to find food.

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Hẻm Gems: Eat Your Way Through Nguyen Hue's Secret Street Food Alley

Nguyen Hue's heritage has been badly degraded over the years. Thanks to the city's neverending development, its older buildings have either been torn down, used as air-conditioning unit pedestals or turned into fast food joints. Beyond the ornate lost facades, these architectural changes impact locals who, like the old buildings, are swept away, never to return to the place they have called home for generations.

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Hẻm Gems: A Perfect Saigon Breakfast

Most days, I roll out of bed 15 minutes after my alarm has stopped ringing, stumble downstairs, brush my teeth and leave the house just in time to grab my morning dose of caffeine before heading to the office.

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Hẻm Gems: On Eating (Chicken) Ass

Let’s play a game. I tell you a word and you tell me the first thing that comes to mind. Here goes: chicken.

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BUDX HCMC