Tag Archives: banh xeo

Ngon 13 months later

Banh Xeo at Ngon

Banh Xeo at Ngon

It’s been over 13 months since the Ngon fiasco that left me (and others) with a such bad taste in my mouth that I have never gone back. I still think of it as my worst dining experience in Cambodia.

However, it is one of the most read posts on our blog and we still get comments regarding the service. Many people have commented to me that I should give Ngon another chance (one actually told me to lower my expectations as “this is Cambodia”).

So with much trepidation, I went to Ngon.

In Vietnam.

And what I got was a mixed bag.

We went off to the new location which is located An Phu in District 2 which has become a haven for expatriates and well to do Vietnamese. You can definitely see the development in the clean streets and the very suburban feel to several of the compounds located in the area.

Not a bad place to have a meal

Not a bad place to have a meal

The new Ngon is one of four restaurants in the Thao Dien Village which is located on a very picturesque riverbank located on the northern eastern part of the peninsula. We went for lunch and were lucky to grab a great spot right next to the river. The menu is a bit more expensive than the one in District 1 but with the mainly seafood options and the picturesque location, I had to give them a bit of leeway in terms of pricing.

We decided to order in a non-Nyam fashion and only order 3 dishes. We got a papaya salad with beef, Banh Xeo with seafood (no shrimps please) and deep fried squid. The first dish to arrive was the papaya salad.

Fresh papaya salad with beef

Fresh papaya salad with beef

Served in a hollowed out papaya, the flavors of the salad were fresh and light and a perfect start to the meal. There was an ample amount of sliced rare beef to give the dish a bit of heft and it was topped with peanuts and deep fried shallots gave the salad a nice crunchy texture. Up next was the fried calamari.

Muc Chien Don at Ngon

Muc Chien Gion at Ngon

They looked great when they were dropped off but then the cheap side of my brain kicked in and went “Holy crap, this dish was 180,000 dong??? Dude, that’s like a dollar a ring!

Usually I dress any deep fried calamari with a dose of lime/lemon and dip them in the accompanied sauce. But I decided that these had better be the best deep fried calamari on Earth for that asking price and popped one in my mouth ungarnished and unsauced.

50 cents in my belly and 50 cents on my chopsticks

50 cents in my belly and 50 cents on my chopsticks

It was good but it wasn’t mind-blowingly great. I asked for some lime and tried it again garnished and sauced. Heaps better but still not worth the price. In the end, I waited for special moments like when a boat was passing by to have another ring so I could appreciate the price of the dish a bit more.

The last dish to arrive was the banh xeo which was pretty tasty and very filling.

Banh Xeo at Ngon

Banh Xeo at Ngon

One ingredient that I have not ever seen in Banh Xeo was the addition of mushrooms which gave the dish an earthy taste which cut the taste of the large amounts of onions in the dish.

Some shipping goes by

Some shipping goes by

The meal came to just under $40 USD and even though the location is great and I left full, I couldn’t stop thinking about that damn calamari.

Vinh

Ngon
Thao Dien Village
195 Nguyen Van Huong St.,
Thao Dien Ward, Disctrict 2, HCMC

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Loud Vietnamese

Vietmart restaurant

Vietmart restaurant

The place was pretty rowdy back in 2004. We named it Loud Vietnamese due to the ear-splitting techno music that thumped in the joint. The first time I was there, I saw a very drunk teenager in her school uniform carried down the steps by her friends. All I could think at the time was this place ought to be interesting.

The patronage at that time was a bit sketchy, you had to yell to keep up conversation and stupidly cheap beers with ice were the norm. The menu wasn’t as diverse as it is now but they had a great chao tom (grilled ground shrimp wrapped around a stick of sugarcane) for 3,000 Riel which made for a handy snack after a night of boozing.

Around 2007, the place was remodeled and looks pretty much like it does now. They got rid of the loud techno which drove the kids away but made conversation a bit easier. They also revamped the menu and now offer some very tasty dishes.

Enough history. Lets live in the now and get to the food!

First to come up was the Thit Neung Heo (Grilled Pork Ribs $3.50). Having a nice char from the grill, the ribs were exquisitely balanced between sweet and salty and made for a great start to the meal.

Thit Neung Heo or Grilled Pork Ribs

Thit Neung Heo or Grilled Pork Ribs

Ten minutes after we received our first dish, we started getting the orders on top of each other. The Banh Xeo (vietnamese pancake $2.00), Muc Chien Ngon (fried crispy squid $4.50) and Goi Bo Tai Chanh (rare beef lime salad $5.00) came next. The Banh Xeo was chock full of ground pork, shrimp, julienned carrots and sliced onions.

Banh Xeo

Banh Xeo

Goi Bo Tai Chanh is always favorite with me. This version is filled with rau ram (vietnamese coriander), basil, mint, sliced onions and tossed in a sweet lime sauce. A bonus was the addition of fried shallots and peanuts for garnish. The Muc Chien Ngon was nice but I felt that the breading that they used was to too heavy and overpowered the delicate taste of the squid.

Goi Bo Tai Chanh or Rare Beef Lime Salad

Goi Bo Tai Chanh or Rare Beef Lime Salad

During this time, the Bo Nhung Dam (thin sliced beef boiled in vinegar $6.50) was delivered to the table but placed on the side. The very attentive staff waited until we finished a couple of plates before setting it up which was very thoughtful of them. A Vietnamese take on Shabu Shabu, the raw beef is placed in the vinegar broth and the accompanying sides are used to garnish. Here, the sides were some dry banh trang (rice paper sheets), a bowl with some water to dip the banh trang in, a few cups of nuoc cham (dipping sauce), rice noodles, various herbs and lettuce.

Bo Nhung Dam and its fixings

Bo Nhung Dam and its fixings

The last dish we received was the Mi Xao Chay (fried vegetarian noodles $3.00). I was shocked to see ramen noodles were used instead of the usual noodles I’m used to. To my surprise, the noodles weren’t too bad! It didn’t hurt that the vegetables were fresh and nicely seasoned.

All in all, a great trip down memory lane.

Oh yeah, almost forgot. Anchor cans are $ 0.80.  — Vinh

Mi Xao Chay or Fried Vegetarian Noodles

Mi Xao Chay or Fried Vegetarian Noodles

I am by no means an expert on Vietnamese food, but I am an enthusiast. As such, I was delighted to try this place as my initiation into the Nyam Penh scene. Executive summary is that this is the best Vietnamese food I’ve had so far in Phnom Penh, or at least tied with the restaurant downstairs (which may or may not be owned by the same people). Beef in vinegar is my go-to dish in Vietnamese restaurants and this one did not disappoint. Because it was my first time meeting the gang I decided not to drink the broth, but I easily could have. The combination of vinegar and lemongrass is fantastic, and I appreciated that they went heavy on the lemongrass–it wasn’t too much for me. I also thought the rare beef salad was excellent, and I ate more than my fair share of it.

Muc Chien Ngon and Banh Xeo

Muc Chien Ngon and Banh Xeo

I was least excited by the noodle dish that was a packet of ramen noodles and some vegetables. I’m no elitist about packaged ramen–in fact, I’m a die-hard fan. But I’m rarely thrilled to get it served up to me in a restaurant and this time was no different. Overall, I was very pleased with this restaurant. For some reason I had thought that the upstairs was a pho-only place and had always eaten in the much less pleasant restaurant downstairs. But with open-air seating bedecked in plastic foliage and $0.80 beers, this place is a winner for me.  — Lina

Vietmart restaurant

Vietmart restaurant

As soon as we walked into this place, I liked it.  It reminded me of places I had been while visiting Hanoi.  Ngon was absolutely beautiful but I never ate anywhere like that in Vietnam.  Loud colors, plastic plants and flashing lights felt much more authentic.

The ribs that came out first were amazing.  Maybe it was because we had had a few beers before dinner but, wow, I would have been happy eating just ribs that night.  There is a huge ‘Banh Xeo’ sign painted on the outside of the restaurant so I wanted to try it thinking it might be their specialty.  It wasn’t the most amazing tasting banh xeo I’ve had but it was probably the biggest.  All five of us at the table were able to have a decent portion.

Dunking some beef in the vinegar broth

Dunking some beef in the vinegar broth

The Muc Chien Ngon, aka, Vietnamese calamari, was good but you can pretty much deep fry anything and it will be pretty good.   But the highlight for me was definitely the Bo Nhung Dam.  They let the pot filled with the vinegar broth and onions simmer on our table for a while before they moved it over to the middle of the table.  Any sort of hot pot dinner is always the best group meal but would have been slightly nicer if we were at a round table (John had to reach pretty far to get to the pot).  Again, Vietmart was generous with the portions and we all had plenty and with beers for less than a buck, this place is definitely solid.

4.5 nyamies out of 5.  Vinh

4 out of 5 nyamies Lina  (check out Lina’s blog here)

4.0 out of 5 nyamies Bryse

Vietmart Restaurant
On the corner of Monivong and street 242 across the street from the 24 hour BB World.

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