Saigon Street Eats

Finally, I met Barbara Adam of Saigon Street Eats! We’ve been living here for 5 years but honestly, I haven’t really walked the streets of Saigon a whole lot. So it was a real treat to finally go on a tour by Barbara (you can also read more about her in her blog, The Dropout Diaries). Barbara and her husband, Vu host foodie tours in Saigon.

Barbara also took with her, her four year old daughter Poppy. Sam and Poppy became fast friends with Poppy “hosting” as well. :)

We met Barbara, Poppy, and Ynna (from NZ) at the Saigon Opera House early in the morning and our first stop was to have breakfast at a local pho restaurant.

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This little establishment along one of Binh Thanh’s busy hems has been in the business for some 30 years. The original owners have left but their pho recipe lives on. If you want authentic pho ga or pho bo, then this is the pho to be.
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And it was great that they offer smaller bowls for children. Ynna tried the ca phe sua da while I tried their passion fruit juice! Both are highly recommended!

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After a filling breakfast, we walked to the nearby bakery, where the kids chose 2 cakes to take with them till the end of the tour. The cake that still resembles a cake by the end of the tour wins. Sam brought home a blob if you wanna know.

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It was an awesome bakery! They’ve got cakes for every zodiac sign. It was incredible! And they also bake huge breads!
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Barbara introduced us to the way of life of the Vietnamese by talking about food.  It was difficult not to stop and just try everything. The pork barbecue at Com Tam Long Xuyen smelled enticing.

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Around the corner was Com Tam Chay with all their savory viands ready for all to see.

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A few meters ahead, another was barbecuing too. Argh. I get week-kneed when I smell a barbecue.

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We also stopped to buy some sweet potato and bananas from this lady for our mini picnic for lunch. This supposedly “poor man’s breakfast” is actually pretty good and healthy! I remember a certain Filipino celebrity who would diet and just eat sweet potato all day. :P

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We ducked into another hem to visit the a family temple which is a place of worship for the family’s ancestors.

 photo IMG_2432_zpsd9fefe59.jpgThere was a “mountain” in the middle of the garden. Mountains are one of the more popular symbols in Buddhism. Ancestor veneration is not uncommon in Vietnam and is actually an influence by the Chinese. I kinda understand it. Your ancestors must have a direct line to Heaven, so why not talk to them?

 photo IMG_2441_zps505261f2.jpgChi Pauline — one of the elders of the family, opened their doors to us and we were astounded by their temple.

 photo IMG_2444_zps56f04883.jpgThey had a whole room —

 photo IMG_2447_zpscc2f5e7e.jpgThey’ve even managed to keep really old Buddhist manuscripts.

 photo IMG_2445_zps29bf8625.jpgTo continue our history lesson, we visited a textile shop for ao dai — the Vietnamese traditional dress.

 photo IMG_2458_zps0a98303e.jpgIt was wonderful! I love textile and how I wish I’ve gotten to see this shop before I had my first ao dai made!

 photo IMG_2459_zpsee1bad31.jpgSeriously, I am not too keen with our PH national dresses as they’re voluminous, hot, and itchy (The itchier it is, the more expensive it is. I kid you not!). I love how beautiful ao dais are made and yes, you wear pants! I love pants!!!

 photo IMG_2460_zpsfa75e9d4.jpgNext stop was the Cho Ba Chieu! I have only been to a few markets in the city and Cho Ba Chieu is easily my favorite or maybe we just didn’t get there early enough and there wasn’t much traffic compared to Cho Binh Tay where people bump into you a whole lot.

 photo IMG_2465_zpsc76c053b.jpgIt was interesting to learn that it’s not uncommon for locals to do 2 or 3 trips to the market in a day just to make sure that they’re cooking the freshest meal. Cho Ba Chieu is designed in such a way that motorbikes can easily go round the market and make stops to buy fresh produce.

On our way, we stopped by betel vendor. I knew that this is illegal in some countries, but in apparently, it’s not illegal in Vietnam.

 photo IMG_2470_zps56d54773.jpgA vendor selling paper money and incense for the temple —

 photo IMG_2472_zps63f031bf.jpgThe Banh Mi vendor for our lunch —If you love Subway, this is way better! I smile when I see expats put chili or sweet chili in their Subway sandwiches, it’s very Vietnamese.

 photo IMG_2476_zpsaef7eabb.jpgRice cakes. I bought the banh bo which tasted just like our Filipino puto — which is Sam’s favorite.

 photo IMG_2483_zps5798c608.jpgAnd sugar cane juice. This is actually the first time I’ve tried sugar cane juice with a dash lemon. It’s actually pretty good! Been wanting to try this for a long time but wasn’t quite too sure.

 photo IMG_2491_zps4c2dd107.jpgWe then went inside the market to see the dried fish section. Here, Barbara told us the different ways that the Vietnamese preserved their food pre-refrigeration time. I just couldn’t resist that I just had to buy the dried squid for breakfast. :P

 photo IMG_2506_zps2230f6ac.jpgWe tried the sweetened dried crabs too for lunch and it went well with our banh mi! So good!

 photo IMG_2505_zpscff57f1a.jpgOutside, we checked out the seafood. Sam couldn’t stop talking about the daddy, mommy, and baby eels — and the big frogs! Ribbit!

 photo IMG_2538_zps443b3322.jpgWe stopped for a bit to get coconut juice and try the banh flan.

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In the Philippines, we call this “leche flan”. And no, we don’t put ice on it. But this is a good way to dilute the sweetness a bit.

 photo IMG_2553_zpsc3771cae.jpgThis part of the market where you can get a bite to eat is not free from motorists. As we ate, motorbikes zipped by behind us.

 photo IMG_2556_zps88db3c25.jpgAfter dessert, we walked to the fruits section and again, I had to stop myself from buying! The avocados were sold at 26,000 VND/kilo! So cheap compared to where I buy mine at 50,000 VND! We also bought the mysterious poop fruit which of course is tamarind — but Ynna didn’t know that. :P

 photo IMG_2559_zpsd042703b.jpgCan anybody tell me what this fruit is called?

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Then it began to rain! But that didn’t stop us to continue our gastronomic tour!
 photo IMG_2561_zps34497e4d.jpgOn our way to the Le Van Duyet temple, Barbara pointed to us the shredded pork skin that looked like noodles. I wonder what it’s used for.

 photo IMG_2568_zpsa862bf26.jpgOur last stop was the Le Van Duyet shrine  that was surrounded by a beautiful park — where we were supposed to have a picnic. But because of the rain, we ate at the sides of the temple.

 photo IMG_2570_zpsab2b6543.jpgLe Van Duyet was a general that helped vanquish the Tay Son rebellion in the 1800s. His tomb is also in this complex.

 photo IMG_2611_zps4f88081f.jpgPeople come to visit Le Van Duyet to seek answers on love, career, lost loved ones, health, and wealth among others.

 photo IMG_2585_zps789e112a.jpgThe kids were introduced how it was to “pray” to an ancestor. My son wished for a horse.  :P

 photo IMG_2591_zps74f4f87b.jpgThen off you go to the cabinet of mysteries where your “answer” is written. The funny thing is, since Le Van Duyet is Vietnamese and speaks only Vietnamese, questions in English may have doubtful answers.  :P   photo IMG_2599_zpsc98ebe6f.jpg It’s safe to say my son won’t get his horse.

Then at lunch, we tried all the food that Barbara was hoarding all through out the tour. The highlight was Ynna trying the poop fruit. :P photo IMG_2601_zps5560e1b7.jpgBy the time we were done by 2 pm, we were tired and couldn’t eat a bite more. I took home most of the stuff we didn’t finish eating. My nanny was very happy with the century egg! I was too! She mad an awesome congee!

I love Barbara! I’d recommend her in a heartbeat! Learning about Vietnamese culture and traditions are best digested through your stomach. :D

Book a tour today!

Saigon Street Eats
090 844 94 08


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Keep the seat belt on.

Yesterday, on our way home from Church, we were almost home when a car bumped into our Innova taxi while we were waiting for the light to change to green. We were 3 adults and 3 kids. The eldest kid was sitting at the back.

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Couldn’t remember what the conversation was about but we were all jolted from our smooth drive home when the car behind us did not stop.

We’ve been living in Saigon for 5 years and I have to admit with just 40 kph as the maximum speed in most areas, we have been lax in using the seat belt. Back in PH, we were stickler for seat belts. We were very, very lucky. We all got out safe.

 photo 20140727_1553261_zpsb5b38395.jpgThis incident is a wake-up call for us to use our seat belts again. Not because it’s not usual to wear one in VN, doesn’t mean it’s right. There may be less accidents involving 4 wheels but never do we want to become a statistic to the fatalities.

No matter where you are, don’t get in a car without wearing a seat belt.


So today I set out for the office and yesterday’s accident has shaken me badly than I thought.

 photo 20140728_100914_zpsb2b83f20.jpgUnfortunately, the Mai Linh taxi I was on didn’t have any seatbelts! :(

 photo 20140728_100917_zpsdee9aa07.jpgI checked both sides at the back there were no buckles. Looks like I’ll be inspecting taxis first in the future before getting on one! photo 20140728_100929_zps039de426.jpgStay safe everyone!


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The Heat is On!

I know you guys must still be pretty high after the World Cup. Unfortunately I didn’t get to watch the World Cup at all because in this part of the world, it’s simply difficult to get up at midnight to watch and expect to be at work in the morning!
 photo IMG_2322_zps3f896df7.jpgBut am definitely a cheerer so I love watching games and just shout at the top of my lungs! And I haven’t been watching any since we left the Philippines — and that would be some Ginebra game in the PBA.

 photo IMG_2323_zps38c06282.jpgAnd then the ABL came in our own backyard! Time to make use of those lungs so long preserved from Cheer Dance class as a physical education course back in the University. :P (Yup! Well, the uni needed cheerers to watch all UAAP games!).

 photo IMG_2325_zps5cd0fd1e.jpgHubby and I decided to bike to the stadium which was just 20 minutes away. We lost our seats to some VIPs but our seats did not disappoint. The Canadian International School stadium is not that big so we still had a terrific view from way up!

 photo IMG_2348_zps269c2cc4.jpgThe game was between Saigon Heat and Indonesia Warriors.

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Before the game began, the Saigon Hotgirls performed. :D photo IMG_2338_zps05c4d913.jpg

But I enjoyed the Saigon Heat’s mascot performance during half-time better. That tiger has got the moves! photo IMG_2373_zps09d957d3.jpg

The Saigon Heat team is composed of players from the Vietnam (of course!), US, and the Philippines!!!
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Yes! We represent!!! :P  Our players Lenonidez Avenido (18) and Froilan Baguion (17) played a stellar game. Seriously, this two were a force to be reckoned with. And I am so not biased.  photo IMG_2358_zps9e9034ba.jpg

I was wondering why the jerseys showed the first name of the players instead of the last names.  photo IMG_2367_zps9c3edf10.jpg

Oh yeah, and then I remembered we’re in Vietnam and most likely the Vietnamese last names would be Nguyen. :P
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We won by 16 points. Saigon Heat led the game from the get go.

 photo IMG_2350_zps7e75986d.jpgTo get tickets, you can buy online from Ticketbox. There’s another game coming up next week versus Laskar Dreya. Ticketbox will deliver to your place for an extra 20,000 VND. Ticket prices are 70.000, 150.000, and 300.000 VND. Not bad!

Saigon Heat! Saigon Heat! Saigon Heat!


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No Limits: Chau, the Vietnamese Painter

 photo 10525607_794567290578084_8055715170742358989_n_zps8925cd48.jpgWe were visiting friends at Dragon Hill, Nguyen Huu Tho, District 7 when we chanced upon Vietnamese painter, Chau creating his next artwork.

My son Sam and his friend Sophia, were both stunned to see him working with his mouth.

On the ride to Dragon Hill, the kids were both discussing about the poor and the disabled so I was watching their reaction to Chau. And I too was equally stunned that the kids looked way past Chau’s disability and saw how he shined with his amazing talent. Can’t help but feel a bit weepy on how children look at things so differently from us adults.

Chau is doing a commissioned work and I urge people to please think about owning one of his works. What an inspiration! He is a perfect reminder that we can do great works in the face of adversity. We only have to take the sword and wield it. In Chau’s case, the brush. No limits indeed.

Will hopefully get his contact details soon and post it here.

Have a blessed week y’all!


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A Day in the Zoo

There’s only so much you can entertain your kids with during the break. So had to check our list again on what to do with the kids during the school break.  Last week, we went back to Vietopia and luckily they have a weekday promo at 130,000 VND for each kid!
 photo IMG_2225_zpsf4945342.jpgBut for this week, we decided, a trip to the zoo is IT!

 photo IMG_2224_zps27f7da5a.jpgHow can you say no to 15,000 VND per kid? Less than a dollar! And the botanical gardens kept everybody cool.

 photo IMG_2228_zps0fc68582.jpgI think it’s our 4th time to visit the zoo but it is always fun seeing the animals while teaching the kids as well.

 photo IMG_2230_zps30c6509b.jpgAnd if the kids get tired, there is a mini amusement park inside too.

 photo IMG_2231_zps1b0e35cd.jpgLuckily the animals kept them interested and we had a grand time talking about what they ate, how big or small, or smelly they are! :P

 photo IMG_2245_zpsd805fe3c.jpgThe kids also fed the elephants with sugarcane at 2,000 VND each.

 photo IMG_2253_zps2172b309.jpgAs much as I am not all for animals in captivity, at least the Thao Cam Vien are able to take care of the animals real well. My heart is still in tears seeing Raju freed from 50 years in captivity in India.

 photo IMG_2262_zps530b43d0.jpgThe kids of course couldn’t help compare the animals to what they’ve seen in the movie, Madagascar.

 photo IMG_2272_zpscd6478a1.jpgThe Thao Cam Vien has a lot of species but the kids were sadly disappointed not to see dinosaurs. :P

 photo IMG_2278_zpsd2b67a2f.jpgSeriously. The kids were looking for dinosaurs. At least these were kids unlike the news that came out recently about Steven Spielberg killing a triceratops. Now that’s a laugh!

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My favorite part of our visit is seeing this atop of the trees flying free, unencumbered by cages.

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I’m just not sure what it’s called. photo IMG_2294_zps240a5c2a.jpgThere were black bears, crocodiles, tigers, lions —

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To cap of our visit, we rode on one of the carts that drove around the zoo which costs 15,000 VND for adults and 10,000 VND for kids.

Don’t know what to do with your kids this summer break? Take them to the zoo!



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Urban Micro-Farming

I was biking along one of my favorite bike paths in Phu My Hung when I spotted a few houses having their own vegetable garden or mini-farms.
 photo 20140701_082319_zpsb386636c.jpgSo jealous! I really want to plant my own garden. But with condo-living, all we can afford is a pot of basil or oregano which has met their untimely demise falling down from the 7th floor because of the recent rains and strong winds.

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I’ve seen some homes with veggies in huge styrofoam boxes but some have converted their backyard into plots. And this bike path is full of papaya trees and banana trees. Don’t wonder seeing a banana tree or malunggay tree bereft of it’s leaves. You know where it goes to! photo 20140701_082438_zpse3e544e8.jpgMy favorite is the mini hydroponic farm. Back in 2007, I was fortunate to meet Mr. Lyndon Tan in Cavite, Philippines. He was one of the pioneers of hydroponic farming in my country. Lyndon’s company Basic Necessity introduced Salad Time. They’d harvest the vegetables early in the morning, prep for packaging and by after lunch, the products are well on its way to the supermarkets.

Sigh. Sometimes, I miss having a real house.

For now, gotta get a new pot of oregano.


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Sand Art by Tri Duc Dang

I was reading Adam Robert Young’s blog entry about Sand Art that I remembered about the Sand Art I witnessed in January during our company’s anniversary party.

The sand artist is Tri Duc Dang and is sand art performer. He is actually quite popular and even travels abroad to showcase his talent in various gatherings. Here’s one my favorite videos of his performance.

For more, you can visit his You Tube Channel.

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