Feeling adventurous, Mig and I used our entire morning to shop at Ho chi Minh City’s version of Manila’s Divisoria — the Binh Thay Market in china town. It was pretty crazy but the prices were pretty mind boggling vs Ben Thanh. To the point that people look at you funny when you only ask for the price of buying just 1 item. I got a bunch of things for the Chefy Store bazaar, as well as for myself like their hats and caps. Then we headed to the slightly pricier an dong market which was pretty near. The funny part was that time seems to move so slowly in Ho chi Minh that we were able to do all that before 2pm.
We decided to have lunch at this place I heard about online that was famous for Banh Mi. So we took a map and decided to walk from our hotel to Nhu Lan to work up and appetite. It took us about 20 minutes and some courage to cross the busy streets by benh thanh. When we got there a bunch of people were already in line for the ban mi and a lot of other people seemed to be having lunch inside. Since this was Mig’s first trip out, we sampled some Vietnamese usuals and some new ones to satisfy curiosity. Of course, we had the ban mi! A lot of people were also having the roasted pig trotters…which we were supposed to come back for during the trip…but I guess there’s always a next time.
Ban mi – One thing’s for sure…the Vietnamese know their baguette! How could they not…for all those years of French occuppation…I was even able to find some lovely Bordeaux butter in their grocery! Anyway, the baguette was perfect on the Ban Mi. It was crisp on the outside and firm on the inside with the right amount softness vs firmness of the bread dough.
The bread was made perfectly. The stuffing was this lovely homemade pate and homemade ham with homemade pickles. I learned to enjoy this sweet-sour-salty sandwich when I first tried it in our local Pho Hoa…I imagined it would be 100x better in Vietnam, and it was! With the coriander and the freshly made pickles and pate, this thing was unbeatable…PLUS! They made baguettes perfectly…how could you miss a snack like this?! Nhu Lan seems to specialize in Ban Mi and everything that is placed in it. There are so many lovely items on their display and hanging on their stall. It was just overwhelming to have all of it in just one sandwich!
Goi cuon – the sauce was like this fermented bean and hoisin. It wasn’t really the typical peanut sauce we have back home. The sauce was more on the fermented bean and hoisin side with a little pickles on top. It was pretty good and fresh. It had some Vietnamese mint, greens and other green herbs inside along with the shrimp and pork strips.
Banh Cuon Nong Nhan Thit – the sauce was delicate and the Ban Cuon was soft and a little slippery. The stuffing on the Ban Cuon was like this slightly sweetened meat whose flavor explodes when you add the mild fish sauce dip included on the side. The meat pie was delightful..I think it was homemade! The herbs and nuts on top added a flavorful dimension and texture.
Rice w pork shop meAt pie and skin — this was a delightful rice meal. The porkchop was tasty and seemed like it was marinated and brined for a while. The pork chop was more like a cured ham that was slightly sour and sweet aside from being slightly salty. It looked so ugly but it was good. The meatpie on this one seemed to have little chopped mushrooms that added a crunch when you bit into it. The meats reminded me of a glorified tocino…and I love tocino! The meal came with a small side salad and the best pickles ever!
Passionfruit juice – We pointed to a lime juice but this was what they served us, and it was absolutely delightful. Despite having jitters about drinking “juice” that has come from the local water source, it proved to be pretty clean for my system as I didn’t experience any grumbly stomach. The passionfruit juice was so fresh and ripe with the right tartness and sweetness.
Nhu Lan is a definite must try for any traveler in Ho Chi Minh city! The store has been around since forever if you see their sign. We will be back for their wonderful roast selection which includes duck, chicken and the much awaited pig’s trotters…YUMM!