Ho Chi Min City, affectionally known to all as HCM or Saigon, has grown economically. But luckily for all of us, even with this rapid development, the best and simple things in life remain reachable and available.
Mon Hue means “excellent Hue”. Established in 2006, Huy Vietnam Food Processing Co., Ltd. founded the brand to serve Central Vietnam food. They also own another two very popular Vietnam brands – Pho Mr. Hung (North Vietnam cuisine) and Com Express (South Vietnam cuisine).
The Imperial City of Hue, Vietnam’s ancient Imperial Capital, lies at the mouth of the Perfume River. Hue cuisine is distinctive: Vietnamese people regard it as the best in the country. There are two forms – Hue traditional food, which is what we are eating today, and ‘Royal’ cuisine, the food of the Imperial Court.
Bún bò tái Đặc Biệt
The ingredient that attracted us to this noodle dish was the blood pudding. Singapore has banned all forms of blood pudding in fear of disease infection but those of us who grew up with this delicacy still yearn for it and would almost order it whenever we see it in the menu. Reminded me of pho, but not exactly.
And like in Thailand and most of Indochina, the noodles come with fresh basil, mint, bean sprouts, and a bunch of other aromatics that you don’t get in Singapore.
This is a bit like the Thai boat noodles, but the noodles are like the one we used for lor mee. The key was the sauce. Thin with brown globules of fat and flavour floating on its surface with just about enough fish sauce to provide taste, but not too much to overpower. Reminded me of my morning mee pok dry fix. And after 5 days on a cruise, this was very welcomed.
Bánh Hỏi Thịt Nướng
Grill pork with thin rice vermicelli sprinkled with an obscene amount fo fried shallots. The pork has been marinated with the typical Vietname flavours – fish sauce, tamarind, garlic, a local bean paste, fermented prawn paste. Very deliciously grilled over charcoal. Nut allergy beware – there’s peanuts sprinkled all over and they don’t warn you for that in this restaurant.
Chạo Tôm Cuốn Bánh Hỏi
Minced prawn wrapped around sugar cane, my first impression of Vietnamese cuisine. Served with a spicy hot fermented fish sauce with ginger, garlic and more chilli, it is very tasty because of the charcoal grill. Accompanied with steamed bee hoon (thin rice vermicelli), which you can replace with rice paper. The proper way to eat this is to take the minced prawn and wrapped it with the vermicelli and dip it with the sauce.
Gỏi Mít Với mít non, thịt heo, tôm
A herby salad of grilled chicken breast, shrimps and young jackfruit, it may be too herby for some because of the tremendous amount of parsley used. But the crunchy jackfruit that has been grilled added the tart and fruity balance it required. Interestingly good, but you will not find this in any Vietnamese restaurants outside of Vietnam.
Bánh Ram Í
Mochi on mochi – that’s what I tasted. These are savoury glutinous rice cakes that have fillings of minced shrimp and pork. Half of the creation is steamed rice cakes, and the other deep-fried. Topped with lard cracklings and fried garlic, and drizzled with the quintessential fish sauce, this is really delicious.
This is a restaurant chain in Vietnam, you can see them springing up everywhere in HCM and Hanoi. Of course the purists will say, don’t go to these, they are not authentic. But if you are coming as a tourist and you don’t speak Vietnamese, it would be almost impossible to navigate anywhere else as the language has no similarity to any other language I know. Luckily there’s shops like Mon Hue that catered to both the locals and tourists alike, and this particular shop in the old district where most tours will let their wards go loose is easily accessible, both in terms of location and language wise.
If you come late in the day, you will be told that many things are “off” the menu. This can only mean that most, if not all, that they serve is really fresh.I enjoyed the freshness and food, service was so-so because we don’t speak the language and the servers were too shy to try. A good “local” flavour, without much pandering to tourists but easy to order and fun to eat anyway.
Mon Hue Restaurant
07 Cao Thang, 70000 Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
Tel : +84 8 2216 2208
Date Visited : Nov 2016
PS (8 May 2020): As with all corporate fortunes, there’s up and there’s down. Mon Hue’s holding company, the Huy group owed the government taxes and went into receivership. Some shops are still open, hopefully the one in the old city. But with Covid-19, you will never know.