Central Vietnamese delicacies with a Saigon twist

By Ma Lum   June 18, 2017 | 01:54 pm GMT+7

What happens when Saigon chefs get their hands on traditional dishes from the central region?

Images on the left depict the original dishes from Central Vietnam. On the right, are images of their Saigon equivalent.

Bun bo Hue (Hue beef noodles)

Hue beef noodles originally consisted of gio (pork pie), congealed pig's blood and thinly sliced beef, but now tourists in Hue can also have their noodles with slightly boiled beef or cha (fried pork) for VND30,000 ($1.3) a bowl. In Saigon, many restaurants serve this type of mixed beef noodles, but the broth is a little bit sweeter to fit local tastes.

Banh canh cha ca (noodles with fish cakes)

This is a specialty in many central provinces such as Phu Yen, Khanh Hoa and Binh Thuan. A bowl of noodles with fish cakes in the central region usually comes as a small snack with fried and steamed fish cakes, and costs around VND15,000 ($0.7). In Saigon, the dish is sold in many wet markets and on the streets but usually without the fish roe. The taste does not differ much from the original version.

Banh beo (Water fern cake)

Vendors in Hue, Da Nang, and Hoi An often sell water fern cakes with dried shrimp and fried pork fat. In Saigon, it is also easy to find water fern cakes in wet markets. In restaurants, the cakes are often eaten with spicy fish sauce.

Banh can (baked rice cake)

In Saigon, this central region delicacy is still cooked in the original way by spreading rice dough in a clay pot and filling it with eggs, shrimp or squid. In the central provines of Binh Thuan and Ninh Thuan, it is eaten with unsalted fish soup, extra vegetables and sliced mango. In some restaurants in Saigon, tourists can enjoy the cake with cabbage, rice paper wrappers and fish sauce. A dish costs around VND30,000 ($1.3).

Banh hoi long heo (rice vermicelli cakes with boiled pig's intestines)

This is a popular dish among tourists who visit Binh Dinh and Phu Yen. The Saigon vesion dish does not differ hugely from the original. In the central region, this is a popular dish that you can find pretty much anywhere and costs around VND25,000 ($1.1).

In Saigon, it is not as popular and you have to search for restaurants that specialize in food from the central region. One portion can serve two people or more.

Banh xeo (sizzling pancakes)

Banh xeo is often served with vegetables and spicy fish sauce or fermented fish sauce. In many central provinces, you can even tuck into sizzling pancakes stuffed with fresh squid and shrimp. In contrast, most restaurants in Saigon serve the sizzling pancakes with meat.