A Chef's Postcard from Vietnam
Photo © Rob Whitworth - Getty Images
Star chef David Myers experiences incredible traffic and beef-blood soup with raw egg yolk on a trip to Ho Chi Minh City.
At home in L.A., I operate at Mach 6 speed, but in Ho Chi Minh City, I learned how to slow down. Imagine millions of motorbikes and no rules. The only way to cross the street on foot is one inch at a time. It’s counterintuitive: You might think you’d have to be aggressive to navigate that chaos, but going slowly is the only way.
Of course, I had to keep up once I joined the throng on wheels. My former sous-chef Shawn Pham (currently living in Ho Chi Minh City) loaned me a bike, and together we whizzed around, hitting 12 places a day—six at lunch and six at dinner, not to mention pho for breakfast. I particularly loved Pho Dau (288 Nam Ky Khoi Nghia Q3), which serves the noodle soup Northern-style. Most Vietnamese restaurants in the US garnish the soup with bean sprouts, basil, lime and chile, Southern-style. Northern-style pho has fewer garnishes, the idea being that the rich beef broth is perfect as is. You can also order a raw egg yolk, which you drop into a small side of beef-blood soup. It’s a hell of a way to start the day.
One of my favorite places to end the night was the speakeasy-style Bar’s Bar (barsbar-saigon.com). Japanese bartenders pour perfect cocktails and rare whiskies; we drank 12-year single-malt Yamazaki. More often, we spent the evening at a quan nhau, or a pub, playing drinking games that involved dice or rock-paper-scissors. You don’t want to get into a drinking game with the Vietnamese. They will drink until they drop, then a good friend will pull his friend off the ground and order him another.
The pace of my trip was frenetic—all that eating, boozing and biking around the city—but we were never in a rush. Ho Chi Minh City was a lesson in patience. Patience and pho.
Chef David Myers’s newest restaurant is Hinoki & the Bird in Los Angeles.