24 hours in Ho Chi Minh

Food is one reason for Vietnam's popularity with tourists and with markets and restaurants offering consumers a taste of everything, it's easy to see why.

Australia's favourite food blogger, Not Quite Nigella, visits Ho Chi Minh City and discovers how easy it is to sample the tastes of Vietnam in under 24 hours.

Our next stop in Ho Chi Minh City is a chic restaurant and bar a few minutes away from where we are staying at the Hotel Majestic. The Ly Club is beautifully furnished in the style of French Colonial – done in a way that evokes poolside glamour. Named after the Ly Dynasty (1009-1225), which was one of Vietnam’s periods of cultural and artistic development, the decor reflects this with whites, shimmering pools, outdoor bars and interesting lighting fixtures. We have a special group menu, but their regular menu is very well priced with mains ranging from $US6.50 to $US19.

The food comes out without delay, but without feeling too rushed – the limited waiting time is welcome as some of us are still on Sydney time and it’s creeping towards 2am.

Australia's favourite food blogger, Not Quite Nigella, visits Ho Chi Minh City and discovers how easy it is to sample the tastes of Vietnam in under 24 hours.

Our next stop in Ho Chi Minh City is a chic restaurant and bar a few minutes away from where we are staying at the Hotel Majestic. The Ly Club is beautifully furnished in the style of French Colonial – done in a way that evokes poolside glamour. Named after the Ly Dynasty (1009-1225), which was one of Vietnam’s periods of cultural and artistic development, the decor reflects this with whites, shimmering pools, outdoor bars and interesting lighting fixtures. We have a special group menu, but their regular menu is very well priced with mains ranging from $US6.50 to $US19.

The food comes out without delay, but without feeling too rushed – the limited waiting time is welcome as some of us are still on Sydney time and it’s creeping towards 2am.

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The blue crystal scallops – which are not perfectly round, thinner than Canadian scallops and thicker than Australian ones – are delicious. They sit in a creamy, thick and perfectly seasoned spinach soup.

The Vietnamese delights plate is a three-parter consisting of a green mango salad with crispy squid – not bad, although it is a bit sweet for my taste. There is also a spongy soft shell crab in crispy batter that is full of soft crab meat and my favourite, two tender, slender batons of lemongrass scented beef wrapped in piper lolot, which is similar to spinach.

The river prawns are enormous with very tender, soft meat inside and a savoury baked cheese crust on top. And although this looks like a really lovely place, I can’t help but suck all the flavour from the shells as there is so much there. There is a round of dry-cooked garlic rice on the side.

The blue crystal scallops – which are not perfectly round, thinner than Canadian scallops and thicker than Australian ones – are delicious. They sit in a creamy, thick and perfectly seasoned spinach soup.

The Vietnamese delights plate is a three-parter consisting of a green mango salad with crispy squid – not bad, although it is a bit sweet for my taste. There is also a spongy soft shell crab in crispy batter that is full of soft crab meat and my favourite, two tender, slender batons of lemongrass scented beef wrapped in piper lolot, which is similar to spinach.

The river prawns are enormous with very tender, soft meat inside and a savoury baked cheese crust on top. And although this looks like a really lovely place, I can’t help but suck all the flavour from the shells as there is so much there. There is a round of dry-cooked garlic rice on the side.

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I’m a crazy lover of coconut desserts. Give me coconut cream and I can be assured of almost licking the bowl clean. This one has a scoop of coconut cream ice cream in a bed of pandan and coconut sago; it’s soft and slightly grainy. I have to really stop myself from finishing it.

The next day we make it to Chinatown for the Thien Hau Pagoda and Binh Tay market which being Ho Chi Minh City's largest market, is bustling. We weave through the narrow corridors and we look at the unusual produce on offer as well as displays of gleaming stainless steel kitchenware. Water chestnuts sit in a giant bowl on a block of ice and pre-carved carrots are for sale.

A woman sells containers of spicy chilli tofu and a drink based on gracilaria seaweed, which is a jelly like drink said to be good for hot weather.

There are large rolls of cinnamon bark that are light in fragrance that they use in Pho as well as a stringy green vegetable that they rehydrate in water and mix in with lotus to make a salad.

For the princely sum of 35 cents we can get a bag of sweet banana, ginger and nut snacks, which are sticky and strong in ginger.

There are snacks with rice noodles and chilli flavourings as well as flavoured rice paper which I just have to buy – you eat these as they are, no soaking! They’re like those seasoned seaweed snacks in texture and are nice and spicy too.

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