Sai Gon eating: Food court, Pham Ngu Lao, District 1

17th August 2019

Asiana Food Town@Chợ Ẩm Thực Dưới Lòng Đất

This is in the backpacker district of central Sai Gon, a new underground food court and mini ‘street-market’. The goods, and prices, are aimed strictly at tourists, while the food was typical food court fare. However, it looked quite nice, there was clearly a lot of thought and effort into the design.

The redeveloped site of Asiana Food Town and Shopping Centre.

Time to try the dimsum

The dimsum was OK … nothing special. Time for some typical Viet sweets:

A variety of Vietnamese sweets, beans and jellies
Jelly and condensed mild (and an awful lot of ice).

In the interests of reportage, I should go back and try other dishes … MANY other dishes 🙂

IELTS Revisited

10th April 2019

I’m now taking my second IELTS class, and the great thing is that I’ve already made lesson plans. Additionally, my class is much smaller – seven students as opposed to 17 – and they seem slightly more motivated and animated.

But there is still room for improvement … and I’m referring here to myself, as a teacher. My centre tries to promote as much student talking-time as possible, ideally aiming for as high as 80% student conversation … ideally. In reality, the teacher has to face a number of obstacles. I’ll save those for another, more general blog, as I want to dedicate this post to extra work, and tips to get the students talking.

First up, I need to make the students take notes (Vietnamese are not in the habit of doing this, as my centre manager explained). Instead, they will often just take a photo of the board. Secondly, once the student has sat down, they generally will not move until it is time to leave … three hours later.

I will now insist that they take out and use notebooks, the rationale being that the active process of writing will help them remember the words or phrases much better than taking a photo (which they may never look at) or relying on their memory.

Likewise, I will strongly recommend that instead of sitting and talking with the same person all class, they get up and move around, practice with different people (“But teacher, I am tired, I am lazy,” – I have actually heard these from people half my age ).

Now, without further ado, some extra work.

In Lesson Two, I started off with some compound nouns, based upon shopping. This was a way to introduce new vocabulary as well as filling time while late students arrive.

My manager suggested that this could be developed into a speaking exercise. For example, using the compound nouns ‘bulk shopping’, ‘window shopping’, ‘binge shopping’, ‘impulse shopping’ and ‘dumpster diving’, make a presentation with questions:

Have you ever made an impulse purchase ?

How often do you go window shopping ?

Do you ever buy in bulk ?

Is dumpster diving popular in Viet Nam ?

Then, what are the pros and cons of:

Typical street market … but is the fruit safe ?
District 7 shopping mall: food courts, cinema, shops and stalls.
Souvenir store in District 1. Are the prices fixed or does it depend on how rich the buyer looks ?

Basically, get the students speaking as much as possible. To help them develop longer, more complex sentences, I’ve given them sheets of discourse markers, and each week we focus on one type and select three words. For example, last week was ‘addition’; instead of saying ‘and’, they could use ‘additionally’, ‘furthermore’, or ‘moreover.’

This gets practiced when they have to link two basic sentences:

I like coffee. I like tea.

They could be linked by a simple ‘and’, but try using new discourse markers.

Sentences can be built up by using adjectives, adverbs, discourse markers, and by the use of clauses. This will entail relative pronouns … but that is for another lesson. The students have two months and hopefully they will see improvements after every lesson.

Sai Gon eating and coffee bars 2: the beat goes on.

The previous blog found me after work, Saturday evening, discovering a great coffee bar, and very cheap Robusta Honey coffee (25 000 VND). Before the coffee, I went here:

Quán Hủ Tiếu Nam Vang Liến Húa at 151, Nguyễn Duy Trinh, Phường Bình Trưng Tây, Quận 2, Phường Bình Trưng Tây, Quận 2. This is referred to as a ‘hawker stall’, ubiquitous in HCM. They also sell Chinese dim sum (but I was too late), so I had seafood noodle soup.

45 000 VND (£1.50 $1.94). Hope to go back and try the dim sum soon.

Again, closer to home, a busy, no-nonsense pho joint:

In the less than glamorous Cat Lai area of District 2, near the port so constant container lorries in the main road, trucks and cement mixers on this road and the non-stop flow of Hondas and Yamahas, a small oasis of great traditional pho (noodle soup:

One seafood, one beef. Typical spread, accompanied by fresh herbs and salad, lime and fresh chilli, with crushed chilli to really pump up the heat. Great food, best in the area, around 40 000 VND each (£1.30 $1.73) but … it’s now closed, been taken over by Chap Coffee … looks exactly the same, but I’ve not tried their food … yet. Now, back to District 3.

Nhà Hàng Hoàng Ty at 106 Cao Thắng, Phường 4, Quận 3, Hồ Chí Minh. Famous for its seafood, and this restaurant is ornamented with classic bikes. As for the food …

Seafood porridge, fried rice and mixed seafood soup. This is a very popular place, so it gets busy and noisy at peak times. Well recommended.

Sai Gon eating: coffee bars and street food.

A compilation of various restaurants and coffee houses. First up, seafood in District 2.

Vietnamese from costal areas dislike seafood in Ho Chi Minh, as it can never be as fresh and certainly not as cheap as their home town. Having said that, I really enjoyed the Hải Sản (seafood) at Phố Ốc (271 Đường Nguyễn Duy Trinh, Phường Bình Trưng Tây, Quận 2, Hồ Chí Minh).

Taken from Google images. No copyright infringements intended.

Clams in lemongrass (and heavy on the chilli) with Vietnamese sea snails. The leaves are slightly bitter, in contrast to the sweet, tangy sauce. Washed down with Tiger Beer (Singapore).

Even closer to home, a small restaurant specialising in just a few dishes, O Hai Quan.

Bún riêu cua

Rice vermicelli soup with tofu, tomato and crab. The purple sauce in the small dish is the extremely pungent shrimp paste (mắm tôm). Prices from 35 000 to 40 000 VND (£1.14 – £1.30 / $1.50 – $1.71).

Party time – the Vietnamese love a party, love eating and making noise … a LOT of noise (I can vouch for that – I often suffer dreadful drunken deafening wedding party karaoke – but that is for another blog) and I was invited to a house-warming shindig over in the north-western suburbs. There was food, there was beer and yes, there was karaoke.

Late night drinking means early morning coffee. Back to District 2, and a chain called Ding Tea.

https://www.facebook.com/DingteaCantavilQuan2/

Hazelnut Coffee was 46 000 VND, Passion Fruit Milk Tea 39 000 VND. Total 85 000 (£2.77 $3.64)

Was actually heading for Highlands Coffee when I saw this new store. Probably would have paid about 70 000 VND just for one coffee there (but it IS good). Based in the Cantavil Shopping Mall complex.

I used to work in District 10 and live in District 3. At weekends I had a three-hour lunch break, so I would go home, rest and change clothes, but for lunch, I’d stop off here:

This is a very popular diner, and easy for non-Vietnamese speakers – just point and take a seat. They also sell vegetarian food. This spread, including two fish dishes, a vegetarian pancake-type dish, soup, rice and side salads was around 140 000 VND (£4.55 $6). Service is quick, and the customers always seem slightly bemused by a westerner tucking in and enjoying the grub.

So, it’s Saturday, had three classes, starting around 7.00 am. It’s now 6.30 pm and I’ve just finished a noisy, very active class of 7 & 8 year olds. I need food, I need coffee. Fortunately, my centre is based on a busy street (Phố Ốc is to the left, tonight I turned right) with coffee shops and restaurants all over. A quick stroll and I found:

Robusta Honey coffee

Laha Coffee at 169 Nguyễn Duy Trinh. Very small, just three or four tables (mainly a take-away joint) but great ambience AND great coffee. This was just 25 000 VND (£0.94 $1.24).

The food, and more coffee, I’ll save for the next blog … now it’s time to eat !

Sai Gon: Eating out – Vietnamese style

A quick guide to some local food.

Chap Cafe

A local joint in a side street surrounded by new residential blocks, Chap Cafe has a lunchtime contract to feed workers from a local engineering firm.

This dish is Bang Da Cua (noodle soup with crab meat). As usual in Vietnam, it comes with a plate of herbs and green leaves, banana plant and chilis, lime, and the ubiquitous fish sauce. This cost 35 000 VND (£1.20 / $1.50).

The cafe has a so-so reputation among locals, it’s OK but nothing special. I spiced up my bowl with chili flakes, fresh chilis and plenty of lime juice.

I’ve taught my engineering students about British politeness. They would now classify this cafe as ‘not the best’, nor ‘the most delicious in HCM’.