138 Nam Kỳ Khởi Nghĩa, Quận 1, Saigon, Vietnam
Visited 22nd March 2009.
A rugby trip to Saigon and it's the first time I'd visited Vietnam since the three months I spent there before coming to Hong Kong. Amongst the poor performances on pitch and good performances off, I managed to find a couple of hours to slip away for a meal at an old favourite; Quan An Ngon. Situated in a beautiful colonial house and its lush tropical grounds Quan An Ngon is always busy; packed with locals and expats it has a reputation for offering top quality traditional food at reasonable prices. It's located an easy work from the War Remnants Museum (the museum formally known as the Museum of American War Crimes) in the Dong Khoi area.
It had been ages since I'd eaten Vietnamese and after ordering a cold bottle of Saigon Beer (not my first for the weekend) I gave the menu some serious consideration. Confronted with a world of forgotten flavours I wanted it all, but finally forced myself to choose steamed rice flour rolls (Bánh Cuốn Nhân Thịt), green papaya salad with shrimp and pork (Gỏi đu đủ tôm thịt) and steamed clams with lemongrass (Nghêu hấp ). The steamed rice rolls were excellent; stuffed with pork and mushroom they came and accompanied my fish sauce, cucumber salad and some Vietnamese style preserved sausage. The papaya salad was just as awesome; fresh and bursting with flavour it was also a matter of contrasting textures - prawn crackers, peanuts and fried garlic added crunch, while lime, red chillies and basil all added freshness, heat and zest. The steamed clams had a good lemongrass flavours, but were a tad dry.
I like Quan An Ngon, oh yes I do. The garden and verandas of the old house offer a lush tropical setting to enjoy superb renditions of Vietnamese classics. The staff are efficient and friendly and for such a busy place the whole operation runs surprisingly smoothly. My bill for three dishes and a beer was a massive 108,000 dong which translates to a piddly HK$45; while you can eat on the streets for much cheaper this is still a bargain considering the quality and class. Quan An Ngon; recommended.