Archive | October, 2015

Photos of Saigon street food (2015 Apr-Jun edition)

25 Oct
The two foreign countries whose food I enjoy the most in Southeast Asia are Thailand and Vietnam. When I had the fortune to be based in Saigon for two months earlier this year, three exceptional local guides – T, N and my colleague V – took me around the city’s best street eats.


  1. Noodles. Vietnamese street food is heavily based on noodles (“bun”). Often these noodles are served with pungent soups.
  2. Vegetables. Accompanying these noodles are plates of fresh herbs and vegetables
  3. The most exotic things: 15-day chicken embryos balut (“hot vit lon”) or snails (“oc”).

What I miss the most about Vietnam is the ~15-day embryo balut. It has a texture between chicken and hard-boiled yolk, which is completely addictive with a bit of salt. Eating a half-formed embryo may skirt the fringe of acceptability for most, but the combination of textures in the egg is something very unique.

 Overall, my favorites (in no order) are:2015-06-10 20.09.09 2015-05-09 21.20.55 2015-05-09 20.42.21(1) Hot vit lon or Balut – I prefer them served simply with salt rather than tamarind sauce. (4.75/5 for the version served simply with salt)

(2) Banh mi – The best I tried was Banh mi huynh hoa on Le Thi Rieng. Ask them to exclude peppers (4.5/5)

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(3) Banh trang tron – Spiced noodles, can be found at Ben Thanh market in central Saigon. Assertive spicing (4.5/5)

(4) Bun thit nuong – the grilled pork or beef noodles served with fish sauce – I ate this at my college Vietnamese restaurant and it was just as good in Vietnam

2015-05-09 12.50.59(5) Bo la lot – greasy leaf-wrapped cigars of minced beef

2015-05-09 20.41.21 2015-05-09 20.47.01 2015-05-09 20.46.40 2015-05-09 20.46.06 2015-05-09 20.45.16 2015-05-09 20.46.56(6) Oc – at Quan Oc. Various types of snails

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(7) Banh khot (5/5) in the middle of Cho Ban Co market. These custardy mini-crepes are simply addictive served with fish sauce.

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(8) Bun Rieu – crab noodles

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(9) Gioi du du – papaya salad from Le Van Tam park was again very good. A mythical papaya salad I didn’t manage to try was recommended by T, in a school compound and only served during the afternoon.

Good links and resources I used:

Les Amis in Singapore (October ’15)

24 Oct

Les Amis (2015): 17.5/20 (over two visits)

It took me a while to get to Les Amis this year because there was always something new on the Singapore dining scene – tapas, experimental restaurants, “Modern Singaporean” food. But two visits convinced me of the error of picking the newfangled over the star-spangled*.

* – Forbes, not Michelin

Traditional French sauces. I can’t think of many French restaurants in Singapore that are making traditional sauces from Escoffier. Les Amis’s chef Sebastian Lepinoy for a tasting lunch prepared two fantastic classic sauces – the first was a “sauce Americaine”, that harmonized two separate ingredients – a Brittany seabass and leek. “The leek will not harmonize with the line-caught bass [bar-de-ligne] otherwise”, Chef mentioned in a post-meal conversation.  The second, a sauce poivrade from Escoffier made with raspberry jam, was also very good.

It is a gourmet’s restaurant: The front-of-house take great pride in the gourmet ingredients they serve – cheeses, artisanal olive oil, Le Ponclet butter. Due to this depth of knowledge, FOH is able to engage diners in an equal conversation at the table. The diner’s value proposition is that he pays, but often in Singapore the front-of-house doesn’t have much knowledge of what is being served, and cannot engage in any in-depth conversation on the food. Not the case here.

Japanese elements. I would criticize the food here on one point. The chef enjoys working with Japanese products. But sometimes it comes at the detriment of the dish. My main dish was a piece of A5 Ohmi wagyu with sauce poivre. Ohmi wagyu is luxury because it is butter in beef-form. When paired with sauce poivre, the meat had little independent taste (though great texture), serving as little more than texture for the sauce. I wondered if the dish might have ben improved with a more robust tasting non-wagyu beef, as an equal partner of the poivrade sauce. The unstinting (one might also say “unthinking”) use of wagyu is not a “problem” confined to Les Amis, but as the most thoughtful restaurant it should think more about the ingredient pairing. Prior to serving the dish, our FOH mentioned that the chef had “sweated” out the fat from A5 wagyu. But isn’t the raison d’etre of wagyu to enjoy its fat content? Why is the chef transforming a Japanese product into something it is not?

Overall – the restaurant that best exemplifies gourmand-ism in Singapore, independent of flashy theatrics or hype.


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  • Le Ponclet Butter
    • An almost cheesy butter

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  • Smoked salmon maki with julienned celeriac, cold angelhair pasta with osetra grade caviar, first of season Alba white truffle (3.75/5)

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  • Australian spanner crab with Momotaro tomato “millefeuille” (3.75/5)
    • A sweet heirloom Japanese tomato layered with crab. Based on this and a previous visit where I had a foie and truffle millefeuille, chef is a fan of the millefeuille construction. Pleasant.
    • Served with toast and artisanal olive oil

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  • Hokkaido scallop, tempura chip, lemon, shiso flower, served with sweet sesame sauce on the side (3.75/5)
    • Good dish that only really came together with sesame sauce.

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  • Foie gras seared with sesame, mango compote, French river eel, dashi broth (4/5)
    • Individual components very good but little synergy. Foie paired well with fruit. River eel and dashi seemed standalone.

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  • Bar de ligne, leek, sauce Americaine. (4.75/5)
    • Brittany line-caught bass (bar de ligne) had a firm, savory flesh that was well prepared. The star of the dish was sauce Americaine, a sauce based on tomato and crushed lobster shells. The chef prepared it with cognac, which gave a sweet flavor, reminiscent of Chinese sauces with shaoxing wine.
    • Another association was Singaporean chilli crab sauce– both have a crustacean and tomato base.
    • The sauce was served with a side of unsalted baguettes to mop up the sauce (Chef believes that to serve it with sourdough or salted baguettes would overpower the sauce)

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  • Ohmi wagyu, poivrade sauce with raspberry, asparagus (4.5/5)
    • A5 ohmi wagyu. Dish would have improved with a robust tasting beef. Ohmi had great texture but little independent taste

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  • Cheeses from M. Jean-Yves Bordier
    • (e.g. Reblochon)

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  • Pear Williams (4/5)

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