Jan 27 2013
Some of the best restaurants in Vietnam are special because they focus on just a single dish. While these spots tend to not occupy the most prestigious locations in town, searching them out is worth your time if you really love to eat well. One case in point: Banh Xeo 46a.
Tucked down a tight alley on the edge off Dinh Cong Trang in District 1, to the outside observer Banh Xeo 46a might not look like much, a mostly outdoor restaurant with red plastic stools and generic metal tables. The seating area is covered, and fan cooled, but it’s about as basic as you can get. The kitchen is also without walls, so you can see the chefs cooking on their large frying pans. The restaurant attracts large groups, often drinking and in high spirits, which when mixed with the constant stream of traffic flowing by your plastic stool can make for a uniquely Saigon atmosphere.
As the name suggests, the specialty here is banh xeo, a fried, rice-flour crepe stuffed with savoury meat, generally pork and shrimp, a touch of diced onion, maybe some mung beans and a healthy dose of bean sprouts. A popular spot with the tourist crowd, portion sizes are quite generous compared to more local banh xeo carts. They crank these bad-boys out at a breakneck pace to keep up with the steady demand, which has its pros and cons. It’s great in that you won’t wait long for your banh xeo to come to the table, but not so great as you can get the occasional soggy serving. Besides banh xeo, a few other dishes are on offer, including summer rolls (goi cuon) and spring rolls (cha goi), as well as cheap beer.
Is it the best banh xeo in the entire world? Probably not, but it isn’t bad. Purists will say that it used to be better ‘back in the day’, and maybe they’re right, but that was back before Banh Xeo 46a was put into every guidebook ever written about Vietnam. So, it’s less of a secret and now they make a great many more banh xeo ever yday, but it’s still tasty. Plus, I think their goi cuon and cha goi might actually be some of the better you’ll eat, and you’re not paying much more than you would on the street, with a big, crispy banh xeo starting at 40,000 VND.
Banh Xeo 46a is one of the better-known street food restaurants in all of Saigon, so it’s quite the popular spot, with a steady stream of customers at all hours. Expect bigger crowds around the normal lunch and dinner rush, although you shouldn’t have a problem finding a seat.
If for some reason you decide you don’t want to eat here after all, you’re within striking distance to a number of other solid eateries, a five-minute taxi ride will get you to Pho Anh, which is some of the best pho in town, or head to Com Tam Ba Ghien, where you’ll find big, delicious portions of grilled pork chops and broken rice. You’re also quite close to Cuc Gach Quan, where you’ll pay higher prices but sit inside with air-con and great food.
Banh Xeo 46a
46A Dinh Cong Trang, District 1
T: (08) 3824 1110
Open daily 09:00-21:00
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