For all your duck and porridge needs
40 Tran Cao Van, District 3, Ho Chi Minh City
Just a stone’s throw from Turtle Lake in Ho Chi Minh City’s District 3, Chao Vit Sai Gon is an easy-to-miss joint squeezed between several larger establishments. If you’re a culinary fan of duck, this spot is one of the more famous in town, particularly for its namesake dish, duck served in the Vietnamese rice porridge, chao.
Just a short trek from some of the more popular tourist destinations like Notre Dame Cathedral, Saigon Post Office and Reunification Palace, Chao Vit Sai Gon is hidden away on Tran Cao Van, a street only three blocks long. From the outside, the restaurant looks slightly more upscale than it is; two signs each have different names: Song Trang Moon River Restaurant and Chao Vit Sai Gon. Locally it’s acceptable to refer to it by either, but be warned that another, more luxurious Moon River Restaurant lies on the city’s waterfront.
Space is a little tight; a handful of tables and a bar are downstairs, with a few more tables on the second floor, but the restaurant is quite clean, especially considering how busy it gets, and it’s also air-conditioned. It’s kind of like the nicest street-food restaurant in Ho Chi Minh. Watch your food be prepared in their downstairs kitchen while you sit in small and backless chairs, though they are made of metal and wood.
Take your time to enjoy Chao Vit Sai Gon’s famous duck. It comes served several ways, the most popular being their namesake dish chao vit, tender duck with rice porridge. The duck can be boiled and brought to the table on a plate to be eaten with assorted vegetables or it can also be ordered as a non-porridge-based soup with a choice of noodles; mien mang vit, a duck and young bamboo soup served over glass noodles, or my favourite choice of bun mang vit, the same bamboo duck soup with vermicelli noodles. Whichever you choose, don’t expect it to break the bank, as most dishes are around 40,000 VND.
A popular spot for the dinner and the lunch rush, you may find it hard to spot an empty table. Avoid the rush by going at non-peak hours, like 14:00 to 17:00 and after 19:00. Plenty of people eat here solo; so don’t be startled if someone grabs an empty seat at your table when things are busy. If you can’t get a seat, or don’t want to wait, Quan Nem and its famous crab spring rolls are another nearby option or if it’s after dark you could walk to turtle lake and eat your fill of banh trang nuong, an inexpensive grilled rice paper snack sold by several vendors around the lake.
By Max Murta
Last updated on 6th July, 2014.