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Sample Vietnamese variety on one plate

When it comes to street food, can modern Hoang Yen Buffet compare with local eateries all over Viet Nam? Thu Anh reports.

Live action: Stall employees busily prepare grilled dishes.
Live action: Stall employees busily prepare grilled dishes.

Viet Nam’s cuisine differs significantly between the north, central and south, so it’s rare that one can sample quality dishes from the three areas in one place. However, at Hoang Yen Buffet Restaurant last weekend, we did just that – not just in one place, but on one plate.

Shellfish: Many Hoang Yen diners take advantage of the seafood.

Located on the third floor of Vincom Centre, one of HCM City’s biggest shopping malls, the 510sq.m restaurant can serve 240 diners at the same time. One can taste more than 60 different dishes for lunch and 70 dishes for dinner. But unlike many of the small local shops where you might sample these dishes, Hoang Yen is air-conditioned and comfortable. The young servers have been trained professionally and the service is excellent. There’s even a children’s play area!

After enjoying a quick salad with a simple dressing of sugar, vinegar and fish sauce, we moved to the next stall to see how Sai Gon dishes here compared to our favourite street food joints. As an experienced diner, I opted for my favourite dish, com chien thap cam (stir-fried rice with minced vegetables, eggs, shrimp and sausage). The rice was served with beautifully spiced golden chicken that was tender but crispy. We ate until our plates were empty. This stall also seemed to be the most popular with children.

Fry-up:Roasted crab with tamarind sauce and fried chicken wings are two of the restaurant’s most popular dishes.

Hoang Yen Buffet

Add: Vincom Centre- B3-72 Le Thanh Ton Street, Ben Nghe Ward, District 1, HCM City.

Tel: (08) 6279 6192

Hours: 11am-3pm for lunch; 6pm-9pm for dinner.

Comment: Quality services and food in Vietnamese cooking style, with no hidden charges.

Soup lovers may enjoy the Sai Gon-style pho and hu tieu (southern noodle soup with pork and shrimp), but these can easily be found at inexpensive restaurants. We saved our appetite for the seafood stall, which displays delicacies like grilled fish, shrimp steamed with coconut water, grilled sate octopus and roasted crab with tamarind sauce.

Many restaurants serve roasted crab with tamarind sauce, but the sauce is difficult to perfect. Hoang Yen hit it spot on. Although the sauce was hot and spicy, the crab meat was still soft and toothsome.

We were no longer hungry, but wanted to have a stab at the dessert section, which features 10 traditional sweet puddings and cakes. While ice cream is also available, why choose a Western dessert when you can have the delicious Vietnamese alternative of tau hu? This soybean curd with ginger syrup and coconut milk proved the best of all the offerings. When my tongue touched a spoonful of the pudding, I felt it melt immediately in my mouth.

Our bill came out to VND800,000 (nearly US$40), including soft drinks and value-added tax (VAT), for two adults and a child – an affordable family meal. Hoang Yen Buffet is always full at lunch and dinner, so don’t forget to make a reservation.