Rice porridge offers a prime example of Saigon’s delectable mix of culinary traditions.
The dish may sound like a simple, even boring proposition. In fact, it’s served with dozens of sides from throughout the country and up into China.
In this way, diners get to choose their own adventure.
Fans of traditional central flavors will no doubt opt for salted fish and shrimp simmered dry or pork braised with pepper.
Chinese-Vietnamese traditionally opt for pickled roots and greens that have been dried and fermented with salt, sugar, rice wine, chili, garlic, and sliced ginger.
Regardless of where you’re from, you can’t go wrong with a savory salted duck egg.
Truly adventurous eaters will opt for ba khia, a kind of crab native to the Mekong Delta that’s literally salted to death.
Those in search of a genuine porridge experience should head to the unnamed stall in front of house No. 211 on Hai Thuong Lan Ong Street in District 5 (opposite to Ong Bon Pagoda).
The owner proudly boasted of his unrivaled selection of side dishes – 52, all told, including vegetarian options.
A bowl of rice porridge here costs only VND5,000 (23 US cents); side dishes range from VND7,000 (33 cents) to VND15,000 (70 cents), much cheaper than most porridge spots in the city.
The shop stays open from 6 p.m. to 2-3 a.m. every day. It remains a favorite place for those who usually wander around the Chinatown seeking a taste of the Saigon nightlife.