Tag Archives: Vietnamese

Dish That I Crave: The White Cabbage Salad of NamNam

NamNam is probably the best representative of Vietnamese cuisine in Jakarta so far. It is rustic and refined at the same time. The food appears delicate but also hearty and fulfilling.

This time, it’s not about Chef Nam’s magical pho or banh mi, but about one of its appetizers other than the spring rolls or chicken wings. It’s the white cabbage salad!

Of course the main characteristics of Indochinese cuisine appear here. The freshness from the lemon, the fish sauce, and the crunchiness that came from the peanuts do exist here. To add more fun, there’s also the grilled chicken and the fishcakes. Best served with the crackers but it is already good as it is alone.

Next time, let’s give it a try on something else!

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NAMNAM NOODLE BAR
Halal-friendly
Some dishes are suitable for vegetarians

Address:

  • Plaza Indonesia, Basement Floor, Jakarta – Indonesia
  • Ruko Crown Golf Blok D no. 21-23, Pantai Indah Kapuk, Jakarta – Indonesia

Opening hours: Daily, mall opening hours

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Foodies Lists: NamNam Noodle Bar (The Foodie Magazine, Jul 2015)

Vietnamese cuisine is on the rise again. After we have reached the familiar terrain with Vietnamese street food for several years now, it is high time for someone to up the ante. Chef Nam Quoc Nguyen quickly rose to the occasion by accepting the challenge with the opening of NamNam Noodle Bar in Jakarta.

When NamNam Noodle Bar was introduced for the first time in 2012, Chef Nam Quoc Nguyen and the restaurant quickly became the idol of Singaporean crowds. By introducing the trendier version of Hanoi-style pho and banh mi, the chef has set up a new standard for Vietnamese cuisine in Southeast Asia.

The year of 2015 is the time for Indonesia. NamNam Noodle Bar initiated its conquest with a beautiful outlet in Pantai Indah Kapuk and now in Plaza Indonesia. The Foodie Magazine wastes no time to meet the man himself and asks him about the visionary breakthrough in Vietnamese cuisine that he brought with NamNam.

Chef Nam remembers his roots very well. From the cuisine, you can sense the authenticity of the flavors and the reason for choosing Hanoi-style pho instead of the rich-in-herbs Saigonese style was quite apparent. He’s a traditionalist as well as an open-minded chef who learns the way of the market.

“With NamNam, I wanted to introduce Vietnamese street food in upper class establishments. That’s why it has to be both soulful and also playful”, he says. He emphasizes also the need to adapt and understand the taste bud of Indonesian people.

“That’s why I personally oversaw the creation of our own bakso and sambal. I know Indonesians love stronger flavor and that’s why we are putting the effort to make our dishes memorable for the crowd here”, explains the chef. He’s also noting that their commitment of not using any MSG at all proved to be challenging at first and NamNam successfully created the desirable result in the end.

While originality is the backbone of NamNam Noodle Bar, Chef Nam also prepared many months ahead to plant the seeds and stems of Vietnamese native herbs as the authentic addition to the traditional pho. For dry spices and sauces, he imported directly from Vietnam in large containers.

In addition to that, he likes to take advantage of the freshest ingredients available in the market. “Our kampong chicken pho has a complete offering from soft boiled egg, sliced chicken, gizzard, and also the immature egg”, says Chef Nam. “For the banh mi, I even created a version using catfish. Usually in Vietnam, people are only using canned fish”, he adds by saying that he might even be using lamb in the future for the menu.

Thanks to bountiful availability of ingredients and the diversity of flavor in Indonesia, Chef Nam happily put more effort in devising more dishes for NamNam here.

“From learning how to make a good bakso from a 75-years-old man who has been selling meatballs for 60 years, creating a fiery sambal that suits the Indonesian taste buds, and also making the best out of so many quality ingredients available here; I am confident that we will open more NamNam in Jakarta soon”, says the chef surely. The crowd hit NamNam non-stop as we’re speaking.

NamNam Noodle Bar presents not only the rich selections in pho and banh mi, Chef Nam also adds more color from the appetizers, dry noodles, desserts, and also good old Vietnamese coffee. With his professional background as chef and proven restaurateur, Chef Nam is currently readying himself to challenge the world with his proud and creative take in Vietnamese food.

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NAMNAM NOODLE BAR
Halal-friendly
Some dishes are suitable for vegetarians

Address:

  • Plaza Indonesia, Basement Floor, Jakarta – Indonesia
  • Ruko Crown Golf Blok D no. 21-23, Pantai Indah Kapuk, Jakarta – Indonesia

Opening hours: Daily, mall opening hours

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Featured in THE FOODIE MAGAZINE July 2015 edition

Download it for free here via SCOOP!

Photography by Dennie Ramon

QuikSkoop™: Phở 2000

The first two days of my visit to Vietnam was marked by my personal ambition to have as many phở as I can. On the first day which probably going to be my next post, was Phở 24. Second day, we went to this ‘legendary’ place called Phở 2000.

The crews with the ex-president, if you can see him there. ^^

Why’s that? Bill Clinton used to visit this chain restaurant. So Phở 2000 now boasts itself even as far as Indonesia about this. I decided to give it a try to see how far they really go for this honor. We found an outlet just beside Ben Thanh Market just across the street. You’ll see it easily even from the park. Just look for ‘PHO FOR THE PRESIDENT’. They really took some pride in that.

Anyway, once inside, the place was surprisingly modest. Almost like many noodleshop you see in Hong Kong movies but it’s clean and feels like the best environment to eat noodles. Haha.. The menu was quite different with Phở 24 by the way. Instead of serving broken rice, they serve many other rice dishes as well plus the spring rolls. I wouldn’t bother for now anyway since it’s the phở that actually matters.

The good thing here is that you gonna find 2 size for the phở. Of course I wanted the big portion which only costs around VND 45,000 and around VND 35,000 for the small one. So the price range are between those two for other variants. We picked both Phở Beef and Phở Seafood. Again I forgot the exact name.

Beef Phở

When they came, it was a surprise. The size of the bowl was quite amazing! You gonna need to see it by yourself but it’s much wider than my own chubby face. Haha.. I, who happened to have the beef noodle, experienced a bit disappointment since I thought that it’s gonna be better than the one I had in Phở 24. The broth was unexpectedly not too succulent and the exterior seemed like a bowl of ramen with only beef cuts. Though we did receive the extra bean sprouts and culantro but we didn’t get the onions and the chilis. It’s okay actually, but the bean sprouts were a must and luckily they provided it for us.

On the other hand, the seafood noodle was much much better and I gotta recommend this. The broth was not clear, it’s more like tom yum and was quite strong in taste. Not to mention that they added scallions, tomatoes, and the routine seafood creatures. Add bean sprouts on it and squeezed lime for stronger combination and next, it’s heavenly.

Seafood Phở

So many people say that Phở 2000 serves the best phở and I have to agree with that. Perhaps not for the beef noodle but the seafood one and also perhaps because Phở 24 is more like a chain restaurant which as much as you would agree that KFC has the best fried chicken but still people will rule out chain restaurants in talks about what they will have for lunch or dinner in a not so casual occasion. Well, Phở 2000 is a very casual place but since they’re a family run business which they say not focusing themselves to open branches in franchise manner *correct me if I’m wrong*, but it feels to me as a family place to stop by for a hearty dish of big bowl of, again, seafood phở. ^^

LOCATION:

Several places in Saigon, but the one I visited was just beside Ben Thanh Market. You’ll find it easy from the square or the park. They also open in Senayan City Mall, Jakarta, Indonesia. Yippie! ^^/

Restaurant Review: Stella

So if you’re staying around the traveler’s den in the Pham Ngu Lao vicinity and sometimes you gotta face the reality that you’re craving for familiar looking food and if that’s Italian, then come around this street, Bui Vien St.. Just turn right from De Tham St. if you’re coming from Pham Ngu Lao St. direction.

At first, we were looking for a salvation from a humid night and this place looks nice and it’s air conditioned, also equipped with brags like ‘Best Coffee in Town’ and ‘”Stylish and Zen-like”, said Lonely Planet’. Though it’s not great as it was said, but feels comfy nonetheless once inside. If I compare it personally with cafes in Indonesia, Stella’s definitely lacking in sense of architectural and interior, but for the cleanliness, I have give up my thumbs for that. Also they provide Wifi connection as well as other hotels and cafes around the vicinity. By the way, that’s one of the reasons why I love Vietnam because I didn’t feel that far from home so I can communicate easily with everybody back home. And as for Stella to provide me that, it’s a blessing indeed!

As for the menu, you will see extensive Italian with a very considerate price. Starting from the antipasti, pizza, risotto, pasta, burgers, and even Vietnamese dishes all fit in the menu. Since it’s focusing for Italian dishes, best to just pick that only. As for the coffee, you’ll see the regular things there. It’s unfortunate, however, that the waitresses have difficulties in English, so be sure to just point and remind them if they’re forgetting something. A friend of mine had to wait longer than the serving time of my risotto dish only for a Lipton iced lemon tea. Risotto normally served around 20 minutes.

We visited the place twice by the way and that night was our first of course. We had our dinner earlier and looking for a nice place to sip a cold coffee or any other cold drinks. I had myself a Cafe Cannella (VND 45,000). It’s an iced double espresso with cinnamon syrup, vanilla, milk, and cream. Sounds good right? But it’s not. I suppose it’s because the nature of Vietnamese coffee. The acidity is low yet the bitterness is not that high also which actually fits in if you blend it with fresh milk or condensed milk but if you work it Italian way, that’s probably a bit too much if you’re not a specialized barista.

Shots of liquors and wine in glass are also quite cheap if you compare it with Indonesia. Indonesia only unrestrict itself in Bali while the rest of the country seem to enforce heavy taxation for certain commodities like these. For instance, a bottle of Chivas Regal in Tan Son Nhat Airport duty free shop costs only US$ 32, while in Indonesia it may cost more than US$ 100. In Vietnam or in this case Saigon, where foreign travelers are everywhere to be seen and most of them are expecting cheap price for everything especially in third world countries. So there it is, Saigon offers cheap price for liquors and that’s just great for any drinkers. You can get as low as VND 5,000 to VND 10,000 anywhere in this city!

My friends, by the way, ordered 2 glasses of wine, one shot of tequila, and a bottle of local pride, Saigon beer. A bit hungry, we also ordered a large size pizza for everybody. Since we can’t eat pork and the assumption that all bacon and ham were made out of pork in Vietnam, so I picked the safest for us and that’s the Large Size Gorgonzola Pizza (VND 109,000). The ingredients are very simple. Only tomato sauce with olive oil and topped with one of my beloveds, Gorgonzola cheese. Can be either made of cow’s milk or goat’s milk. I’d rather presumed it was made out of goat so it become more exotic for our tongues.

Large Size Gorgonzola Pizza

A friend of mine was quite surprised but since the pizza was so firm, salty, and tasty, we didn’t mind at all! It was just great though I actually question the consistency since a few days later it was not that good anymore. That also applies for the Vietnamese dish my friend had, Sauteed Beef with capsicum & broccoli (VND 69,000). Even so the other 2 dishes my other friends had, Seafood Noodle Soup (VND 69,000) and an Italian dish, Spaghetti Pescatore (VND 109,000) made out of assorted fresh seafood, garlic, white wine, chili, and Napoli sauce, which they claimed good. I didn’t taste it myself so it’s a risk but I can vouch for the Italian even though for the inconsistency.

As for me, after waiting for more than 20 minutes as I watch my friends finished their dishes, mine’s at last came. Risotto Asparagi (VND 99,000) that consists of Arborio rice with asparagus and parmesan cheese. Very succulent, cheesy, and comes with a large portion. Perhaps the composition may be too little, so next may want to try the more meaty risotto.

Risotto Asparagi

So despite of the inconsistency which I found tolerable, Stella is still worth the visit. A good place to cool down from the heat, provide more than just a mediocre Italian, and average coffee with a quite cheap price. Well, that sounds harsh, but truly, I kinda like the place and perhaps it’s because that I miss Vietnam a lot these days..

The Judgment (based on scale of 10 score plus the comments):

1. PRICE (7/10)

Price range from VND 50,000 to VND 100,000 which you may found quite cheap, but definitely not the place for locals.

2. INTERIOR (6/10)

Feels like an American diner joint, but I like the seats outside in the direction of the street. Provide Wifi and a good place to respite from the heat but definitely not that Zen-like like what Lonely Planet said.

3. SERVICE (6/10)

Hindered with language difficulty where other cafes around already employed people with better English. A prominent place like Stella should improve in this but nonetheless, the waitresses were helpful.

4. TASTE (5.5/10)

Good Italians, not really consistent but still worth the visit. Best not to try the Vietnamese though.

5. OVERALL (6.125/10)

Additional Information:

Address : 121 Bui Vien St., District 1, Ho Chi Minh City

Website : http://stellacaffe.com/ (see the menu here as well)

QuikSkoop™: Quán Cơm Kiều

I had this one trip the last time I went to Vietnam. It was my first time and it was marvelous. Don’t forget to visit my travel blogs, http://daytripswashbuckler.wordpress.com and http://travelpod.com/pokamamil from time to time. It’s a tough job managing travel and food at the same time though. Hoho..

Anyway, I was on my way return from Cao Dai Temple for Cu Chi Tunnels and it was around noon, the time when stomaches growl. Not to worry though, the travel agent has kindly reserved us all tourists, somewhere between those two places, still on the northwestern highway and amongst countless Vietnamese local coffee shops or restaurants with boards written the word ‘Cơm‘ or ‘rice’, we found ourselves stopping outside a humble, but clean and nice place called Quán Cơm Kiều.

Squid Cooked with Onion/Cauliflower and Steamed Rice

The place was quite spacious and can contain the whole bus full of tourist plus also their regular customers. The menu? You might wonder what Vietnamese eats beside their cơm tấm (broken rice) or phở (beef and noodle soup) right? Well, their cuisine can be somehow similar with Chinese food. For instance, I ate Squid Cooked with Onion/Cauliflower and Steamed Rice (VND 40,000) and it looks quite similar with Chinese stir fry dishes, but they do serve more veggies and they even put stir fried veggies on the rice too. It was quite good. Not as tasty as it would be in Indonesia but clearly better than several other countries I had visited before.

 

Fried Flour Prawns

My friends had different dishes. Those were Fried Rice with Egg Fried Vegetables (VND 30,000), Fried Flour Prawns (VND 40,000), and Fried Fish with Steamed Rice (VND 35,000). The prawns were great though it’s only like battered prawns, chili sauce, and rice only which I found not enough since I always need balance nutritions in my dish and that would be the veggies. The fish was awful though. It’s a bit smelly and bland. The fried rice however, was better but still bland though the egg covers most of the plate and it seemed very inviting once you dig in.

Fried Rice with Egg Fried Vegetables

The price scale was strictly in between VND 35,000-VND 40,000 for the foods. Add that with the always good cà phê sữa đá or Vietnamese iced coffee with milk. So it’s not gonna be far from VND 50,000 for everything and that’s very cheap for a hearty Vietnamese dish with a refreshing beverage after a hot long day traveling in the countryside.

Cà phê sữa đá

So whenever you’re around the route to Cambodia, be sure to seek this place out. Happy traveling! ^^

LOCATION:

Northwestern highway from Saigon. Haven’t pinpointed it yet. Wait up fellas. ^^v