The ramshackle rear end of the Central mosque at 66 Dong Du street in District 1 is home to Saigon’s hottest halal diner. There’s an eclectic clientelle. On any given day you’ll find Malaysian expats sidling up next backpackers in birkenstocks, Japanese tourists, a sprinkling of Vietnamese, the odd infidel and a couple of cats. They’re all here for one thing, no-nonsense curry. The ‘Mosque Restaurant’, as it is known, is a fuss-free open air tables and chairs affair more soup kitchen chic than classy curry house.
There are seven curry dishes; including squid, fish, crab, mutton, vegetable and chicken numbers. There’s also fried chicken on offer. Your mosque meat comes with turmeric tossed mixed rice, a roti (kind of bread) and a plate of bananas. There’s no messing around here, all dishes are delivered to your table immediately. First up is the crab curry pictured above. Not strictly a ‘mange tout’ crab, I scoffed the lot anyhow. I find neanderthal pleasure in the denture destroying cracks of crab shell. The curry itself, as with all curries I have tried here, is reasonably flavour full, but mild, in a Malaysian manner, and quite greasy.
The chicken curry didn’t work quite so well as the moorish crab. The poultry was bit chewy and, to my tastes at least, slightly synthetic. On previous occasions I have had the squid curry, but that also ventured deep into chew territory. The one below was the winner on the day – okra and tomato curry. In fact it was so good, we ordered another one. The mild curry sauce was as near as makes no difference the same as all the other curries we tried. I doubt there is any variation in the spicings and seasonings of the different curries on offer, but I’ll be back to check if the chilies lurk elsewhere on another visit.
OK – so you’re probably not gonna find the best curry this side of Karachi within these walls, but the ‘Mosque Restaurant’ is a peaceful pitstop for munchies from the Malaysian peninsular. It’s also cheap. Curries go for between 5,000VD and 35,000VD a nod. Lunch for two with four curry plates, rice, bread, iced tea and napkins came to a slim 92,000VD.