If you can navigate your way across the street above you’ll find yourself ensconced at Hong Thang Dac Biet Com Ga at 378 Hai Ba Trung street in District 1. Com ga means rice chicken, Dac biet means special, Hong Thang’s the name of the gaffer. But the chicken theme is a bit of a misnomer, this shabby shack also shifts duck, pork, chicken and beef. Each of them of the long cooked, roasted, glazed variety. In true oriental fashion, all carcasses are on show front of house, glistening in standard neon format. There are several other Com ga restaurants on this stretch of Hai Ba Trung street, but for some reason, it’s this spot that has the reputation. If I find out why, I’ll let you know.
Despite the name, it’s the pork or the duck I normally plump for. The thinner the sliver the better in my book, although many Vietnamese customers like their meat lardy. There’s no fanciness involved at Hong Thang, the aluminium trestle tables are out in force, the floors are a bit scummy and the service friendly, but slipshod. All dishes come with a forgettable sidedish of kimchi style veggies and a nuoc mam (fish sauce) meat dipping bowl. The meat is plonked atop a bed of chicken stock flavoured rice, sliced cucumber and spring onion. There’s also a Canh (soup), more of which in a minute.
I buggered up the order and ended up with the thick, fatty pork I didn’t want. Lacking the word for thin slivers of pork sans blubber, I thought "Sod it" and got stuck in. The best part of this style of roasted pork is that layer of crunchy, crispy gristle of the outer rind of the pork. Well splendid, even with any potential cardio vascular crisis attached. Reminds me of Britain’s top pub snack – Pork Scratchings, or the crispy rind, called crackling, from a traditional Sunday Pork Roast only better.
The canh is a big, big Pieman fave. Like all the very best canh in Vietnam it’s stupidly simple. Pork or chicken stock, pondweed, smidgen of minced pork, chopped spring onions and a tad garlic. Not sure what the pondweed’s name is in English (or Vietnamese for that matter) but, it’s so good I regularly collar this veggie down on Ben Thanh market and rustle the same dish up back at Pieman Towers. It’s earthy and perfect with the chicken stock flavoured rice, so long as they go easy with the MSG, which I must say is not a given at Hong Thang. I recommend this spot, but stick to the duck or thinly sliced pork. Just over a buck at 16,000VD a plate, the canh adds 5,000VD to the bill. View the business card and reverse side info.