This is Ngoc Bich at 113 Pasteur street, a chao (rice porridge) speciality restaurant. Pig heart, offal, fish, eel and chicken chao to be precise. Passed it many times, never stopped. Today I did. I’m here for the Chao ca. I’ve blogged another, different (southern) version of the dish before. But Ngoc Bich serves the Hanoi version which is quite a different kettle of boiled rice. Ngoc Bich restaurant is Hanoi without the shouting, the floor covered in shit and the wobbly tables. The joint’s decked out in pine for crying out loud, the two TV’s are turned off and the large aquarium to one side of the restaurant doesn’t form part of the menu. So northern dish, soft, frilly, southern surround.
The Chao ca we had previously on Hai Ba Trung street is a stupendous flood of
yum-yum-gobble-gobble-goodness, plate of herbs, bean sauce, chilli. Quite frankly it is an unforgettable dining experience. Ngoc Bich is more… well… the chao your Mum
makes. You like it, ‘cos your Mum made it, but that doesn’t mean Ma wins the rice porridge category at the local woman’s institute year in, year out. Don’t get me wrong. Ngoc Bich’s chao is fab – fresh thin flakes of fish, a chicken rich thick stock, mushy rice, dill, spring onion. It’s a superb dish and done totally authentically northern. Therein lies the problem. Saigonites take the same dish, snazz it up, keep the rice slightly crunchy and stick an unholy herbzip on your sideplate. What’s destined for your gob ends up rocking several worlds, flattening a few universes and punching your gastronomic lights out every single mouthfull. Not convinced? You decide – southern vs. northern. I rest my case.
20,000VD with an iced tea.