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129 Doan Van Bo, Ward 12, District 4, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, 700000
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For the first post of 2022, I’d love to share about my family diner in Vietnam, specialized in “Com Tam” (Vietnamese Broken Rice). The small family business that raised my father, uncle and aunts, now continues to raise my cousins. My grandfather started this diner a pretty long time ago (more than 50 years), and when he passed away, my aunts and uncle continued the business. In my childhood, during the daytime when my mom had to work, my dad usually took me to the diner and picked me up in the evening. So, I saw everyone in the family (myself included as I helped a little bit) super busy preparing for opening time, which was in the afternoon. From boiling and peeling eggs for the Vietnamese caramelized pork belly and eggs (Thịt kho tàu), making stuffed bitter melon soup, making Vietnamese steamed egg meatloaf (Chả trứng hấp); making stuffed tofu and meatballs with tomato sauce,… to marinating and grilling the pork chop, preparing pickles… we did everything ourselves. Back in the old days, we only made basic dishes, the diner just had few tables and opening hours were from afternoon to late night only. Now, everything has improved: various dishes to eat with broken rice (proudly introducing you the fish cakes, a.k.a. Chả cá, super good!), fried lemongrass pork belly (Ba rọi chiên muối sả), Asian-style sausage (Lạp xưởng), Vietnamese-style pickled mustard greens (Dưa cải chua) for customer’s favor,… and more tables for dine-in! Not just that, my family diner is now available on any food delivery apps in Ho Chi Minh City so you’re welcome to place an order anytime from noon till late night!
Back to when I was a kid, only ice tea and soft drinks were served. Now, we have different homemade drinks to go with broken rice, such as herbal ice tea, mung bean milk, soy milk added to the menu. One of my aunts makes the herbal tea, which was not strange to me because she is a good cook. However, to my surprise, those savory soy milk and mung bean milk were made by my uncle because he did not seem to be “good in cooking”… I was so wrong on that point and at the same time, I’m proud of him. He is also the one who cook the broken rice and grill the pork chop for our family’s diner.
When I was still in Vietnam, I usually took my friends there, especially my international friends, because “broken rice” is one of the specialties in Ho Chi Minh City. My family’s diner has become more popular… but not because of my enthusiastic advertisement, haha =)). Because of the development of internet and social network in Vietnam. Local foodie news has also made some posts about it. I’ve read every single post, watch every single video and read all the comments. And for a moment, I felt bad for those negative comments on minor things. But on the bright side, I realized that my family did listen to all the feedback from the customers. There was a comment that we should wear gloves while serving food, my aunt and my cousins appreciated it and followed the suggestion. When I was there to help some nights, I usually heard my aunt asking for comments/feedback from dine-in customers about the food, whether the pickles or the sausages were well-seasoned to their tastes… Then there were comments saying that the grilled pork chops looked burnt and that would be risky to eat… Well, coincidentally the batch in the video did look a little burnt, especially the edges/sides of the pork chops! But they did not know that prior serving, my aunt always trimmed the burn area, and added some more meat to compensate for the burnt meat. Then, she would remind the family members to be more careful when grilling (usually the first batch easily got burnt due to uneven heat from burning coals)! There were also comments on the prices, saying that other places/other towns had cheaper prices… I was like, well… it’s value for money. The pork chop from my family’s diner is relatively thick (~ 1 cm, 0.4 in.) and as big as an adult’s hand; each piece of sweet and salty chicken is also big and bold in taste, full of flavors… The food we cook here we serve to family… that’s my family’s motto and I’m proud of that. I ate there all the time, my dad, my aunts and uncle, my cousins all grew up with the food from the diner. So, it kind of… hurt my pride when I first read those negative comments on minor things… But it was understandable as people have different opinions on the matter, who love us will continue to support us, that’s it. For me, I still chose to write down and clarify all the misunderstanding for those who haven’t been to my family’s diner could have a nice experience there. That they won’t miss a great place of “Broken rice” just because of some one-way negative opinions.
1AM in the US, my stomach kept growling when writing the original Vietnamese version of this post (and even the English post). I still worry for the situation in Vietnam. Hopefully the COVID-19 would finally end and everything would be back to normal. Transportation, business re-open and people could make their livings. If you happen to be in Saigon (or Ho Chi Minh City), don’t forget to stop by my family’s place (Cơm Tấm Mai) and have great experience there!