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VIETNAM ATTRACTS A STEADY STREAM OF JAPANESE TOURISTS WHO GO SPECIFICALLY FOR THE FOOD. For example the maki style wrapped Vietnamese spring roll -- Japanese can't get enough of that stuff. Ditto for that wholesome Vietnamese noodle soup. Even for open souls like me, however, Vietnamese food begins to get a bit stale, and we start to hanker for comfort food. Something easy, which nurtures the heart. For me, being an Australian, a lamb rack, or even a well done pizza served with beer, will usually do the trick. For Japanese folk, they will probably go molten after eating a good nabe or plate of hayashi rice. You see, Japanese food is not necessarily all about sushi, sushi, sushi. There is plenty more to it than that. Fried chicken, eel on rice, raw horseflesh or whale. Rotten fish served with rotten tofu (that is the dish they call kusaiya.) Surprised, I said: "what smell? do you mean the smell of strange green fruits known as Sau rieng in Vietnamese. And you can be sure we cracked open those fruits within the next 24 hours, to enjoy the strange and strangely meatlike fruitiness inside.

大明餃子館: 44A Dinh Cong Trang St, Dist. 1. Phone: 820 7312.
This place specialises in gyouza (pork dumplings.) They don't have the boiled dumplings which in mind are the best kind, but they do have every other variation. As a matter of fact, they don't just have pork gyouza, but also seafood gyouza (25,000 Dong). "値段は一皿8個。一つの大きさは小ぶりです。味はまあまあ。日本の餃子を期待すると裏切られますが、まあこんなもんでしょう。豚肉の餃子には肉しか入ってません。その他、海鮮ワンタン:18000ドン、小龍包:30000ドン。タイガービール(小瓶):12000ドン。

赤とんぼ / Akatonbo Restaurant: 38 Hai Ba Trung Street, Dist. 1. Phone: 824 4928. Map: click here.
Luxury Japanese food. The name means "The Red Dragonfly".

A-Un Restaurant: 42 Le Thanh Ton Street, Dist. 1. Phone: 829 3635.
Luxury Japanese food.

居食屋どん / Don: 80 Bis Ly Tu Street, Dist. 1. Phone: 822 0495. Map: click here.
Under the management of a Japanese national is this izakaya style establishment. The lunch set comprises six champions of Japanese cuisine, being 餃子 (gyouza), 鳥の唐揚げ (grilled chicken), 寿司 (sushi), 刺身 (sashimi), とんかつ (tonkatsu), and 天ぷら (tempura), which altogether cost only US$5. At nights a wider range of fare is available, including that quintessential Nipponese comfort food, おでん (oden). The restaurant opened in late 2007.

Fuji Restaurant: 188 Nam Ky Khoi Nghia Street, Dist. 3. Phone: 930 3110.
The house speciality here is beef barbeque, a pooular Japanese dish.

Hanayuki Restaurant: 74/1A Hai Ba Trung Street, Dist. 1. Phone: 824 2754.
Mid-range Japanese restaurant.

Kampachi: 242 Tran Binh Trong Street, Dist. 5. Phone: 839 7777.
Luxury Japanese restaurant.

Le Meo Sushi Restaurant: 28B Ngo Van Nam Street, Ben Thanh Ward, Dist. 1. Phone: 823 3714.
This place, which opened in 2008 according to this Japanese registry of new kaiten sushi joints in Saigon, is owned by a Vietnam born Norwegian. A sushi set costs from US$5 to US$9, maki tempura is US$3 to US$6 for six pieces. If you want take-out, the tempura bentou and fried chicken bentou will cost you US$2.20.

奥座敷 / Number 1 Japan Ramen Okuzashiki: 8A/5D2 Thai Van Lung St, Dist. 1.
This is a place where you can eat Japanese style ramen noodle soup from 30,000 Dong a bowl. Some of the kinds of ramen here include pig bone noodle soup, onion noodle soup, etc. There are also gyouza (Japanese style pork dumplings) on offer. A medium sized mug of beer will set you back 15,000 Dong, which is about a dollar or 100 Yen (you have to love the cheap beer in Vietnam!)

漁 / Ryo: 18 Nguyen Hue St, Dist. 1. Phone: 824 83544.
Writes one reviewer: "ホーチミン市の中心Nguyen Hue通りに高級日本食レストランができました。ランチメニューは、鮨セットは松が15USD、竹が10USD。その他ランチ定食は12〜7USDとなっています。警備のお兄さんからもらったパンフレットには、ステーキやシーフード、チキンを目の前で準備してくれるテーブル席、日本の座敷、伝統的なダイニングルーム、スシバーなどを選べるそうです。"
In other words, this is a high class Japanese restaurant in the heart of Nguyen Hue St. Like many Japanese restaurants, this place uses tree names to categorise its set dishes. For example, If you go for the pine lunch set, it will set you back $15 American, while the bamboo lunch set is cheaper at $10.

Saigon Sakura: 100 Nguyen Du Street, Dist. 1. Phone: 822 2356.
Writes Vietnam Life and Stuff from Japan, apparently dedicated (if my Japanese comprehension skills are okay) with the opening and closing of places in Ho Chi Minh City: "ベトナム人経営の大型日本食レストランが4月にオープンしていました。店が広くて、明るいです(経営者の持ち家だそうです)。ランチは御飯もので7〜10USD(すき焼御膳:8USD、エビフライ御膳:7USDなど)、すし御膳は8USD、そば・うどんセットは5USD〜。これに、サービス5%、TAX10%が加算されるので、他の日本食レストランよりランチは割高です。タイガービールは2USDでした。夕食メニューは未確認。お昼の会席料理も3コースありましたので、ビジネスランチには良いかもしれません。"
You can find a lot of Japanese comfort food at this establishment, which opened in July 2008, for example: ebi furai (fried prawns) for US$7, sushi for US$8, and a soba and udon set which costs US$5.

すしいちばん / Mr Sushi: 93 Hai Ba Trung Street, Dist. 1.
Here is another sushi place you can try. This place appears to be under Japanese and Korean ownership. The sushi is cheap, the restaurant interior clean and the taste about usual (not so good, not so bad, at least in the opinion of this site.)

The Sushi Bar: 2 Le Thanh Ton Street, Dist. 1. Phone: 823 8042.
A delicious range of 45 types of sushi available here.

Picture copyright Chaocom Real EstateThe Sushi Bar: Zen Plaza, 54-56 Nguyen Trai Street, District 1. Phone: 823 4910.
Zen Plaza is a 14-storey tower in the heart of Saigon consisting of an 8-storey shopping complex, five floors for offices and a penthouse for events. Hit Chaocom if you are interested in hiring some of that office space. You will also be able to see floorplans and a price list. The building itself is something of a landmark with its distinctive black and white facade, and is a popular meeting place. I myself was due to meet Jennette, a local Chinese lass, outside the front of Zen during my visit back in March 2007, but the venue was changed to Ben Thanh Market. True to the Japanese sounding origin of the tower's name, on the 7th floor of the Zen Plaza you will find the Sushi Bar, whose motto is "not only tasty but funny". In fact, this whole building is like a little chunk of Japan dropped into the heart of Vietnam, and thriving in its new environment.

Sushi Shop Restaurant: Dong Khoi Street, Dist. 1.
Fancy cheese, caviar and cucumber in your sushi -- yes, it can be done! Fish and cheese is not necessarily a mismatch, as I discovered, once I moved to Japan. Wrote Vietnam Tourism, in June 2007: "Sushi, one of the most popular Japanese dishes outside Japan, has carefully retained its traditional flavor when traveling around the world. However, visitors coming to the newly opened Sushi Shop Restaurant on Dong Khoi St, Dist 1, HCMC might be surprised when tasting sushi mixed with flavors of the West.
"The owner of the restaurant, Nguyen Phan Quan, who studied culinary arts in the Canadian cities of Montreal and Quebec for ten years, explained this Western flavor blending in the sushi dishes.
"He said that he was studying how to enrich the flavors of sushi and realized that favorite Western flavors such as cheese, caviar and cucumber could be added to the dishes to create new flavors both traditional and modern.
"The creative cooking of Sushi Shop has excited customers. Mai Kieu Lien, a diner at the restaurant said: 'The sushi dishes I have eaten in other restaurants usually have one to two kinds of filling, but in this restaurant each of the sushi dishes has four to five kinds.
"'Another difference between the traditional sushi dishes and those in the restaurant is that Sushi Shop use less raw food and more cooked food and the flavors of the sauces here are fuller and stronger,' Lien remarked.
"Sushi Shop has about 60 main dishes and 30 side dishes, of which most break the rules of presentation and flavors. Two of the strongly westernized dishes are Sushi California and Sushi Pizza.
"While Sushi Pizza surprises with the skin of fried egg and a stuffing of crab, shrimp and fried rice, Sushi California excites diners with the fragrance of fried egg, the salty and sour taste of cucumber and the flavor of caviar and butter.
"Though the sushi dishes in the restaurant are not traditionally flavored, Japanese diners and expatriates come here in large numbers. Many of them say that they like the dishes because they excite their palates with exotic tastes, while others are won over by the delicious sauces..."

Umi: 3 Le Thanh Ton St., District 1. Phone: 08- 822. 4552/ 0908 834 310.
This restaurant is located right in the middle of the Japanese quarter of Ho Chi Minh City, which is also one of the most popular foodie hangouts. As Anan-Vietnam reported: "Together with the outstanding experience and workmanship of its head chef, Mr. Takamura, the sushi bar in the ground floor is normally headful. Step up to the first floor, a totally Japanese styled interior, harmonized in green & nature, provides a particular ambience to meet edible and relaxation requirement.
"The second floor, setting up in 3 VIP rooms, aims to gather faces from family or leisure group. The top floor, seperated in 2 spacious VIP rooms, in Japanese TATAMI designed, is always occupied by private or business used party from 40 to 50 seats. However, to be able to ensure your request is available, usually an advance reservation is suggested.
"Besides the well set-up capacity, the menu is a real THUMB UP to most of its customers. Sashimi, Sushi, Japanese Hot Pot, KOBE beef as well as the traditional stone grill, is a good deal. Also, by visiting Umi, people can possibly the depth of the Japanese culinary culture and enjoyment. "

Scenes on television and film of Korean actors cooking their native dishes have whetted the appetite of Viet Nam's biggest movie-going group, university students. One of the best places in the city to sample the cuisine is Seoul House..."

Han Quoc Restaurant: 5-15 Ho Huan Nghiep St., District 1; tel: (08) 8237381.
As the owners claim: "Located right in the city center, Han Quoc restaurant is a big, luxurious one. We are very pleased to bring you our menu with many kinds of dishes like Korean food or fresh seafood. More importantly, ingredient is imported directly from Korea."

Bình Quới Resort Village, a government-owned company, came into existence in 1994 under the laws of Vietnamese Government and is affiliated to Sàigòn Tourist Holding Company (SaigonTourist) Name of the Company : LÀNG DU LỊCH BÌNH QUỚI Name in English : BÌNH QUỚI TOURIST VILLAGE Head office: 1147 Bình Quới St., Ward 28, Bình Thạnh District, HoChiMinh City Phone: (848) 5566020 – 5566021 - 5566057 Fax: (848) 5566058 E-mail: Website: Affiliates: -Inns -Bamboo Restaurant Wrote Love Paradise: "I and my darling took motobike to get there on a Sunday afternoon (~30min from HCMC center). I'd been there several times, but he'd never. He seemed doubted in what I said about BQ. But when he entered it, his eyes were caught by the beautiful landscapes, one after another, such as the green grass field, the waterfall, and so on. The heavy rain that day couldnot stop us enjoying the VNese southern traditional food buffet. You may stuff your stomach with plenty of things, but still like to eat more.hihi. My darling really likes the place, asking me to bring him there once again someday. And so I'm happy."

In Southeast Asia, there is a popular folk tale about a gourd with many seeds, the seeds representing the rebirth of humankind after the Deluge. And Vietnamese pay homage to their ancestors by placing a tray of five fruits on an altar: pomegranates, pears, peaches, plums and finger citrons, though people often choose other foods according to the season, or the region in which they live. The particular varieties of fruit are less important than the beautiful appearance of the fruit tray, with its harmonious colors and balanced presentation. Nowadays, a bundle of green bananas is also a must. Like the Horn of Plenty, the tray of five traditional fruits symbolizes the wish for abundance. It is also the emblem of the five elements of Asian cosmology: water, earth, wood, metal and fire.

"From the time they are small, Vietnamese children come to associate three fruits with particular stories: the thi (Vietnamese persimmon), the watermelon and the starfruit.

" An old woman, seeing the gorgeous fruit, takes it home, not to eat, but to cherish as a prized possession. Tấm is reborn from the fruit and becomes the woman's adopted daughter, after which she is reunited with her husband the King.

"The succulent star fruit (carambola) with five sections, can be served raw in salad, or cooked in soup. It is also served as a dessert. There are two types of star fruit: the sweet and the sour, both kinds grown in out-of-the-way garden corners or by the ponds. There is a folk tale about the star fruit tree. Two brothers, when coming into their inheritance, received unequal portions. As was the custom, the elder brother took the majority, but contrary to custom, the elder brother failed to provide for his sibling, leaving his younger brother only a shabby cottage and a star fruit tree.

"One day a phoenix came to eat the fruit of the young man's tree, but made a promise, as follows: "For every fruit I eat, I will return you a bar of gold. You must sew a bag three spans wide to hold the gold you will receive." The young man followed the instructions of the mysterious phoenix and that very night was taken to an island in the middle of the sea to collect his gold.

But when he got to his island, he was so greedy he filled up his bag with so much gold that after flying a short way, the phoenix could carry him no longer and had to drop him into the sea, where he sank still clutching his treasure..."

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