Vietnamese Street Food: Cơm Tấm - The Best Broken Rice in Saigon
Hidden away down a sidestreet in Saigon’s Phu Nhuan district, Com Tam Ba Ghien is known far and wide for their specialty com tam suon, or a pork chop served over broken rice. About a 20-minute taxi ride out of downtown, eating at this street spot will require you to overlook some grungy conditions, with the reward being some of the finest street food in the city.
The calm before the dinner rush.
Looking from the outside, which in the case of this particular eatery is basically the inside as well, you may mistake Com Tam Ba Ghien for a low-end parking garage. The chain-linked fence and concrete walls are blackened with years of soot, fallout from the restaurant’s double smoke stacked grill. It could certainly use a fresh coat of paint. The rows of metal tables and red plastic stools are the give-away and they are much cleaner than the walls, although you may want to give them a good rub down as the constant flow of customers prevents the small staff from adequately cleaning everything themselves.
I probably wouldn’t have my wedding here.
No, you won’t come here for the sparkling aesthetics; you will come for a plate of their city famous com tam suon — and it may be the best you’ll ever have. Your choice is simple: what would you like added to your chop — nothing, a fried egg, or pate?
So tender you can cut it with a spoon.
Com Tam Ba Ghien’s name loosely translates to reference the three addictions you will develop after you visit. The first is the tender, specially marinated, thick cuts of pork, grilled by seasoned professionals over a large grill. The chop is especially thick and tender compared to what you’ll find elsewhere, which is particularly great news since you have to cut your bites with a spoon. The second is their homemadenuoc mam, or fish sauce. The third is more contested: some say it’s the rice itself, which is cooked with pandan leaves, while others claim it’s the price, which comes in at an even 35,000 VND.
Com Tam Ba Ghien is small and hidden; you have to head out from downtown like you’re going to the airport on Nguyen Van Troi, take a left onto Tran Quang Dieu, a right onto Le Van Sy and finally a right on Dang Van Ngu. Still, its location doesn’t stop the hordes of customers, particularly at around 08:00, 12:00 and 18:00. Even if you hit the rush, it’s still worth fighting for, or sharing, a table.
You’re deep in the outskirts of downtown, but a few other spots are close by if you can’t get in. At the opposite end of Le Van Sy you’ll find Pho Anh, where you can get some of the best pho is Saigon. If you stay on Nguyen Van Troi you’re a short jump from Banh Xeo 46A, where you can enjoy both banh xeo and goi cuon. If you don’t want to partake in street food you’re also near The Fig Cafe, where you pay more but get air-con — and a chair with a back.
Dang Van Ngu, Phu Nhuan District, Ho Chi Minh City T: (08) 3846 1073 Open: Open daily 6:00-22:00