I must admit that I have a conflict of interest.
My job as a food explorer calls for me to search out new, yet unknown, Saigon street food eateries to discover, enjoy their foods (or not), assess their tastes and qualities, and share my findings with Eating Saigon! readers.
Yet, my personal hunger cravings often pull me towards known Saigon street food vendors that I have already confirmed to offer the most excellent street food in Ho Chi Minh City. Such a conflict I must live with :-).
Earlier this week, I took the high road. I resisted going to Hai’s restaurant for lunch to enjoy a guaranteed heavenly lunch treat in his cá kho tộ (fish steak in a spicy caramelized sauce) or bao tử (pork stomach). I resisted taking an easy bus ride to savor my favorite “lunch in the park” treat, gỏi đu đủ (papaya salad).
I decided that day that I would give my all to my job. I decided to take a chance and have lunch at a yet unknown eatery, O Xuân (I suppose such selfless sacrifices are seldom appreciated by others :-)).
O Xuân specialized in food of Huế in the center of Vietnam. Of Vietnam’s three major and distinct cuisine groups, the food from the center of the country is known for its intense flavors, unique textures, and spiciest use of spices.
OK, lunch would be at O Xuân.
OMG! What a remarkable find! Thank you Eating Saigon! readers. The risk paid off! The unknown not only became the known, but it rocketed to near the top of my Top 20 Saigon street food eating adventures. WOW!
Offering a wide array of noodle soups, grilled meat cakes and rice/tapioca flour gummy-bear-textured treats, the food at O Xuân is greatly varied and excellent.
Bún Bò Huế, perhaps the most famous and loved food of central Vietnam, is simply delicious here. Filled with chả lua (ground meat paddies), chả cua (crab loaf), huyết (pigs blood cubes), and pork meat, this noodle soup has a clean, tangy broth flavored with mắm ruốc (Vietnamese fermented shrimp paste) that supports its variety of striking ingredient flavors.
The bánh canh cua nam phố is a rich crab-dominated soup. The rice/tapioca noodles are thick (ala Japanese Udon), the broth rich and mildly spicy with a gentle crab essence, and chả cua (crab loaf) tasty and plentiful. Very nice indeed.
For first time Huế food explorers, I highly recommend the thập cẩm đặc biệt (the special Huế “sampler” platter) here. It’s an excellent and yummy introduction to a variety of classic central Vietnam food treats with very unique textures, including bánh nậm, bánh bẻo and bánh bột lọc (find in photo below) 🙂 .
Finally, don’t miss the nem chua nướng, a grilled ground meat sausage – a bit sour, a bit sweet, a bit spicy, and very very yummy.
No question about it, O Xuân rates a YUM YUM YUM here on Eating Saigon!’s Yum Meter. For under 100,000VND ($5 USD) two folk can enjoy a delicious and filling meal. An absolute “don’t miss” on a Saigon street food eating adventure.
CAUTION concerning location: O Xuân has two storefronts (note the two street addresses below). They are separated by one other storefront in between. O Xuân’s two storefronts share the same great food, menu and kitchen. However, between these two storefronts, a competitor has opened another, seemingly similar, Hue food eatery. A classic Vietnamese “confuse the consumer, rip-off the successful vendor” competitive practice. Be sure to go to one of the two O Xuân storefronts to get the real excellent food!
CLOSED about 10 p.m.
18-20 Nguyễn Hữu Cầu
22A -22B Nguyễn Hữu Cầu
View O Xuân in a larger map