|Colourful dining experience: Bo To Xuan Dao in the rural district of Cu Chi serves veal dishes with creative flair. — VNS Photo Thu Anh
|Traditional fare: Bo To Xuan Dao's steamed veal with green onions is cooked in water until it is as soft as butter.
|Worth waiting for: Bo kho (stewed beef) served with com chay (burned rice), is cooked with traditional Vietnamese items, including crocus flowers, citronella, garlic, pepper and chilli for several hours.
Bo To Xuan Dao
(Xuan Dao VEAL)
Add: 8 Nguyen Giao, Commune 2, Cu Chi Dist, HCM City
Price: from VND30,000 (nearly US$1.4) a dish
Comment: Quality food, especially veal dishes, prepared in a southern style. Reasonable prices.
Melt-in-your-mouth veal dishes lure local and foreign diners to this shady spot in the rural outskirts of HCM City. Thu Anh
reports.Unique among restaurants in HCM City, Bo To Xuan Dao in the rural district of Cu Chi serves veal (bo to) dishes with a creative flair at amazingly low prices.
Although the large, open-air restaurant with trees all around specialises in authentic southern cuisine, it is the veal that is the big drawing card for both locals and foreigners willing to travel to the eatery, 25km from downtown HCM City.
The high-quality meat is taken from five to seven-month-old calves raised in Cu Chi District, said the restaurant's owner, Xuan Dao.
"We choose young cows weighing from 40 to 60kg, so the meat is soft and pliable," he said. "Meat from cows weighing more than 40kg is often friable and less tasty. Our chefs provide diners with true southern cooking."
The restaurant offers 10 veal dishes, priced from VND30,000 (nearly US$1.4) to VND110,000 ($5), often served on a big plate or in a pot for two adults. Hot-pot dishes (lau), which are generally for four people, are served with vegetables.
Besides the veal dishes, the restaurant is also famous for its shrimp and fish offerings, which cost VND100,000 (nearly $5) or more.
Bo To Xuan Dao is so popular that it attracts over 100 diners per day, and triple that figure on holidays.
"Our brandname was built on quality food and very low prices," Dao told me during my first visit to the restaurant.
For real southern cuisine, I usually eat at small restaurants owned by veteran culinary specialists in downtown HCM City, where the service is often poor but the food terrific.
During a recent visit, my friend and I began our dinner with steamed beef with green onions, which cost VND95,000.
The veal is cooked in water until it is as soft as butter, although the skin and thin layer of fat under it are very crisp.
The chef sliced the beef into very thin strips less than 1-2mm and served it hot while still fragrant.
I ate the meat together with a green onion (placed in hot water before eating), some raw vegetables and fish sauce.
The meat rivalled the imported beef I had tasted from Australia or New Zealand.
Our group of three agreed that steamed bo to served at Dao's restaurant was the best beef that we had ever eaten.
Our main dish, bo kho (stewed beef) served with com chay (burned rice), cost VND110,000. It was cooked with traditional Vietnamese items, including crocus flowers, citronella, garlic, pepper and chilli, for several hours.
Bo kho, which is very popular in Viet Nam, can be prepared in the style of the northern, central or southern regions. In some restaurants, French, Japanese or Chinese methods are used to cook the dish.
Although it is a common dish, Bo To Xuan Dao prepares it in a creative way that features sweet, salty, spicy and sour flavours. The burned rice accompaniment makes it even more enjoyable.
Our final dish was a glutinous rice soup (VND60,000) with smoked beef feet and hoof bones, which included mushrooms, green beans, manioc and crocus. All of the ingredients had been cooked together for three hours.
Although I ate it with soy sauce, it was sweetish rather than salty, with unusual but delicious flavours.
The dish was made with inexpenisve, simple materials, but cooked with sophistication.
As for service, Bo To Xuan Dao's waiters materialised immediately with a menu whenever we raised our hand. The food was excellent, but the careful attention to customers was also a pleasant surprise. — VNS