A new restaurant in HCM City serves the spicier cuisine of the central region in a simple, country-house setting
Bánh canh bột gạo Kim Liên (thick rice noodle with steamed fish cake and crispy fish cake) is a must try at the restaurant. VNS photo Minh Phi.
Cô Chín Xứ Quảng, a new Vietnamese restaurant, has opened its doors in HCM City’s District 5 to offer traditional flavours of central Việt Nam, despite challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Chín means "Ninth", and Cô means "Aunt", which is used in the centre and the south of Việt Nam to denote a father’s younger or older sister. Xứ Quảng or Quảng region consists of two central coastal provinces of Việt Nam -- Quảng Nam and Quảng Ngãi.
Since traditional Vietnamese cuisine is typically associated with rural images, the restaurant is decorated like a typical house in a small central town celebrating simplicity and the spirit of people in central Việt Nam.
Mì Quảng tôm thịt (Quảng noodle with pork and shrimps) is a standout signature dish at Cô Chín Xứ Quảng. VNS photo MinhPhi
By offering a tempting selection of traditional Quảng delights, the owner of the restaurant, who is also of Quảng origin, wants to share with guests her cooking story and her love of her homeland. She has a great passion for local foods and wants to offer the best flavours of the central land in her HCM City restaurant.
With very simple interior and nice rural images, Cô Chín Xứ Quảng will impress guests. Everything is set up very nicely, and the space is tidy and clean, from the open kitchen to its cooking equipment, and from the tables to chairs. All of the furniture is simple in design, but a modern twist comes from the artistic lighting system.
The restaurant is decorated with lovely images like old streets in ancient Hội An town with a peddler carrying food in two bamboo baskets with a shoulder pole.
Cô Chín Xứ Quảng – a nice and lovely place where lovers of Quảng style food can find their favourite dishes. VNS photo MinhPhi.
“Our boss lady would like everything here to be perfect and fine, from its decoration and settings to its food and service, so all diners can find peace and pleasure,” said a waiter.
To keep the true taste and flavour of its food, key ingredients including fresh herbs are brought from the Quảng region.
The menu features popular favourites and signatures of the central region for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Among Quảng style delicacies are mì Quảng (noodle soup with pork, chicken, shrimps and fresh herbs), bánh canh bột gạo Kim Liên (thick rice noodle soup with steamed fish cake, crispy fish cake and fresh herbs), cao lầu (Hội An style noodle with shrimp, pork and fresh herbs), bánh bèo chén (steamed rice cake served in small bowl with shrimp and fish sauce) and cơm gà Hội An (Hội An style chicken rice).
Those who love bún mắm nêm Đà Nẵng (vermicelli with pork belly, tinny fish paste and fresh herbs, Đà Nẵng style) can also find their favourite at Cô Chín Xứ Quảng.
At dinner, my son ordered mì Quảng tôm thịt (VNĐ72,000), a standout of the restaurant, and my daughter decided to try bánh bèo chén (VNĐ60,000), while I chose bánh canh bột gạo Kim Liên (VNĐ69,000), the pride of the owner.
While waiting for the food, my 10-year old twins went outside to take photos of the beautiful corners and the wall of the restaurant with nice pictures. They returned just as the food was being served.
“My noodle dish is better than others I have tried. Its broth is special and tasty,” my son told me after taking a few bites. A typical dish of Quảng cuisine, it has an intense flavour but once you try it, you want more.
He finished the entire big bowl and shared the steamed rice cakes with my daughter.
My son and I each tried a cake with homemade spicy fish sauce. It was less smooth than those in the Mekong Delta.
“I would prefer the cake if the dipping sauce and the shrimp were not spicy and not so salty,” my daughter told us.
Foods from the Quảng origin are more intense and spicy compared to dishes from other parts of the country. My thick noodle soup was not an exception. Though I loved it, especially the broth, I would make it less salty if I cooked it at home.
Its fish cake was flavourful and the broth was tasty thanks to fresh seafood. With some lemon juice and fresh herbs and red chilli, the soup was especially tasty.
After two big bowls of mì Quảng and bánh canh, and a tray of bánh bèo, we were almost full but my twins still wanted to sample some desserts which are specialties of Xứ Quảng.
The dessert menu is somewhat limited, but the choices are some of the most popular in Quảng cuisine. On the list were chè (sweet soup) and traditional sweet cakes, nearly all served with condensed coconut milk, a typical flavour of desserts in the cooking of central and southern people.
The favourites include chè đậu xanh đánh (sweet mashed mung bean with ice), chè hạt sen (lotus seed soup), chè bắp (sweet corn soup), bánh chuối hấp (steamed banana cake) and đậu hủ nước cốt dừa (soya curd with ginger syrup and coconut milk).
Though đậu hủ nước cốt dừa is one of the restaurant’s bestsellers, I sampled đậu xanh đánh (VNĐ30,000), my favourite snack when I was a child.
The treat was delicious. The mashed mung bean, served with condensed coconut milk, was pleasantly fragrant and not as sweet as others I have tried. It’s a dish not to be missed.
As they are fans of sweet cakes, my kids chose baked mung bean cakes, a popular dessert of Hội An (VNĐ50,000) and steamed banana cake (VNĐ30,000), postponing other favourite specialties of central Việt Nam like corn sweet soup and mung bean sweet soup for our next visit. – VNS.
Cô Chín Xứ Quảng Restaurant
Add: 382-384 An Dương Vương Street, District 5, HCM City
Hours: 6am – 2pm & 4pm – 9pm daily
Comment: Authentic Quảng style cuisine, nice restaurant with simple and lovely design, friendly service and affordable prices