Amidst all the many street food heavens we stumbled upon during our trip to Vietnam, there were many intriguing cafes and eateries—ones that actually had proper service and air-conditioning—that truly impressed us. Mâm Bac was one such eatery.
Specialising in a variety of Vietnamese dishes from the classic pho, grilled meat dishes to some pretty exotic items as well, Mâm Bac is a 2-storey eatery in Ho Chi Minh’s District 1 that is worth visiting for a pleasant introduction to local flavours in a modern and comfortable setting.
Looking rather shabby and underwhelming from the outside, this eatery leaves much to be desired in terms of aesthetics. But venture inside and you’ll find that it boasts 2 levels of seating areas.
The first level is humid and filled with the sounds of chatter and passing motorised vehicles whereas the top level is air-conditioned and serene, comparable to a cafe.
Seeing as to how amazing beef pho—or pho bo, as it’s called in Vietnam—is on the streets, we decided to give their version a go too.
Their Beef Noodle Soup (VND59,000 for small, VND75,000 for large) was simple tasting with a rather generous amount of freshly sliced beef neatly arranged over top. The broth boasted a deep beefy flavour with heady notes of spices but in comparison to the ones we had on the streets—at a much cheaper price at that—it was rather lacklustre.
Perhaps they were trying to go for a much ‘cleaner’ approach with a lighter broth and neater presentation, but for what it was worth, we would much rather our beef pho elsewhere in future.
Feeling ballsy, we opted for the Steamed Snail & Pork Paste (VND69,000). Submerged in a sourish soup, the snails were slightly chewy with a pleasant earthy taste to them. Contrary to our initial expectations, the snails were not foul tasting in any way.
In fact, the hot sour soup coupled with the tender snail flesh and pork melded incredibly well, providing comfort as well as flavour in a single, unassuming bowl.
A popular breakfast item is broken rice and meat, and what better way to live the way the Vietnamese do than to order up their Broken Rice with Grilled Pork Chop, Shredded Pork Skin & Fried Egg (VND88,000).
We were pretty confused as to what the term broken meant at first given that the rice we had seemed similar to regular steamed white rice. But we realised soon after that the term ‘broken rice’ refers to damaged batches of rice which were often discarded, yet, at the same time was a common staple among Vietnam’s poorer class of people.
Whatever the rationale is, for whatever component of the dish that was ‘broken’, the grilled pork definitely managed to fix. The grilled pork was sweet, smoky and nicely spiced—nicely complementing every single item on the plate from the fried egg to the pickles on the side.
94 Ho Tung Mau, Quan 1
Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
Tel: +84 90 130 15 08
Daily: 7am – 11pm
For more recommendations, read our Ho Chi Minh City’s guides to discover the best places to visit in the city.