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Lunch at Quán Cơm Rạng Đông in Rural Vietnam

In the 1960s, the Viet Cong dug an immense labyrinth of tunnels in the Cu Chi District of Saigon so VC guerrillas could hide from the enemy during daylight hours. Covering over 200km, the tunnel system is located about halfway between Saigon and the Cambodian border. The tunnels have since been preserved by the Vietnamese government and are now a popular tourist destination. On our way out to explore the underground network (and shoot assault rifles), we stopped for lunch at a pink, rather polished looking building. Inside, a group of fluorescently clad tourists was having lunch. We kindly informed the guide we were looking for something different, something maybe he would want to have for lunch. He smilked and walked us a kilometer down the street to Quán Cơm Rạng Đông.

The dining room.

Fresh herbs, cucumbers, and bean sprouts accompany most every meal.

There was never a menu. Our guide ordered for us. This is thit kho: pork belly braised in coconut water, fish sauce, sugar, garlic, and shallots. The braise makes the velvety pork melt in your mouth. Eggs are cooked ahead of time and added to the braising liquid for anywhere up to an hour before the dish is served. It's rich, succulent, and with the added snap of fresh bean sprouts, a true delight to eat.

This is cá kho to (ca is fish in Vietnamese), which is fish braised in a clay pot. The fish used here is basa, a common breed of Vietnamese catfish native to the Mekong River Delta. The flesh has a high fat content. It's meaty and dense and can withstand the long cooking process. At the base of ca kho to is a carmelized sauce made from sugar and coconut water. A liberal amount of black pepper finishes the dish to cut the rich sauce.

The beauty of this dish was its simplicity. Greens, fish cakes, and broth. Had the fish cakes been replaced with sausage, and white beans thrown into the mix, the resulting flavors would be commonplace on any American table. Though here, instead of pork and beans, the garlicky broth floated fish cakes and scallions. Simple, straightforward, and delicious.

Canh chua; a sour soup comprised of basa, okra, fresh tomatoes, and rice paddy herb in a tamarind-flavored broth. After hours of simmering, the fish melted away from the bone. Okra lent an extra depth of richness to the slightly sour broth and the tomatoes, thrown in near the end of cooking, had an incredibly concentrated tomato flavor and retained their structural awareness. Bright colors and bold flavors, or bold colors and bright flavors. Either way, it was really good.

Quan Com Rang Dong | 30 tháng 4, Tay Ninh | 84 66 3821 566

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  • Response
    Response: superior papeer
    Number of places around us where the food is very good people go and enjoy the food. Quite wonderful review about the rural Vietnam restaurant, there must be food quality very good.
  • Response

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