Among the munchies in Saigon, bot chien is found on almost every street corner come sun down. At its fine, one must travel to Cho Lon to experience the magic of this Saigon specialty. Read on.
It may seem like there’s not much to bot chien. Fried rice cakes mixed with eggs and garnished with green onions. Boom! You’re done. But in the heart of Cho Lon, the name ascribed to Saigon’s Chinatown, bot chien is the glorious product of a fusion between two cultures. An original recipe out of Cho Lon, you won’t find a plate of bot chien tastier than the ones ordered on the streets of Cho Lon.
The restaurant which we visited is known for their jazzed-up recipe. Bot chien starts off as a scrambled mess of one or two eggs and fried rice flour cakes, pre-marinated in a secret sauce. A smattering of shredded turnip is then added to the batch and garnished with chopped green onion before being delivered to your table, where you then have the option to top it off with shredded young papaya.
Bot chien starts off as a scrambled mess of one or two eggs and fried rice flour cakes, pre-marinated in a secret sauce.
Now come the secret sauces. Both the chili sauce and the soybean sauce are brewed on site from a secret family recipe and are noticeably thicker compared to their factory-made counterparts. Unlike store bought condiments, these sauces have a buttery thickness to them. Returning to another standout element of this specific recipe. These aren’t your ordinary rice cakes. For those who are familiar with glutinous rice cakes, you’re in for a real surprise. The handmade rice cakes have a creamy texture but are otherwise flavorless before being marinated and then fried. The result is something that is akin to potatoes, almost reminiscent of thickly cut steak fries.
Bot Chien 190, on 190 Hai Thuong Lan Ong Street in District 5, has been running under the same family for the past twenty-two years. That is a huge accomplishment in Saigon given the city’s tightening control over the number of street food vendors. Adjacent to the stall is a streetside dimsum stand managed by the same family. From 2 p.m. to 10 p.m., the nephew of the original owner whips batch after batch of bot chien to be eaten on the property or for takeaway.
Located at the corner of a street, which filters out into a roundabout, streetside diners can take in the madness of Saigon from the comfort of their red plastic stools. The pavement doesn’t make way for a lot of tables so if you’re the type of person who likes to eat immersed in the environment, try to avoid rush hour around 5 p.m. when all tables are full. I asked Thao if this was a well-known spot among the masses in Saigon but she asserts it is a true hidden gem, known only by those who frequent this spot regularly. In all her time in Saigon, she has never seen magazines or any news outlet advertise this place. Even among the blogging circles, this spot has not been covered. But for those in the know, this is undoubtedly the best fried rice cake in town.
Travelers interested in seeing sites off the grid like Cho Lon should check out this stall, whose neighboring storefronts are written both in Vietnamese and Cantonese. Located directly alongside a major roundabout, breathing heavy exhaust fumes comes with the territory. The smell of gasoline is rampant so if you are prone to respiratory problems or simply find that type of situation unappealing, you may want to sit this venture out. And while it looks like a snack food, in your tummy, it will feel like a wholesome meal. Do not eat before a big meal.
Dish’s name: Bot Chien
Price: ~25.000 VND/ dish
Opening time: From 2 p.m. to 10 p.m.
Address: 190 Hai Thuong Lan Ong Street, District 5
Read more: Street Feast: Eating Mi Hen with Vinh – #2
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