Are you longing for the atmosphere of the Mekong Delta of your youth, hungry for a bowl of southern pork-noodle soup, made the Sa Dec way?
Di Nam Sadec Restaurant – a familiar name
In HCM City, there’s a new place where you can indulge your memories of all that’s southern: a family dining experience, a classic countryside interior, and authentic delicacies.
The name Di Nam Sadec Restaurant gives a clue to its southern roots. If someone is called Di Nam, it indicates a close relation, meaning literally the fifth sister of the mother. But the affectionate greeting can also be used for any woman in the market on the street, too. Sa Dec Town is a well-known locality in the Delta’s Dong Thap Province where special kinds of noodles are served.
Although there is a long list of hu tieu, or southern-style rice noodle restaurants, in HCM City, the noodle soup at Di Nam Sadec is decidedly different.
“It’s our family’s traditional recipe and we’ve tried to keep it unchanged for over three decades,” said Trần Huu Hieu, a son-in-law of the owner of the Di Nam Sadec branch in Sa Dec Town .
As soon as you enter, you’ll see its fascinating, outstanding decor and collection of imitation antique ceramics, bamboo items such as rice screens and baskets, and handicrafts inspired by a typical Delta country home. Wooden tables and chairs all create an intimate, country-like dining environment. My visit was a chance to try something besides the noodles and learn more about the Delta lifestyle and its people.
“We want to bring to Saigon (former name of HCM City) the signature noodles of our family’s cooking secret as well as other Sa Dec delicacies, and tickle their imagination about my homeland,” Hiếu said.
Hieu and his wife kept the recipes of his mother-in-law, but they have re-interpreted them with elegance and creativity.
“The twist is to make Sa Dec-style noodle soup for the taste of Saigonese, so we put less sugar in our noodle soups and all dessert items,” he explained.
Although the menu features several tasty specialties from Sa Dec, its highlights are hủ tiếu Sa Đéc (rice noodle pork soup Sa Dec-style) and banh tam bi Sa Dec (Sa Dec signature cassava pasta), all traditionally made and finely arranged and presented.
The best dishes of the restaurant
Hu tieu Sa Dec is served in different kinds of broth to your liking – pork, seafood, beef and vegetables or a mixture of pork, seafood and vegetables, with all kinds of broth prepared for several hours.
Diners also can order a hu tieu kho or noodles served in two separate bowls – one with toppings such as prawns, fishballs and pork slices, and another with broth only. Done this way, hủ tiếu khô looks like and tastes like stir-fried noodles.
While banh tam bi Sa Dec goes well with boiled pork skin threads or minced pork balls, the special quality of the dish is condensed coconut milk and vegetables with sweet sour fish sauce.
All the food items at the restaurant are served in traditional clay pots, bowls and plates, with spoon and chopstick containers used in country kitchens.
For our meal, we ordered several dishes. As recommended, I started with the signature noodle with pork skin threads and minced pork balls (VND40,000) while my friend ordered a bowl of rice noodle soup with seafood and pork (VND59,000).
Finely arranged, the food was pleasing to the eye. It was the first time I had tried this kind of noodle.
The secret of the dish was in the good quality of the noodles. The fresh cassava powder contributed to its distinctive taste, while the fresh aromatic coconut milk and well-made fish sauce were perfect complements.
I next sampled hu tieu Sa Dec. The soup bowl looked irresistible, arranged with prawns, squid, fishballs, lean pork slices, and deep-fried onion slices on top. The pleasing aroma woke all my senses. The flavour comes from pure, clear and juicy broth made from pork bones, dried squid, radish and carrots.
The noodles, unlike any served in the city, are a delicacy that should not be missed.
“Our suppliers of the noodles, and even pork skin threads, are from Sa Dec. To ensure the freshness and perfect taste of our noodle dishes, we bring all the ingredients here every day,” Hieu said.
Although the restaurant offers side dishes such as pork balls, beef balls, beef slices, pork ribs or seafood, we saved room for desserts, which are also the pride of Di Nam Sadec.
On offer was a variety of sumptuous and delicious sweet soups and cakes, all authentic Mekong Delta desserts prepared with coconut milk, each VND15,000.
After carefully scanning the list, the one that caught my eye was banh lot la dua nuoc cot dua or pandan leaf rice noodle sweet soup with coconut milk and ice, while my friend brought out steamed banana cakes with condensed coconut milk. The two are typical sweets of the Mekong Delta and among the standouts of the restaurant.
Banh lot was not too sweet but wonderfully flavourful, while its green colour was a visual delight. It was my favourite dessert at Di Nam Sadec.
As I was more than full, we decided to try the kidney-bean and black-bean sweet soups with coconut milk at our next visit. The verdict? The meal was fantastic and we can’t wait to return to learn more about the flavours from Vietnam’s ’food-wealthy’ south.
Some important information
- Address: 83D Bui Thi Xuan Street, District 1, HCMC
- Phone: (028) 0902664448
- Hours: 7am-11pm last order
- Comment: authentic traditional southern specialties, Mekong Delta style, cosy ambience, with southern countryside home interior, inviting prices, hospitable servers.
- Price: VND15,000-59,000 per dish/VND35,000 per three–course set lunch
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