Often times, I’m something of a food snob – terribly exacting in the taste of my food and having high requirements for whatever I eat. I’m also a bit of a typical Hanoian in the sense that I often turn away from Southern food, criticizing it as too sweet, or too sour, or the broth not clear enough.
During my last trip to Saigon, I was pleasantly surprised. I had one of the best noodle soups in my life, with the most amazing broth ever, at a little shop in the heart of Saigon. It was crab noodles (Banh Canh Ghe) – a delicacy of the South that had slowly migrated to the North in recent years.
Regarding its origin, much has been debated about where Banh Canh Ghe comes from. Some say it’s from the South West provinces (or more specifically Kien Giang), other say it is the seaside provinces like Vung Tau and Phan Thiet that have created this delicacy. No matter its origin is, though, it is well-known that Banh Canh Ghe is now one of the most enjoyed noodle soups in Saigon.
Appearance-wise, Banh Canh Ghe bears a close resemblance with Laksa noodle in Singapore. Both have that same reddish hue, thick broth and spicy taste. Having never tasted Laksa, I cannot give any comment on its taste. However, I can say that when it comes to Banh Canh Ghe, the noodle soup was a perfect blend of sweet, hearty and spicy broth, with specially-made noodles (three or four times bigger than the noodles you normally see) and a whole crab for you to finish it off. There are other garnishes to go with the soup, like crab cake, veggies and fresh herbs. Some places will also add prawns and other seafood, a slice of blood pudding or a whole egg.
To me, this dish embodies the philosophy of Vietnamese cooking – that of seeking the perfect harmony between different flavors and spices. Here’s a dish that’s not seeking to blow your taste bud away, nor have you in tears as you eat. It’s spicy, to be sure, but it is the kind of spiciness that does not overwhelm other flavors. It enhances the richness of the crab. It circles each strand of noodle in a loving embrace. It leaves behind a slight reminder of the spice you just taste, making you hungry for more.
One Google search of “Banh Canh Ghe Saigon” can give you numerous results. Not every restaurant will blow you away, but these 5 are guaranteed to satisfy even the harshest critics.
1. Banh Canh Ghe Ba Sach:
Address: 66 Hoa Cuc street, Phu Nhuan district.
Price: 30.000 – 70.000 VND
Opening hours: 10:00 – 22:00
2. Banh Canh Ghe Bay Lien:
Address: 778F Nguyen Kiem street, Go Vap district
Price: 50.000 – 77.000
Opening hours: 10:00 – 22:00
3. Banh Canh Ghe Cau Bong:
Address: 2 Dinh Tien Hoang Street, district 1
Price: 55.000 – 110.000
Opening hours: 15:00 – 22:30
4. Banh Canh Ghe 505:
Address: 505 Su Van Hanh street, district 10
Price: 50.000 – 100.000
Opening hours: 11:00 – 22:30
5. Banh Canh Ghe Muoi Ot Xanh:
Address: 484 Nguyen Tri Phuong street, district 10
Price: 45.000 – 75.000
Opening hours: 11:00 – 22:00
>>>Read more on Which Food in Ho Chi Minh City Should You Try.