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Fast, high-quality Vietnamese food

Vietnam Heritage, July-August 2011, Advertorial -- In the last few years, I have written  about  good Vietnamese restaurants and cafes that expatriates would be likely to go for and Western-style restaurants for expatriates who felt a longing for the familiar. The present place is more of a secret, a place with great, inexpensive Vietnamese food, local atmosphere and many local patrons.
It is ‘Nhu Lan’ Food Shop, at 50 Ham Nghi, District 1, HCMC (Telephone: 08-3829-2970). It’s directly across the street from the Bitexco Financial Tower, the tallest building in the city (so it’s easy to find). I found it quite by accident. A favourite place in the same street had closed shortly after Lunar New Year. I was meandering down the same street and came across a busy place that is a combination eating place and store.
The menu is in both Vietnamese and English. Many times, I have been the only Westerner there. However, in the true spirit of Vietnamese hospitality, they have made me feel at home. The service is fast and of high quality. Orders  are filled in no more than a few minutes.
The food is terrific. I love their phở bò. One serving (at VND40,000 ($2)) is enough for a full meal. The savoury broth, herbs and very generous servings of noodles and beef are well worth the visit.
However, this place also has a rotating spit of barbecued pork. Just looking at it is enough to make even a vegan’s mouth water. A generously stuffed sandwich, including sauce and salad, won’t do much damage to your wallet (only VND25,000 ($1.25)). It’s high-quality, savoury and delicious Vietnamese-style fast food at its best.
Try the fruit drinks and smoothies. A nice iced lemon drink, or đá chanh, will set one back by about VND8,000 ($0.4).  I have had a wide range of their fruit drinks, smoothies and yogurt drinks. On a hot Ho Chi Minh City day, one gives thanks for a place like this. 
The menu has a wide assortment of things for carnivores and non-carnivores. Since this is Vietnam, one is certain to find great fish dishes here. Then there is the beef stew with bread, or even ham and eggs if you feel an urge to eat like an Occidental. You could cover your eyes and still point to something great.
There is take-away service. In addition, a well-stocked deli counter.

By William Sabino
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