SPICEGASM.COM My travel tales and food hunting

September 20, 2013

Snails and shells siesta in Saigon

Filed under: Bars & Resto,Food,Travel,Vietnam — Alex @ 4:05 am

After my first visit to Saigon in March 2012, I have been coming to this vibrant city pretty often. There are few things that made me keep coming back. It’s pretty obvious that Vietnamese street food is one of the main reason but going through the immigration without having to fill in embarkation card is super awesome too. Then there’s the cheap bus ride from the airport to Ben Thanh Market that will cost me only VND4000 ( approx $0.20 ). It is really convenient to hop on to the bus that’s always parked right outside of the airport terminal.

Clean and affordable hotels in the city center are aplenty. So I bet in recent years, many tourists have been flocking to this country well known for it’s Pho and spring rolls. Another reason is that I have a good friend who is based in Saigon. He is half Vietnamese and knows his places really well.


Every time I come visit, he will have some new food places to bring me. By now he really knows the kind of food joints that I fancies and he never fails to excite me. This time around, he brought me to a place that is specializing in snails and shells. This is the kind of food joint that is not located in prime area but tucked in some alley. The clientele would be regulars or people in the know of good food. I like restaurants like these as opposed to those that are situated in prime location where most of the customers would be consist mostly of tourists or passersby.


Fried snails – remember to suck on the shells, tasty!




Snails sauteed in garlic and pork lard

From experience, restaurant of food stalls like these always serve the best food and price is always cheap. Not located at prime area certainly has it advantages like cheap rental.

The restaurant has no fancy decor, just the usual low stools and tables just like most roadside food joints in Vietnam, just the way I love it. My friend point to some Vietnamese words that are plastered on the wall of the food joint. “We prefer one customer that will come 1000 times rather than 1000 customers that will only come once”. Such wise words and my friend went through the menu and start ordering away. Portions are purposely made small as Asian loves to try many time of dishes at one sitting. Makes the dinning more interesting in my opinion when you get to try all sorts of different stuff shared with friends.

BBQ prawns

BBQ prawns


Stir fried cockles with garlic and crunchy pork lard.

I don’t really know the names of the dishes that my friend ordered but everything tasted really good. If you don’t speak Vietnamese, fret not as the menu has pictures with English. Enjoy the pictures and I have included the address of the restaurant at the bottom of this post. Total of the bill was VND470,000 with 3 beers and 1 soft drink.

Giant cockles prepared with cheese and also garlic and butter

Giant cockles prepared with cheese and also garlic and butter


Stir fried egg noodles with beef and generous amount of Bak Choy.

Address :

Hem 25 (meaning, alley 25) Nguyen Binh khiem Street.

March 20, 2012

I finally know what COM really means

Filed under: Bars & Resto,Food,Travel,Vietnam — Alex @ 10:08 am

Everywhere I walk, the word COM is everywhere in Saigon. I see it on the food stalls and restaurants. Just outside of my hotel, there’s a non air conditioned restaurant bearing a big signboard with the word “COM” on it.  I am smart enough to know that it’s not Internet related though. I decided to eat lunch there as my “FOODAR” told me that this restaurant will be all right. I was eager to find out the meaning of COM once and for all too. For those of you who are wondering what FOODAR means, is just a word I made up. It stands for “Good Food Radar”. Is not an I-Phone aps but is something I developed over the years hunting down the best eating joint.

The Com Tam restaurant located near my hotel

I sat down, the friendly waitress came and gave me the menu. The menu has pictures and it’s in Vietnamese and English language. Sweet! I browsed the menu for a bit and I see the word “COM TAM” a lot. You have the choice of COM TAM with chicken, beef or pork BBQ. I noticed on the menu it has the translation for the word “COM TAM”. It is being described as Broken Rice. Sounds interesting! So I ordered Com Tam with chicken BBQ Vietnamese style.

A few customers enjoying their Com Tam. I love how Vietnam has all this low stools and tables. Just seem more relaxing and not so formal like normal size dining chairs and tables.

This is where your meat is being grilled.

While waiting for my food to arrive, I went to get some pictures of the restaurant and glancing quickly at other customers orders. I love to see what they eat. After I am satisfied with my pictures taking, I went back to my seat and ordered a soup dish, saw someone having having the some what yummy looking soup. From my quick glance, I am guessing the soup would be beef tendon with tomatoes and pickled cabbage soup. Am really excited to see how the rice is being prepared. How often you get to eat broken rice? I then start to guess how the rice will look like, the texture and so on. I was pretty convinced that my rice would come in the form of paste or rice cakes.

Just look at the lovely grilled chicken. After the meal, I read on wikipedia that the rice are broken during the process of cleaning. These broken rice are then separated from the good ones and sold at a lower price. Initially Com Tam is food meant for poor people but some how it became favorite food of many people in Vietnam.

When my Com Tam finally arrived, the rice look like normal rice to me. Nothing broken or beaten about it. Only when I start taking picture of my plate of Com Tam with chicken BBQ, I realized that every single grain of my rice is broken. This seems pretty odd as long grain rice fetch higher price as it always taste better. Along with my Com Tam, there’s a small bowl of dipping sauce that doesn’t look like the normal soya sauce or fish sauce that I am accustomed to. The color of the sauce looked like lemon juice but when I tasted it, it is no where near the taste of lemon juice. I just added finely chopped fresh chili into the sauce.

Tasty beef tendon with tomatoes and picked cabbage soup. Perfect pairing as Com Tam does not have much gravy.

I liked the taste of the chicken BBQ, which has a sweet taste to it. It goes really well with the sauce that I just added chili into it. Everybody will like this food at the first try. It is for sure comfort food for the Vietnamese I am guessing. The steamed broken rice was all right too. To my surprise, it didn’t lack the same texture as the expensive long grain rice like Basmathi or Jasmine. The soup came in a small bowl and tasted really good too. It has a little bit of beef tendon, the portion of the pickled cabbage was just right.

I always take pictures of menu so I can remember the name of the food I’ve eaten. Not really meant to post it in my blog but I guess this particular picture is clear enough for you to check out the prices.

Feeling satisfied after the meal, I asked the waitress what Com means? She told me Com means rice and Tam means broken. I am happy with the information as suddenly all the images of food stalls and restaurant bearing the word Com rushed to my mind. I know now that those stalls are definitely serving dishes that is rice based. I can now avoid looking like an idiot going to the Com food stall and confidently ordering “One Pho Please!”

January 11, 2012

China style lamb hot pot in Manila – Xiao Fei Yang

Filed under: Bars & Resto,Philippines,Travel — Alex @ 4:02 am

I’ve been wanting to make a review on this hot pot restaurant for a long time now, especially after eating here more than a dozen times. I guess the delay is due to the fact that this is a Chinese hot pot restaurant in Manila. Whenever I am in a certain country, I would prefer to feature the local delicacies instead. I finally decided to make this review any how because my Filipino friend insisted that I should make this review as he loves the restaurant so much and he wants to show it to his relatives.

Like any other South East Asian countries, Philippines has a large community of Chinese too. Chinese food is common and you don’t need to go to China town in Binondo or Ongpin just to eat your favorite Chinese cuisine. This hot pot restaurant by the name of “Little Lamb” however is a franchise from China. You can either order ala-carte or opt for the buffet style. I prefer the buffet style ( 599 pesos per head ) as I don’t want to have the dilemma of what to order.

Thin sliced lamb met eat all you can

There are quite a few hot pot restaurant in Manila but I have to say this is my favorite. The variety of dishes is way more from those others that I’ve eaten before. I like the fact that they have my favorite hot pot items like fried bean curd skin ( Foo Chook ) and those grass jelly like noodles. I’ve never come across any other hot pot places in Manila that serve the fried bean curd skin. Another plus point for this restaurant is that finding parking space is such a breeze.

Restaurant is fully air condition, clean and spacious

The glass jelly like noodles that I’ve eaten for the first time in China. Never really see other places in Manila offering this.

Quite a big selection of hot pot items

More hot pot items

The bull frog is kinda small but is all right I guess

There are few types of soup but I ordered the chicken and spicy soup made of Szechuan pepper corn.

Cooked dishes like fried pork ribs and intestine were also available. There are actually more items I didn’t get to snap the pictures like the dried bean curd skin, vegetables and wide array of innards of all animals.  I guess I was too busy eating and explaining to my Filipino friends about the hot pot items. My friend love the pig’s brain especially and his wife loves the dried bean curd skin. Both of them told me that they really love the food here and will definitely bring family and friends back her.

Little Lamb Hot Pot Restaurant
La Marina, South Drive, Area 2, Rizal Park
Ermita, Manila ( Tel : 02-5163886.


December 24, 2011

Mum Aroi Thai restaurant near 3rd Road, Pattaya

Filed under: Bars & Resto,Food,Thailand,Travel — Alex @ 2:07 am

Had the pleasure of being invited by a friend who is from France that is based in Thailand for many years to go eat in a fancy Thai restaurant. The name of the restaurant is Mum Aroi and is situated near to 3rd Road in Pattaya. Even though I am a big fan of street food but sometimes dining in a chic restaurant is very much welcome too.

I invited another American friend to come along. He came to my La Cerise, the guest house which I am staying and we asked for direction on how to go to Mum Aroi restaurant. The front desk staff then told us that transportation is provided for free to the guests of La Cerise. I thought the gesture was super cool and on top of that, the transportation was a bad ass looking tuk tuk!

It was just a 7-10 minutes ride and upon reaching the restaurant my host is already waiting together with an ex staff of his who is a Thai. His Thai ex staff brought along her mom as well. I really love it when there’s a party of 5 or more  when it comes to dining in restaurants like these. On top of that, there are locals in the group and this means we will definitely get to sample more varieties of dishes.

The restaurant looks really classy and has the Zen like feel to it. Spicy and delicious food served in a calm atmosphere is good for a change compared to the loud and noisy atmosphere of street food.

The parking lot of the restaurant is pretty huge. Easy to find a parking slot.

The ambiance of the restaurant is really cool. Dim lighted with some lights on trees and sound of the pool with a mini water fall.

Dining at Mum Aroi restaurant feels like eating in a really nice garden. Felt very relax and made me feel at ease and ready to swine and dine.

The restaurant has a pool which added a touch of class to this chic Thai restaurant. With the sound of flowing water it made me kinda thirsty and it just confirmed my beverage of choice for the night – BEER!

First dish was a spicy seafood salad. The shiny round balls are not pearls but some kind of fish egg. I have to admit this is my first time seeing fish egg this big. It has no distinctive but I guess is added to the salad for texture. I don’t know how to describe the texture exactly but is definitely not chewy  like those taro balls that you find in the pearl tea. I will leave it to Andrew Zimmern to make those descriptions. If he can describes how is it like eating dried camel testicles, this fish egg would be a piece of cake for him.

Baked mussels with Thai herbs. Really good appetizer when dip with the Thai seafood sauce. Sourish and spicy makes you want to eat more.

Khao Moo Yang, barbeque pork’s neck. Very famous Thai dish from Isaan. I can remember this dish’s name in Thai as I simply have to remember the words “young cow that moo”. I used to get confused during my first trip to Thailand between pork and beef. Pork is known as “Moo” and I always get mixed it up with beef as cow moos. Beef in Thai is known as “Neua”.

Dried chili stir fried with chicken and cashew nuts. Most likely a Chinese influenced dish but ordered for the courtesy of the American friend.

Can’t remember the name of this Thai soup dish. Made of coconut with spices, lemongrass and sea food. Didn’t want to order Tom Yum as we been ordering the King of Soup since the first day I was introduced to Thai food. Just wanted to try something new for a change. I have to admit that I still prefers Tom Yum but is good to experience new dishes once in a while.

BBQ river prawns! Just fresh big head river prawns grilled on charcoal. It has a special spicy dip to go with it to make eating these prawns more heavenly. Super fresh and the flesh of the prawns bounced right back to your gums. I love the head also which is full of yucky looking gooey goodness. The elderly Thai lady that was with our group would only eat the heads. This comes as a perfect trade between my American friend and her.

Nam Prik with crab eggs. I ordered this as I’ve never tasted Nam Prik with crab eggs. I was disappointed though as it is just regular Nam Prik with some crab eggs in it. It cost 120 Baht which I think is pretty pricey. All the other dishes were pretty standard and I think the bill came up to 2000 plus ( with 5 bottles of large Heinekken beer ). I did not know the exact price as my host fights to pay the bill.

Overall, the dining experience was pretty good because of the ambiance and atmosphere of Mum Aroi Thai restaurant. As for the food, I think is pretty good but definitely there are places that are better and less fancier. Everybody has their preferences and I am sure some people would regard Mum Aroi as their number one Thai restaurant. I would definitely go dine there again once in a while if given the choice.

October 26, 2011

Sin Heng Claypot Bah Kut Teh in Joo Chiat

Filed under: Bars & Resto,Food,Singapore — Alex @ 1:20 am

I was deciding on what to eat on the eve of Deepavali and couldn’t really decide as there are simply just too many choices here in Singapore. At 5.30pm, got a text from a friend, Eric and he asked me if I am up for some claypot Bah Kut Teh in Joo Chiat Road. I replied back in a heartbeat with just a simple text “ON!”. I like it when this happens when you are not sure what to eat and suddenly someone makes the decision for you, what more when that someone offered to come pick you up.

We arrived at Joo Chiat at around 7.30pm and there’s no parking available. We kept circling and driving to look for parking but still couldn’t manage to find one. We almost gave up and wanted to go eat something else. As we circled back again near to the restaurant, we noticed there’s a carpark in a building call Katong Junction. The building was just next to the restaurant and we never knew this car park even existed. We drove in and there’s one more slot available. Awesome!

As we approach the entrance of Sin Heng Bah Kut Teh, there’s no seat available and also a lot of people are waiting for available tables. We waited for around 10 minutes and finally got our seat for two. We ordered right away and didn’t the service was really fast. I think our dishes came less in 10 minutes.

We ordered a small pot of “Sin Heng Special Bah Kut Teh” which cost 8 SGD. Singaporean and Malaysian are especially proud of this dish. Reason being, this dish was invented by migrant Chinese workers who came from China to Singapore in the early 1900’s. It is a herbal soup dish which contains pork ribs, innards, vegetables, dried tofu skin and mushroom. Back in the days, this dish is meant for only poor migrant workers who needs the extra energy as they work as laborers. No time to stir fry or make fancy dishes, just throw everything in a big pot of boiling water and you get Bah Kut Teh with all the nutrition in it.

I didn’t even know that Bah Kut Teh wasn’t available in China, Taiwan and Hong Kong till I have friends from those countries visited me. They told me is almost impossible to find good Bah Kut Teh in their countries.

Next on our order list is another claypot dish. Not a soup but a dish with pig innards cooked in thick black sauce most likely with dark soy sauce, oyster sauce, sesame oil, ginger and I bet a whole lot more stuff and some secret ingredients. In Sing Heng Bah Kut Teh, I love this dish the most as opposed to what they are famous for, the claypot Bah Kut Teh. The sauce is just simply AMAZING and if you are a rice lover, I bet you will have a field day eating few bowls of rice.

Most Bah Kut Teh restaurant will have chopped bird eye’s chili, big red chili and fine chopped garlic available at your disposal. However in Sin Heng, the fine chopped garlic is not available for free. You have to order and it cost around 0.50 SGD for just a tiny bit. Since I love to mixed the chili and garlic with soya sauce as the dipping sauce for my meat, I have no choice but to pay for the garlic. Next time I will bring my own chopped garlic. Not that I am a cheap skate but I am used to the fact that I get it for free in all the Bah Kut Teh joint!

We also ordered some fried dough call “Yow Char Kway” and a small plate of salty preserved vegetables. It is kind of a MUST condiments for me when eating Bah Kut Teh. Among Eric and I, we whallop 3 bowls of rice. The dinner cost us 25 SGD with 2 can drinks. I think the pricing is pretty standard when dinning in places like these but I would be happier if the garlic was given for free. I think I prefer them not telling me about the garlic and just secretly put it in the bill.

Sin Heng Bak Koot Teh
439 Joo Chiat Road
Tel: +65 6345 8754

Open 24 hours
Closed Mondays
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