A gastronomical eye-opener awaits those who venture beyond the familiar pho to other Vietnamese delicacies at Madam Saigon.
One of the pioneers of the Vietnamese dining scene in Singapore, Madam Saigon’s owner Carlene Ng, admits that the cuisine is still pretty much an “alternative” option among diners. After all, cooking methods tend toward the “raw” side, and features a liberal usage of fresh herbs, some of which are admittedly an acquired taste. It is definitely nowhere as mainstream as, say, Thai food, explains the ex-banker, whose grandmother is Vietnamese. These, however, are the characteristics that make Vietnamese food a unique cuisine in itself, one that goes way beyond the more commonplace pho.
On a menu well-balanced with noodle or rice dishes and side bites, the Salad Trio (S$9.50) puts the conventional garden salad to shame, with its well-thought out range of sensations and execution. From the light, refreshing sweet-tangy-salty taste of the Papaya Prawn Salad, the flavor-meter edges upwards with the sharper, more pungent zing of the Mango Shrimp Salad and finally the spicy, laksa-flavored Chicken Salad.
The Net Prawn Roll (S$7.90), a savory cornucopia of minced chicken, fish, carrot, taro and ear mushroom, makes another worthy appetizer. The attention to detail pays off—by using only rice paper imported from Vietnam, the roll soaks up minimal grease when it is fried, so that almost no oil oozes out when bitten into. The Sugarcane Prawn (S$7.90), a mini drumstick of tasty minced prawn meat wrapped around a juicy sugarcane stick, packs an equally appetizing punch, while the quintessential Prawn Summer Roll (S$8.90), a simple wrap of springy fresh rice noodles, mint leaves, prawns and juicy bean sprouts, comes with two dips—a sweet fermented bean paste and a salty fish sauce. We kept alternating between the two as we could not decide which was better. The grilled Betel Leaf Beef (S$9.90), one of the more unique dishes, is another palate pleaser, with the betel leaf infusing the beef rolled inside it with subtle, grassy-peppery flavors.
|PHOTOS COURTESY OF MADAM SAIGON|
Our main dish, the Lemongrass Beef With Vermicelli (S$10.50) is Vietnamese simplicity at its best, comprising cold noodles tossed with fresh basil and mint, strips of cucumber and well-marinated slices of beef, and drizzled with fish sauce. Another signature dish here is the Fish Hotpot (S$19.50). Served with vermicelli, it comprises a bubbling broth of assam skin, pineapple, yam, tomato and lady finger, with its distinctive, heady aroma coming from the saw leaf and mint tree leaf.
As with any respectable Vietnamese dining outlet, you can get a cup of the famed Vietnamese Coffee (S$3.50) here, served in a traditional metal drip filter, no less. The difference, explains Ng, is that the coffee beans are roasted with cocoa beans, rendering a more full-bodied yet not burnt aroma. It’s the perfect cuppa for those who like their coffee thick and sweet.
Despite the fact that the Vietnamese dining scene is not too competitive (yet), Madam Saigon does not let up on its standards, and newly converted fans like us are grateful for that.
9 Raffles Boulevard,
#01-26 Millenia Walk
Tel: +65 6338 3831