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I’m a big fan of barbecued, grilled or roasted meat. Fortunately, there are lots of places that cater to this in Saigon: from streetside stalls selling giant sides of roast pork to sidewalk eateries specializing in grilled chicken feet, from local eateries churning out barbecued ribs over rice to the recent trend of American-style BBQ restaurants – you’re never far from cooked meat on the streets of Saigon. What I like about Hieu Map BBQ Shop, in Binh Thanh District, is that it’s a very local, long-running establishment offering a variety of cheap, simple and tasty barbecued meats to take away. So, if you haven’t got the time or money for a high-end barbecue, like Quán Ụt Ụt, or haven’t the patience to drive out to Chicken Corner, head to Hieu Map BBQ Shop to pick up some chicken and ribs to take back home for a cheap meat feast.
REVIEW: HIEU MAP BBQ SHOP, SAIGON
Address: 66 Ngo Tat To Street, Binh Thanh District, Ho Chi Minh City [MAP]
Price: 25,000-250,000vnd per item | Open: 6am-9pm (Mon-Sat) & 6am-4pm (Sun)
Located in the middle of Ngo Tat To Street, a hopping foodie neighbourhood in Binh Thanh District, Hieu Map occupies a wide shopfront opposite the City Garden apartments. Ducks and chickens rotate on spits under an old Bodhi tree to the right of the store. Easily recognized by its green signage and flashing lights advertising its menu and prices in Vietnamese, Hieu Map has been operating here for 15 years (there’s also another store way out in Bình Tân District). I first visited a decade ago, when I lived in a house just around the corner, on Nguyen Cong Tru Street.
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The cooked meat is displayed in a typical glass-paneled street food cabinet. Sides of roast pork with crunchy skin and crispy fat, whole barbecued chickens, marinated pork ribs, Chinese-style sausages, grilled quail, and whole roasted ducks hangs from hooks behind the glass, illuminated by white light bulbs. Inside, there’s a small space for eat-in diners, but it’s much better to get your meat to go.
The menu (printed in black and white and taped to the wall) is simple and inexpensive. Choose your meat có cơm (with rice) or không cơm (without rice). Personally, I get my meat không cơm, because you get plenty of free extras with it anyway: herbs, cucumber, pickled daikon and carrots, chilli sauce, and salt, chilli and lime for dipping. Prices are cheaper than elsewhere, but the portions are large and the meat is flavourful. For example, a whole grilled chicken (gà nướng nguyên con) is 140,000vnd, marinated pork ribs (sườn que) are 250,000vnd per kilo, and chicken wings (cánh gà) are 25,000vnd each.
Order your meat and take it all back home with you for a meat feast with your friends, or as a picnic in one of Saigon’s parks. The chicken is particularly succulent, juicy and soft, and goes really well with the chilli, salt and lime dip. The ribs are slightly sweet, meaty and quite tough – great for gnawing on and good with beer. And the roast pork (heo quay) is crispy, salty, and tender. A favourite combination of mine to share with friends is: bốn cái gà góc tư, nữa ký heo quay, nữa ký sườn que (x4 chicken leg & thigh, ½ kilo roast pork, ½ ribs).
Hieu Map may not be of the same quality as the American BBQ joints in Saigon, or as bustling and fun as Chicken Corner, but it offers tasty, grilled meat and low prices without any fuss or fanfare: it’s good old honest Saigon street food. Recently, I’ve got into the habit of grabbing a meat feast at Hieu Map and taking it back home to watch a big sporting event on TV with my friends or a movie: add a little alcohol and it’s a good night in.
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