Tiny Treasures

Bite size deliciousness from Hue and the southern coastal town of Phan Rang…

Tucked away in Tan Binh District, Beo Gap Nuoc on 118 Truong Cong Dinh is a compact little restaurant specializing in Hue and Phan Rang cuisine. The name translates to “algae meets water,” an idiom meaning two things are destined to be together. Dishes from the two regions are served in small portions, designed to entice the palette and keep you interested until the very last bite. Every element has a function, all helping to build a crescendo of flavors and this delicious tradition was kept alive during our evening in Tan Binh.


Not wanting to waste any time, we unwrapped a few little cha lua (Vietnamese pork roll, VND5,000 for one) packages to nibble on, a relatively simple snack and a good way to tide us over while we waited for the main event. No sooner had we finished when the first plate of banh thap cam (VND45,000) arrived along with a large rice cracker covering a warmly spiced plate of baby clams (hen xuc banh da, VND45,000). The latter was demolished as soon as it touched the table. Which is not surprising as each tiny clam is covered in a subtle, spiced flavor quite unlike your average Vietnamese dish, hinting towards something decidedly more Thai or Indian in origin. The scooping of the clams was so enthusiastic, we ordered seconds.


We then focused our attention on the banh thap cam, a mixed selection of pretty little morsels of rice flour or cassava based dumplings filled with powdered shrimp, green beans or assorted minced meats and seafood. Smother them with nuoc mam and dig in; if you’re lucky you’ll love everything, otherwise be fearless and after a bit of trial and error you will certainly know what to order next time.


Next up, banh xeo (VND50,000 for four), but not the extra large variety you are probably more used to. These miniature versions were crunchy and filled with shrimp, pork and squid as well as the usual mound of bean sprouts. While we preferred the bigger version, which encourages a more communal deconstructive eating technique, the ones here had a thicker batter that allows for a crispier taco-like shell, giving you more time to roll, dip and eat before the whole thing falls apart.


The final dish, banh can thap cam (VND60,000), was new to us. Similar in shape to a banh beo, a circular little piece of fried battery goodness topped with all manner of ingredients, a banh can is closer to that of an egg white omelet with the key ingredients of pork, shrimp and meat concealed from view within their warm centers. Eating it was somewhat of an experience, and thanks to a helpful waitress, we soon discovered that we needed to mix one spoon of each of the three accompanying sauces into a separate bowl for the eventual big dip. The sauces were mam nem (a zingy pineapple-infused fish sauce), mam dau phong (a tasty fermented peanut concoction), and a citrus-based chili sauce for sweetness and punch. A heady trio, and when combined with firm thin strips of sour mango, freshly picked greens and herbs as well as the compact little banh can, the result is beyond words.


At Beo Gap Nuoc everything is delivered to the table at its freshest, from the mound of lettuce and herbs to the oil used to fry the banh xeo, each ingredient is handled and cooked with respect and generosity, a fact that is more than evident with every bite. Get there hungry, it’s worth the drive.

Images by Adam Robert Young

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