What is it that pushes a breakfast burrito beyond hangover helper and into the realm of mid-morning revelation? Find out
There are some rewards for being a late-riser, and one of them is breakfast at La Fiesta (33 Dang Thi Nhu, D1). The much-loved restaurant dishes up Tex-Mex comfort food starting at 11am with a full breakfast menu served all day. Breakfast is an undeniable strong suit of Tex-Mex, a culinary tradition that rose from the mixed cultural heritage of the US state of Texas. The name “TexMex” was originally a nickname used for the Texas Mexico railroad of 1875, although culinary exchange was happening well before that date. As well as absorbing essential Americana cooking styles, Tex-Mex cuisine has deep roots in Native American and Spanish culture (the state spent 300 years as a colony of Spain). The resulting fusion has made American food all the greater, and breakfast even better.
We started our La Fiesta breakfast by snagging seats by a wide window and ordering drinks. We resisting the temptation of the margarita selection (it’s almost noon?) and ordered a Vietnamese coffee (VND30,000) and a Mexican hot chocolate (VND60,000).
The much needed coffee was smooth and rich, while the hot chocolate was deliciously creamy and dark. The chocolate was livened up with vanilla and cinnamon as well as a dash of cayenne pepper.
Our first order of business was a smoky breakfast burrito (VND180,000). By the time it arrived the kitchen, now in full swing, was producing enticing wafts of spice and cilantro. Smokey was an understatement for this burrito, its flour tortilla held within its folds scrambled egg, bacon, smoked Gouda and smoked ham. It was cheesy goodness.
Next up is a cornerstone of a Tex-Mex breakfast: huevos rancheros. The dish originated, as the name suggests, on ranches in Mexico where farmhands needed generous portions of eggs and beans to start a day of hard work. We could make no such claim of hard work, but still ordered a plate huevos rancheros rojo (VND125,000).
Diners can choose to add bacon or chorizo (our pick, VND20,000), their signature chipotle lamb shoulder (VND45,000) or beef shank barbacoa (VND50,000). The huevos rancheros came with soft corn tortillas, topped by refried black beans, two sunny side up eggs, a mild red sauce, tomato sauce, cheddar and green onions. As my father would say, al ataque (attack)! The dish did not disappoint, the red sauce and chorizo were a match made in heaven and the corn tortillas were just right.
Our final dish was a lesser-known but equally fundamental dish called migas (VND160,000).
“Migas” translates to “crumbs,” because they were traditionally made from the leftover bits after frying tortillas. It was originally a traditional dish belonging to the Extremadura region of Spain, before its adoption in present-day Mexico, where the bread crumbs became corn chips. Tex-Mex took it a step further by adding tomato, onion, refried beans, and, of course, cheese. At La Fiesta the migas were all we ever wanted for breakfast and more. The meaty corn chips soak up flavor, while the tomatoes add a fresh bite to the delicate eggs. As if that was not enough both the migas and the huevos rancheros came with crispy hash browns and a side of absolutely fantastic Australian cream. The genial co-owner, Scott Marquis, told us that it was the discovery of the sour cream that led him to believe he could open a Tex-Mex restaurant in Saigon. We, and all the other fans of La Fiesta, sure are thankful for how that bit of food history ended.
IMAGES BY NGOC TRAN
TEXT BY SONIA GREGOR AND MARTIN ZORRILLA