Stuffed, saucy or schmeared—have them however you like them at Saigon Bagel
Of all its signature foodstuffs—pastrami sandwiches, New York pizza—bagels are arguably the most synonymous with Gotham, and the best bagels in NYC are now being duplicated in Saigon. Originally brought over by Eastern European Jewish immigrants, the bagel is a round piece of dough that is briefly boiled in water before baked, producing a wonderfully dense and chewy texture. As I have experienced first-hand the proper New York bagel I can say that Saigon Bagel (27/4 Do Quang Dau, D1 & 38 Nguyen Cu, Thao Dien, D2) does it spectacularly, from the bagels themselves to the schmears and toppings. Andrew Fitanides, an expat from Maine, decided to quit his stressful job in law and his Vietnamese wife Van convinced him to fill this essential gap in the Saigon food market, and they did so amazingly well. They offer a wide variety of bagels, from plain, sesame, poppy, onionm cinnamon raisin and, of course, the “everything” bagel topped with onion, poppy and sesame. There are two ways to top the bagel: sandwich style (gravlax, smoked salmon, pickled herring, salted beef, breakfast, smoked ham or honey rocket) or schmear (sundried tomato and basil, chives, chives and bacon, pineapple and strawberry or smoked salmon). Bagels with schmears are priced between VND45,000 and VND65,000 each.
As a regular customer to Saigon bagel I’m a fan of the pickled herring (VND100,000), served on a toasted bagel with cream cheese, sliced tomatoes and sprinkled with capers. The pickled herring, a fantastic combination of delicate fish and sweet vinegar from the pickling process, complemented the cream cheese and vegetable toppings wonderfully. Our next order of smoked salmon (VND130,000), gravlax (VND130,000) and smoked ham (VND100,000) sandwiches were also served with a similar arrangement of cream cheese, tomato, basil leaves, olive oil and capers. Gravlax is sugarsalt-dill-cured salmon and had a dainty texture that went well with the cream cheese, and should not be missed when stopping by Saigon Bagel.
We also tried the salted beef and the unconventional honey rocket (both priced at VND100,000). The salted beef was served in a closed bagel sandwich accompanied by layers of mustard, mayonnaise and dill pickles. The sandwich was a festival of flavor that easily made it into my world-class comfort sandwich list. As for the honey rocket, there is nothing I like more than experimenting with food and this was a pleasant surprise. It comes with ham, rocket, honey cream cheese schmear, apple slices and cinnamon. Sweet yet savory, the apple and the smoked ham worked together for that Mediterranean-like summery taste.
Andrew and Van pickle, salt and cure the herring, beef and salmon, respectively, themselves. The bagels are also made from scratch, which involves boiling the ring-shaped dough in honey-infused water before baking them to perfection—a testament to their dedication to quality and freshness. In the near future the couple plan on opening their Thao Dien location in the evening to serve wine and charcuteries.
Images provided by Ngoc Tran