Are you looking for one of Saigon’s biggest and most delicious meals?
When I was in Vietnam, I ate a lot of delicious meals, like fried chicken and rice, insanely good bowls of noodles, and banh mi sandwiches.
But there was one meal that was the Grand Slam of them all…
Com Tam Ba Ghien
Com Tam Ba Ghien (Cơm Tấm Ba Ghiền) is a well known restaurant in Saigon, probably the most famous place to eat the simple combination of a grilled pork chop over the top of a bed of rice, known in Vietnamese as com tam suon nuong (cơm tấm sườn nướng).
It’s one of the most common meals throughout Saigon, and you’ll see it being served at countless little restaurants and street food stalls around the city.
However, no one else in Saigon does it as grand and glorious as Com Tam Ba Ghien (but if you do know a better place, please let me know in the comments below, I would love to try it).
When I asked where I should eat during my trip to Saigon, one of the main places many of you recommended was Com Tam Ba Ghien, saying it was a place I absolutely needed to eat at, and a place that I would love.
During my trip to Saigon, I headed to the restaurant one day, hungry and ready to chow down.
Walking down the street I could actually smell the aroma of the pork being grilled, far before I ever got there.
If it wasn’t for so many motorbikes in Saigon, I wouldn’t be surprised if you could close your eyes and just walk, following the fragrance of the meat, and eventually find yourself at the restaurant (that’s a joke, but I’m almost serious).
Com tam – broken rice
One of the most fundamental parts of any Vietnamese plate of com tam suon nuong is the com tam itself, directly translating in English to broken rice.
Vietnam is one of the world’s top rice producers and exporters, and during the rice milling process, a percentage of the grains of rice are broken, and set aside.
Although the broken grains of rice are often one of the cheapest grades of rice in Vietnam, it’s also a favorite for many.
You could eat broken rice with just about any Vietnamese food you like, such as a variety of pre-cooked dishes and curries, but easily the most recognized combination is with a pork chop.
At Com Tam Ba Ghien I went to the front of the restaurant to get a glimpse of the broken rice, and one of the many kind ladies (by the way the staff and owners were all really nice) immediately took off the lid for me to take a photo.
The rice was kept hot with steam, so at the restaurant it was always served piping hot – the system of steaming sort of reminded me of making sticky rice.
When I arrived to Ba Ghien, it was before lunch, and already the restaurant was pretty full, many people were sitting in the open air dining room, and even more were just stopping by on their motorbikes to get takeaway.
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After ordering, it just took a couple of minutes for my plate to arrive, and as soon as she delivered it to my table, I was overjoyed and my mouth began to water out of control.
It was a beautiful piece of artwork.
I’m going to do my best to break down exactly what I ate, and explain how each of the components of this grand slam lunch in Saigon fit together into a perfect harmony of Vietnamese food on a single plate.
Cơm tấm bì chả sườn trứng ốp la
When I ate at Ba Ghien, I decided to not mess around with any smaller plates, and to just go straight for the grand slam.
After doing a little research and finding this article, I wrote down the name of the dish I wanted to order: cơm tấm bì chả sườn trứng ốp la.
That might sound a litte intimidating as the name of a food, and yes it definitely is. But really it’s just a combination of all ingredients on the plate named one after another – it might be parallel to saying burger cheese tomato onions lettuce egg sauce.
You could also order just the com tam suon nuong, but with a chance to order the supreme, I had to go for it.
Bi is the Vietnamese word for pork skin, which is cooked and shredded. It doesn’t actually have that much taste, but is more of a texture thing, slightly chewy but not overly so.
On the side of this plate of com tam, there was a nice handful of bi, thin and tangly. It actually almost tasted like mung bean glass noodles, only a little more spongy and chewy.
I will admit that the shredded pig skin was not my favorite component of this plate, but nevertheless, it did taste pretty good with the sweet fish sauce sprinkled on top.
Another common item you’ll find at many com tam suon nuong restaurants throughout Vietnam is cha trung hap, a type of Vietnamese meatloaf.
The recipe for cha trung hap includes a mixture of minced pork, mung bean noodles, wood ear mushrooms, and then a few mild seasonings like salt and pepper and fish sauce.
The ingredients for this Vietnamese meat loaf are mixed together, steamed, and finally topped with a layer of egg yolk for frosting.
I was a pretty big fan of this slice of Vietnamese meatloaf. It almost had more of a sausage feel to it than meatloaf. It had a nice grainy, yet soft texture, and I enjoyed the mixture of both the noodles and the minced meat.
But the main event in this grand slam meal was of course, the pork chop, which was easily twice the size of most other pork chops I had when I was in Saigon.
Although most of the pork chop was hidden below the other toppings, it was actually huge, it must have been a good 300 – 400 grams, big bone included, but nevertheless, it was quite a sizable hunk of meat.
The meat was marinated in a mixture of soy sauce and sugar, then grilled over hot coals until done but not overcooked.
The pork chop at Com Tam Ba Ghien was salty and sweet, and had a wonderful smoky flavor to it.
You might remember what an op la is – a fried sunny side up egg.
To me, just like numerous Thai dishes, I think an egg is one of the highlights of a single plate of food. It adds such an extra wonderful protein dimension to any single plate meal.
The egg was likely deep fried, so it was crispy surrounding the edges, and yet it was so soft and delicious and gooey on the inside.
As soon as I broke the egg, the yolk spilled out, glazing the grains of broken rice and anointing everything in its way. Eggs are never a bad idea.
Finally, to totally finish off this mega plate of com tam suon, it was drizzled in a spoon of greasy green onion oil (which isn’t even really visible due to the egg), topped with a scoop of Vietnamese sweet and sour pickles, and served with a side sauce.
The oil was extremely fragrant with sautéed green onions, and it also provided a little extra saltiness to the rice.
Along with a drizzle of the green onion oil, the pickles on top were slightly sweet and salty, and added a nice fresh crunch to all the other greasy meats.
Lastly, my plate of com tam suon nuong was served with a side dressing sauce of the famous Vietnamese nuoc cham, sweet fish sauce.
Sometimes when I start eating a plate of delicious food, I just simply can’t put down my spoon to take a photo midway through my meal.
But here at Com Tam Ba Ghien, as soon as my egg broke and the yolk trickled down the pork chop to the broken rice below, I managed to force myself to put my spoon down to take another photo.
The bites just kept getting better and better and better.
The pork was juicy and flavorful, the meatloaf had a marvelous oily black pepper taste, and I really liked the fresh hot steamed broken rice.
All of the flavors mixed together, were superb.
Here’s the full video of the meal. If you have a few minutes to watch it, I think it’s going to give you a much better glimpse of the amazing atmosphere and taste of the food here.
Press play now…
(If you can’t see the video, click here to watch it)
In Saigon there are many foods to eat, but one of the most well known dishes is com tam suon nuong, a pile of steamed broken rice with a marinated and grilled pork chop on top.
While the dish is available at countless street food stalls and restaurants throughout the city, nowhere is more famous than Com Tam Ba Ghien.
I ordered the grand slam, a plate of broken rice topped with a massive pork chop, a slice of Vietnamese meatloaf, shredded pig skin and meat, and finally a runny egg.
It was every bit as delicious as it sounds, and more. The pork was tender, sweet, and salty, the meatloaf was soft and peppery, and the egg added ever more richness to everything.
I guarantee this won’t be one of the healthiest Vietnamese meals you eat, but it will definitely put a smile on your face with every bite.
For an awesome plate of com tam suon nuong in Saigon, Com Tam Ba Ghien is legendary.
Com Tam Ba Ghien (Cơm Tấm Ba Ghiền)
Address: 84 Đặng Văn Ngữ, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
Open hours: 6 am – 10 pm daily
Prices: The total bill, for both my wife and I came to 104,000 Vietnamese Dong ($4.80). She had just rice with a pork chop and egg, which I’m guessing was about 30 – 35,000 VND, and I had the grand slam which was I think 60 – 65,000 VND, and we each had a cup of iced tea.
How to get there: To find the restaurant on the map, scroll down on the left hand side until you see “14. Cơm Tấm Ba Ghiền,” click on it, and it will highlight the position on the map. Enjoy!