If you are living in Asia and not familiar with Eating Asia then I suggest you check it out straight away. Robyn has offered me countless recommendations on places to eat from Malacca and Penang (where we met for a truly outstanding Malay lunch and here in HCMC as well.
As soon as I read her post on eating “Op La” I knew that this was without a doubt the one thing I could not leave HCMC without eating.
As with many good streetfood places, I was worried they would run out of food and close before we got there if we left it too late and so it was shortly after 8am that we made our way to Hoa Ma Quan, 53 Cao Thang, District 3 for what was to be one of the best breakfasts I have ever eaten.
We were seated inside the small shopfront which I liked as we could watch them preparing the food (quite astonishing!) although it was pretty noisy, undoubtedly the reason numerous local families were gathering to eat at the tables lining the narrow alleyway outside.Whilst they do also serve Banh Mi, it is the Op la that they are famous for and they seemed to know intuitively that was what we were there for with the dishes arriving mere minutes after we arrived.
So what is Op la? Well it seems to derive from the French for “au plat” or “Ouefs plat” which is one way of saying fried eggs but WOW! It was so much more than just this. Using an intensely high heat (and flame) deliciously tasty eggs are fried in a good deal of oil until the bottoms are bubbling and crispy yet the yolk is completely unspoiled and as runny as they come.
On top of this is a selection of homemade sausages and triangles of ham as well as what I thought was fried golden tofu but Robyns post reveals it to be gluten. This is served with a small baguette, homemade pate with a smear of butter in case it wasn’t already rich enough and a sort of achar (light vegetable pickle)
Living in Asia often means that good bread is scarce (or crazy expensive) but with its French ties, the baguette in Vietnam is unsurprisingly delicious. Crisp on the outside and fluffy, yet not too airy, we demolished the baguettes far quicker than I thought we would, either mopping up the yolk with it or eating it with the rich pate. The sausages were also outstanding, robust and meaty they had a smooth consistency and were packed full of amazing flavour, not at all what I had been expecting.
This is definitely not a breakfast for the faint hearted nor the figure conscious but one I will never forget! Breakfast for 2 with jasmine tea came to 88,000 dong (under 140 baht or around $5 sgd.) I highly recommend adding this to your Saigon itineries and I shall most certainly continue to seek eating asias advice on unmissable eats.