Search for a connection between South America and Japan, and you’re likely to end up at Alberto Fujimori, the former and now disgraced President of Peru. Delve deeper, though, and you’ll discover that the largest overseas Japanese population is in Brazil, mainly in Sao Paolo. 1.5 million people-strong, the cuisine has followed. It has fused, too, with the flavours of the land. And it is this theme that the middle-floor restaurant in Blanchy’s Tash is trying to bring to Saigon.

Established in 2004 in Yangon, Myanmar, Monsoon Restaurant & Bar officially opened its Saigon outlet last month. Specialising in pan-Southeast Asian fare and offering a host of signature dishes from Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Thailand, the restaurant has been beautifully designed in a stunningly revamped French colonial-era villa, located minutes away from the backpacker area.

Banh cuon is a northern breakfast staple that is rarely seen down in the south of Vietnam, but one restaurant is trying to change that. Hat Gao Vang (101 Mai This Luu, Q1, with two other outlets in Q11 and Tan Binh) is putting its own twist on this early morning speciality using a little southern flair.

Curry and cold beer. It’s just one of those combinations that seems to work. And it’s a theme that the Saigon South bar, Peaches, has used to good effect. Not only is there a novelty factor — most bar food in this town mixes standard international fare with the odd dumbed down Vietnamese dish — but with dishes coming from all around the region, it’s a theme that is somehow more fitting to the taste buds of Vietnam. So, as a curry lover, it was with relish that I rocked up to this Phu My Hung mainstay.

Located in a restored French colonial-era villa in a quiet hem between the corner of Hai Ba Trung and Dien Bien Phu, the entrance to My Place resembles a quasi botanical-cum-Zen garden with ferns, coleus, devil’s ivy, bamboo and lotus leaves sprouting out around a short wooden track that gives way to an under-glass fishpond walkway.

When exploring hems ditch the bike, your feet are the only way to go. Minh Do hit the maze-like Alley 285 in search of a mythical seafood joint. Photos by EJ Chung

Hem 18A

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Nguyen Thi Minh Khai is one of the longest, main transit veins of Ho Chi Minh City. Serving as a channel from the boarder of District 5, skirting through District 3, and arriving in Binh Thanh, it’s used by almost everyone. So it goes without saying that there is a lot going on along it, however, Hem 18A is a particular highlight.

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