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.

 

I’d already been twice to this simple but tastefully designed bar, the previous occasion just over a month ago. On this visit I’d ordered the slow-cooked beef rendang, one of the most complicated curries to master, especially in a country lacking some of the key ingredients — galangal and turmeric. It had been tasty but lacked real authenticity and punch. Unfortunately for every rendition of rendang around the world, my first introduction to the dish was by a Minangkabau friend in Bukit Tinggi in West Sumatra, the origin of this now Southeast Asian speciality. So tasty was it that for the remaining time on this island, it became an almost daily part of my diet.

 

So, on this visit, while I went for the rendang for a second time, I also decided to try some of the other offerings and not be over-critical. The venue serves curries from all over the region, and transporting such dishes to Vietnam has often resulted in a watered down version of the real thing.

 

First up was the Balinese pork curry, a red sauce dish with chunks of pork and potato. The deep red sauce, while thick and with a good consistency, tasted a touch burnt. With a beer in hand this wouldn’t matter. But for anyone desiring a great eat, they may be disappointed, no matter how much was made up for by the wholesome chunks of pork and the potato.

 

The Singaporean chicken curry was a better rendition of its real self. Typically mild and served with ochre and tender chicken on the bone, the sauce was smoothly spiced and eaten with beer to swill away the chilli, this little gem would go down a treat.

 

New to me was the Portuguese fish ball curry. A variation of the typical Kerala-influenced curry found in Sri Lanka, this was hands down the best dish of the day. Served up with the fish filet rolled into uncoated balls and with onion, green peppers and a range of spices, too, there was an inherent sweetness to this dish and a fullness of flavour that made it a delight on the palate. The fish was tender and the coconut milk that made up the bulk of the sauce was sweet enough to soften the chilli and yet not overwhelm, as it can often do in other curries in this region.

 

And then, of course, came the rendang. Wetter this time round than on my last attempt, this version felt more authentic but once again it lacked the spicy punch that I associate with this dish. Not Peaches’ fault. But still.

 

The curry offerings at Peaches may not be perfect. But then this is after all a pub, and you wouldn’t expect them to reach such dizzy culinary heights. Getting all the spices, right, too, must also be a chore. And yet, with the beer swilling and the chilli juices flowing, this is a great option for anyone looking for a hearty, sweat-inducing meal. The service was faultless, too.

 

The Prices

Singaporean Chicken Curry: VND90,000

Portuguese Fish Ball Curry: VND85,000

Balinese Spicy Pork Curry: VND90,000

Beef Rendang: VND100,000

 

The Verdict

Food: 8.5

Décor: 8

Service: 11

 

Food, Decor and Service are each rated on a scale of 0 to 15

13 – 15 extraordinary to perfection
10 – 12.5 very good to excellent
8 – 9.5 good to very good
5 – 7.5 fair to good
0 – 4.5 poor to fair

The Word reviews anonymously and pays for all meals

 

Mystery Diner

The Mystery Diner is a person hailing from a country that may or may not be Vietnam. S/he can be seen frequently in the restaurants and cafes of Hanoi and HCMC, searching for the most delicious meals each city has to offer. Look for the masked figure in a cape, lurking in the darkest corners of your neighbourhood com tam or pho joint.

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