The Queen of Clams

In the time it takes to eat an ice cream, Thu, The Queen of Clams, and her crew pull a full kitchen and a miniature plastic dining room out of a small steel trolley and set up the greatest hến (baby clam) spot in the city.

After setting up, Thu sits down behind a glass display packed with stewed fish, baby clams and chewy shrimp cakes. About six kilograms of fresh herbs hang above her two bubbling cauldrons of tart broth.

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For the first hour after she opens, Thu banters with her saucy sous­chef and neighbors. At times, you may catch her closing her eyes, seemingly to catch a few seconds of sleep.

Things get crazy for Thu as the day wears on. By 8 p.m., the alleyway resembles a zombie film. Central transplants from all over the city tromp in and crowd around her clamoring for clams.

All of her dishes sell for VND14,000 with the exception of her bánh Huế – a heaping mixed plate of shrimp and pork cakes with chand nem chua that goes for a whopping VND20,000.

You can’t really go wrong here, but if you have to eat just one thing, consider her cơm hến (baby clam rice) – a dish that’s as dazzling in its assembly as her restaurant.

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Thu builds the base of the dish with fistfuls of sliced banana flower, peppermint, purple lotus stem and baby lettuce. The salad base disappears under a scoop of steamed rice and buttery baby clams. The final layer is drawn from a set of open jars containing fried shallots, chili paste, fermented purple goo (mắm tôm), peanuts and pork rinds.

These huge flavors all manage to keep each other in check.

In the time it takes to eat an ice cream, Thu and her crew pull a full kitchen and a miniature plastic dining room out of a small steel trolley and set up the greatest hến (baby clam) spot in the city.

After setting up, Thu sits down behind a glass display packed with stewed fish, baby clams and chewy shrimp cakes. About six kilograms of fresh herbs hang above her two bubbling cauldrons of tart broth.

For the first hour after she opens, Thu banters with her saucy sous­chef and neighbors. At times, you may catch her closing her eyes, seemingly to catch a few seconds of sleep.

Things get crazy for Thu as the day wears on. By 8 p.m., the alleyway resembles a zombie film. Central transplants from all over the city tromp in and crowd around her clamoring for clams.

All of her dishes sell for VND14,000 with the exception of her bánh Huế – a heaping mixed plate of shrimp and pork cakes with chand nem chua that goes for a whopping VND20,000.

You can’t really go wrong here, but if you have to eat just one thing, consider her cơm hến (baby clam rice) – a dish that’s as dazzling in its assembly as her restaurant.

Thu builds the base of the dish with fistfuls of sliced banana flower, peppermint, purple lotus stem and baby lettuce. The salad base disappears under a scoop of steamed rice and buttery baby clams. The final layer is drawn from a set of open jars containing fried shallots, chili

paste, fermented purple goo (mắm tôm), peanuts and pork rinds.

These huge flavors all manage to keep each other in check.

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284/9 Le Van Sy St., Ward 14, District 3

VND14,000 per bowl

3 p.m.-10 p.m. every day

The Queen of Com Hen

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