Ba Ghien Broken Rice: “A 30-Year-Old Imprint” Of Saigon

The inclusion of Ba Ghien Broken Rice (Cơm Tấm Ba Ghiền) in the Vietnam’s Michelin Selected 2023 list, which was published on 6 June 2023, sparked much debate and mixed reactions. However, it cannot be denied that Ba Ghien Broken Rice has become an integral element of Ho Chi Minh City’s distinct culinary culture during the last 30 years.

If you ask Saigon residents what food best represents their culture, they will most certainly say Broken Rice (Vietnamese: Cơm Tấm). Broken Rice is a meal that can be found in a variety of locations along the S-shaped strip of land. But nowhere is it more delectable than in Saigon. Broken rice has a distinct flavor that is difficult to resist. Broken rice is present in every element of Saigon’s existence, whether it is morning, noon, afternoon, or late. It’s just broken rice with grilled ribs, grilled pork skin, and steamed rolls with a bit of fat, crispy and crispy, drizzled with a little sweet and sour fish sauce, yet this dish has become the soul of the Saigon area, and the Southwest region of Vietnam as a whole.

It would be a mistake not to mention Ba Ghien Broken Rice, one of Saigon’s most well-known broken rice eateries. Since its inception in 1995, Ba Ghien Broken Rice has solidified its position in the Saigon culinary market. Anyone passing through Dang Van Ngu Street (Phu Nhuan District) may notice smoke chimneys from barbecued ribs on red coal.

“Ba Ghien” is named after the present owner’s grandpa and has been passed down through many generations. The “giant” rib, which the owner boldly claims is “the biggest rib in Saigon,” is the distinguishing element of Ba Ghien broken rice. A piece of ribs here is the size of a rice dish. Diners frequently joke that this is “rice ribs” rather than “rib rice” because the ribs fully cover the dish of rice, leaving no rice visible on the surface. Since the shop’s inception, the ribs have been significantly larger than the others. The owner afterwards opted to increase the size to “giant” since he wanted them to become the brand’s hallmark.

At Ba Ghien, a mixed portion will include ribs, skin, rolls, omelets, shumai, and sausages. Those who visit for the first time are also shocked because a portion can be divided for 2-3 people; thus, the amount of food comes with the price. Diners may have to spend more than 100,000 VND (~US$4) for a plate of broken rice, which has long been a source of contention. Many others disagree, especially since Ba Ghien is on the Michelin Bib Gourmand 2023 list (evaluated based on the criteria of good cuisine quality and fair pricing), because they believe paying more than ~US$4 for a dinner is excessively expensive.

However, in order to provide an objective conclusion, we must evaluate additional aspects. To begin with, the Ba Ghien ribs are marinated with a sweet flavor that is suitable for Southern regional eating, and the accompanying side dishes are generally good. Pickles and fish sauce are added to taste, and the rice is boiled to give it a Saigon flavor. Overall, the food at Ba Ghien isn’t spectacular, but it’s also not terrible. Many customers who were accustomed to the flavor of broken rice here have long supported the cafe, despite the fact that a big number of elderly people have followed it from its establishment.

Second, it took approximately 30 years for Ba Ghien broken rice to gain popularity as a brand. Customers will immediately think of a massive rib and a plate of rice when they hear the name Ba Ghien. To do so, it must always try to improve the quality of cuisine and service in order to attract more dinners. When the diner progressively stabilized, there was a need to raise the price to cover the additional expenditures because the number of customers visiting Ba Ghien was increasing day by day, therefore the number of products sold doubled. Given that a plate costs more than 100,000 VND but can feed roughly 2-3 people, it is extremely reasonable. The acclaimed eatery has an advantage in that it understands customer psychology. Ba Ghien will recommend appropriate rice portions based on the number of individuals eating, without pressuring anyone to eat a portion.

In conclusion, despite varied evaluations, Ba Ghien is still worth a visit as a broken-rice restaurant in Saigon. Different opinions and decisions can be made based on the needs of each individual. However, it may be difficult to find such a long-standing location with such a competitive price and great quality while still attracting a significant number of customers to eat there. The last thing on the plate of Ba Ghien broken rice is not only the material value or flavor of the dish, but it is also related with the traditional cultural features of old and new Saigon.

Address: 84 Dang Van Ngu, Ward 10, Phu Nhuan Distric, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

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