I haven’t really been into Vietnamese food since my trip to Ho Chi Minh City in 2018. Somehow I haven’t really found a Vietnamese restaurant to get excited about.. up till now.
Those of you familiar with the Vietnamese language will know that “Co” in Vietnamese means “Aunty”. Basically, this family run restaurant is opened by Aunty Chung who used to work as the Head Nurse of a General Hospital in Daklak until she retired 3 years ago. She came to Singapore in 2 years back to look after her grandchild but was soon persuaded to open a restaurant to showcase her brand of Vietnamese food!
The first Co Chung was opened at the basement of Plaza Singapura just before the Circuit Breaker. But despite the initial setback, they managed to do quite well last year and have now opened a second branch at Boat Quay. This is surely a testament to the quality of Aunty Chung’s cooking!
The first dish we had was the bánh xèo, a crispy Vietnamese style crepe that is filled with sliced pork and bean sprouts. What I really liked about it is that Aunty Chung also adds some mashed mung beans to the crepe that really gives it a nice savory flavour. It is served with a lovely sweet and salty nước chấm sauce which was very well balanced and highly addictive. Aunty Chung shared with me that the secret to a great sauce is to use a premium anchovy fish sauce with a nitrogen rating of 40°N! 4.5/5
Our next lovely surprise was the bun cha Hanoi which became popularly known as bun cha Obama ever since Anthony Bourdain treated the then US President to a meal at Bun Cha Huong Lien in 2016. This is actually my first time trying this dish and I could immediately understand why Anthony Bourdain would pick this dish to introduce to President Obama.
The dish is made up of grilled marinated pork patties and pork belly served in the aforementioned nước chấm sauce with rice noodles. Aunty Chung insists on grilling the pork patties over a charcoal fire in order to get that smokey char grill flavour which is what brings the dish to the next level. 4.5/5
Any Vietnamese restaurant review would be incomplete without mentioning pho, which is to Vietnam what chicken rice is to Singapore. The pho is probably the best I have had locally. The soup is sweet and has that depth of flavour which you can only get from the boiling the beef bones overnight. They use a very good USDA ribeye which is sliced thin for shabu shabu which is such an improvement over normal sliced beef that you usually find in pho. If there is one complaint, it is the beef balls are pretty lack lustre and nothing compared to the excellent ones at Chaoniu. 4.25/5
The Vietnamese ice coffee here is superb, so make sure you order a cup. It is thick, rich, caramelly and chocolately and tastes a lot like a mocha milkshake except that it is only made from pure coffee beans. Just beware if you are already suffering from insomnia as it really is very potent and packs quite a bit of punch! 4.5/5
It is not everyday that you can drink a single estate coffee direct from the farm to the table. The family actually own the coffee plantation in Vietnam which processes and roast their own beans. In order to achieve the deep, mellow flavor, they laboriously brew the coffee over two hours in a large coffee dripper, then allow it to rest in ice for 8 hours before it is served! Even if you order hot coffee, they will just heat up the resulting brew and serve it. They explained that in order to get a really good cup of Vietnamese coffee, you really need at least 45mins for the slow drip brewing method to work properly. But everyone is in a rush in Singapore, so this is the next best way to enjoy the coffee!
Broken rice (com tam) is another new dish I was introduced to. Actually it isn’t so much a new dish as a new ingredient. The dish is essentially white rice topped with a fried egg and served with marinated pork and meatloaf. At first I was incredulous that they would make such a big fuss over such a simple dish. But I was to find out later that the real star was hidden under the fried egg! (it is called “broken rice” after all so I should have known)
Now what is the big deal with broken rice? Isn’t just inferior rice that is damaged during the milling process? I’ve always known it as rice that is used to make porridge. In the past it was used by poor rice farmers who would sell the good stuff and use the damaged rice to feed the family. But nowadays, broken rice is served as a popular dish on the streets of Vietnam.
The broken rice used at Co Chung turned out to be another lovely surprise. The grains are smaller than the rice we are used to and since they are also broken, the tiny bits of rice has quite a different mouthfeel than what we are used to and the aroma of the rice is very nice. Definitely worth trying. 4.25/5
The bahn mi here is good but in order for it to be authentic, it really needs to have the classic cold cuts and pate. So far, I have yet to see any really authentic ones in Singapore. I suspect that our SFA has somehow banned the importation of such processed meats from Vietnam. I don’t blame them, I also partake of the pastel-ly pink processed pork pate with some trepidation while I was in Vietnam. They offer bahn mi with roasted pork and homemade mayo here and the crusty bread is good, although it is still not quite the same as the ones you find in Vietnam. 4/5
For desserts, they serve the traditional corn sweet soup and banana sweet soups. Both were good but at $5.90 per bowl, just slightly pricey, in my opinion.
Lovely little family run Vietnamese restaurant where the food is prepared with much passion. The overall quality of the food is very good and it is more refined than the food served in the typical Vietnamese restaurant. The place also feels very really cosy as they spared no expense in shipping over the furnishings from Vietnam to give it an authentic feel. For coffee lovers, the farm-to-table coffee here should be enough reason to pay this place a visit!
This was a media review. That means that the meal was hosted with no obligation to write a review unless we felt the food was good enough to recommend!