Madam Saigon: Vietnamese street food elevated to fine-dining cuisine

As Asia’s World City, Hong Kong welcomes food from all over the world with arms wide open. But Vietnam’s home pride, street food, sometimes seems to sit at odds with the higher echelons of Hong Kong. However, newly-opened Madam Saigon in Tsim Sha Tsui is serving up gorgeous modern interpretations of classic casual Vietnamese dishes which are perfect for a low-key business lunch or a relaxed dinner. 

Madam Saigon
Colourful interiors at Madam Saigon

Hong Kong-based chef Ken Lam brings high-quality ingredients, superior cooking techniques and a few choice global influences to his Vietnamese menu to elevate Viet cuisine from fine to ‘fine dining’. Lam has an uncanny skill for knowing when to swap out the traditional elements for higher quality ones, such as replacing freshwater prawns with their sea-faring cousins, and going straight to the source for fresher flavours. The restaurant imports unique ingredients such as baby lotus roots, rice paper wrappers and Phu Quoc peppercorns directly from Vietnam to be prepared in-house.

Madam Saigon
Ken Lam, Head Chef at Madam Saigon

Instead of the naff raffia and dried palm leaves which usually bedeck street-food restaurants, Madam Saigon opts for a balance of classy, shiny black furniture and lifts the atmosphere with one stunning illustrated mural and another of brightly decorated and textured Non La hats. Settle into the spacious dining area or, for a little more privacy, request one of the booth seats situated near the back of the restaurant.

Madam Saigon
Steamed Rice Flan with Minced Pork and Deep Fried Garlic

If you’re looking to show off to your foodie friends or global gourmands, then opt for the Steamed Rice Flan with Minced Pork and Deep Fried Garlic. Even for long-time fans of Vietnamese food, this might be new to you as it hasn’t yet made its way over from the mother country. If you’re a fan of glutinous Cantonese dumplings or Japanese mochi, then these will hit the spot perfectly. Warm and sticky with a salty, savoury crunch. Also ideal for sharing are the Madam Saigon Deep Fried Spring Rolls. Here, Lam swaps out traditional spring roll wrappers for net wrapping and gives them an extra long cook in the deep fryer. The result is both moreish and audibly crunchy.

Madam Saigon
Shrimp with Mixed Fresh Fruit Rice Paper Rolls

If you have an important client to impress, then perhaps order the Shrimp with Mixed Fresh Fruit Rice Paper Rolls and the Tom Yum Koong Soup with King Prawn. The rice rolls – an impressive visual display and balance of sweet and savoury flavours – tantalise the palate for an ideal amuse bouche, and the enormous majestic prawn with arching legs rising from its fragrant broth is a sensuous showstopper. Although not as spicy as traditional Thai seafood soups, the broth is a wider blend of sweet and sour flavours, with the slower burn allowing the flavour of the shrimp meat to shine.

Madam Saigon
Tom Yum Koong Soup with King Prawn

Madam Saigon remains well aware that you’ll need something with which to wash this deliciousness down, and have partnered with Blooms Roastery and Craft Tea, the renowned coffee brand of actor Moses Chan, to bring authentic Vietnamese Filter Coffee to the table. If you’re not planning on returning to the office after lunch then the restaurant’s Director of Mixology, Match Chan, has an exquisite handcrafted cocktail menu which is not to be missed. Miss Guava, an exotic blend of sweet guava juice, agave nectar and white rum with sour lime juice and white vinegar, was our particular favourite. Delicious enough to merit another…and maybe even another.

Madam Saigon
Miss Guava, an exotic blend of sweet guava juice, agave nectar and white rum

Madam Saigon. Shop B131, B1/F, Mira Place 1, 132 Nathan Road, Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon. 2808 4777.

Text: Alice Duncan