Nhà Em, on the 5th floor of SM Aura, literally translates to My Home, and that’s just how it feels like: the comfortable sitting room of a close friend, where you can bask in the warmth of the sun by the window.
There are three head chefs at Nhà Em who all had the opportunity to visit Ho Chi Minh for research. One of those head chefs, Francis “Kiko” Asuncion, tells us they spent “Around 10 days hanging around to see the culture, eat what the locals eat,” to help develop the dishes. They also had a local who owns a restaurant in Ho Chi Minh inform and guide their recreation of traditional home-cooked meals.
A number of ingredients have to be imported from Vietnam in order to give their dishes an authentic taste, like their fish sauce, wrappers, and sriracha.
The owner himself is half Vietnamese and wanted to share that side of his heritage with the other side, the Philippines, through Nhà Em, and the company of Nhà Em’s former marketing VP spent 6 years in Vietnam, and in that time became familiar with what Filipinos would most enjoy eating while visiting the country. While Nhà Em serves those Filipino favorites, with Pho and fresh spring rolls being their best sellers, they also aim to have more unusual dishes like Bánh Xèo.
There are 2 more Nhà Em restaurants set to open this year, so if you can drop by before the year ends, this is what we think you should try:
Deep fried spring rolls have a different filling from their fresh counterpart—less healthy but more hearty! | Photo by writer.
Though fresh spring rolls at Nhà Em (and in other local Vietnamese places, we’d wager) remains a bestseller, and while Nhà Em makes an excellent fresh spring roll, we are team Deep Fried Spring Rolls. Instead of noodles, shrimp, herbs, and rice wrapper, the fried one has pork, mushrooms, taro, wrapped up in a distinct netted wrapper from Vietnam to give your bite an extra crackle.
They had to bring in special pans from Vietnam that are specifically used for Bánh Xèo to get the exact crispiness.
The Bánh Xèo is not a typical dish you see in Philippine-based Vietnamese restaurants, but it should be. With a distinct flat, thin crunchy outer layer housing shrimp, green onions and bean sprouts, the Bánh Xèo is nothing like a pancake or crepe (as it is sometimes translated into in English), but a fun savory dish on its own that requires a system to eat: lay a cut piece on a leaf, add Vietnamese herbs to taste, roll up, dip in sauce, and bite. The Bánh Xèo is significantly bigger than we expected from the menu photo, which is apparently a common reaction. We recommend it for sharing so that you can try their other items on the menu, though their head chef tells us he can finish one on his own happily.
Sữa Chua or Yogurt & cà phê sữa đá or hot vietnamese coffee with condensed milk
Even the yogurt containers come from Vietnam. | Yogurt – PHP 50 | Hot Coffee with Milk – PHP 105
“You can buy yogurt anywhere on the streets of Vietnam,” they tell us. “And it’s super cheap.” This yogurt doesn’t taste like your ordinary yogurt though—thicker, heavier, and tarter, it is like the condensada of yogurt. Because it is a condensed dessert, the small serving does the dish justice. And while you’re enjoying your Vietnamese-style yogurt, you may as well have some traditional Vietnamese coffee as well, roasted in butter and flown in straight from Vietnam, and served with a sweet serving of condensed milk. Watch out though—this coffee is strong, and we wouldn’t drink it in the late afternoon.
Traditional home-cooked Vietnamese food.