Not all congee (rice porridge) is created equal.
Some versions are very plain, others are flavored with tiny bits of minced pork and organs, and some with a soft boiled egg – which can all be very good.
But when I was in Vietnam, I ate, what is now, one of my favorite versions of rice congee porridge anywhere… known as cháo vịt in Vietnamese – duck rice congee, and in this case braised duck.
Along with Kyle one day in Saigon, we headed to a restaurant called Cháo Vịt Thanh Đa (Gốc Nhà Lá).
I have to admit that when I heard duck congee porridge, I was thinking of just a simple bowl of thickened rice soup, with some bits of duck within it.
I’m happy to say I was totally wrong with my first assumption.
What was served to us at our table, with the help of Kyle, was a family sized feast of congee in a communal bowl, a platter of sliced up braised duck, a side plate of duck organs, and a delicious Vietnamese sour and sweet herb and veggie salad to wrap it all up.
Vietnamese chao vit, at this restaurant specifically, was not just an ordinary bowl of congee, it was spectacular!
Cháo Vịt Thanh Đa (Gốc Nhà Lá) restaurant is located a little bit outside of Saigon, within the horseshoe island wrapped within the river, north of the city.
But it’s really not all that far to get to the restaurant, and when we went the traffic was light. A taxi ride there didn’t cost too much and I think it took only about 20 minutes or so to get there from central Saigon.
The journey to get there was well worth the food.
If you go to eat at Cháo Vịt Thanh Đa (Gốc Nhà Lá) there are two similar restaurants located right next to each other that both serve cháo vịt.
We chose this restaurant, which I believe was the one on the left side, because it’s, so we think, the original one.
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Instead of getting an individual bowl of rice congee, with a few seasonings to spruce it up, what greeted me at the table was an all out brunch duck feast.
As soon as we placed our order, they grabbed a duck that was hanging in the cabinet, sliced it with expertise, and placed it onto a platter.
Along with the duck we also ordered a big bowl of congee rice porridge.
I guess I was so excited about the duck and colorful salad, that I failed to really take a solo shot of the congee – but you can see it at the top of this photo.
The congee itself was really good as well.
It was thinner than other congee versions that I’ve had in places like China or Thailand.
It was more soupy, with a wonderful meaty flavor undertone, and seasoned nicely with a handful of green onions and black pepper on top.
For the duck, the Vietnamese touch that I loved so much was the addition of fried crispy shallots on top, which I hadn’t seen in other Asian countries before.
The duck itself was braised in what tasted like a mixture of soy sauce with sweet hints of star anise and maybe some cinnamon.
I’m not a huge fan of duck skin unless it’s crispy, so for most of my bites, I peeled off the skin and just ate the succulent juicy meat below.
The duck meat without the skin was very lean and flavorsome, and not dry, but quite moist and delicious.
The duck was also served with sauce, that tasted to me like a sweet fish sauce that was loaded with pureed ginger.
The sauce might have been a little sweet for me usually, but I loved the taste of ginger.
And again, topped with a handful of fried crispy shallots really added an extra salty and oniony dimension to the braised duck – I wish all places added crispy shallots.
But one of my favorite parts of eating Vietnamese duck congee at Cháo Vịt Thanh Đa (Gốc Nhà Lá) was the side salad they served to make our meal complete.
Just like with all noodle dishes in Vietnam you get a side of vegetables, this cháo vịt was served with thinly shaved banana flower, Vietnamese coriander, carrots, daikon, red onions, and finally some crushed peanuts on top.
The salad had a very light dressing, which was slightly sweet and sour.
I enjoyed adding some of the garnishing salad to my congee – this was the real Vietnamese fresh touch.
Along with the braised duck, we also got a plate of prized duck organs, and I presume, but I’m not sure, if they were cooked within the braised duck and then removed.
The plate included gizzard, liver, and a couple of duck hearts as well. And again, it was sprinkled with a lovely addition of crispy shallots.
Gizzard has always been one of my favorite bird organs, and usually it has a pretty grizzly texture. This time however, the gizzard was unbelievably soft and tender, almost like the pieces of duck breast itself.
The liver was perhaps a little on the dry side, but it was still delicious, and the duck heart was also extremely good – creamy and rich.
If you have a few minutes, here’s the full video of the meal:
(If you can’t see the video, watch it here on YouTube)
When I was eating my way through Vietnam, one of the many delicious meals I got to eat was Vietnamese style braised duck and congee rice porridge at a restaurant called Cháo Vịt Thanh Đa (Gốc Nhà Lá).
The duck was extremely succulent and lean, with a salty taste from being braised in a mixture of soy sauce and Chinese spices. The congee was light and fluffy, enhanced with meat stock, and served with a sour and slightly sweet Vietnamese salad on the side.
The duck congee porridge at Cháo Vịt Thanh Đa in Saigon was incredibly delicious, and I think it’s well worth a pilgrimage if you love to eat.
Cháo Vịt Thanh Đa (Gốc Nhà Lá)
Address: 118 Bình Quới, P. 27, Ho Chi Minh City – The restaurant is located located within the horseshoe shaped island in the river north of Saigon, Vietnam
Open hours: 7 am – 11 pm daily
Price: Our total bill for three of us came to 283,000 VND (about $13), but we had a lot of food and the three of us came out of the restaurant pretty full and happy. I’d say it was a pretty decent price for the amount of food we ate.
How to get there: To get there we hopped in a taxi and went directly there. I can’t remember how much the taxi cost, but it was affordable, I think less than our meal, and well worth the trip out there.
For the map, scroll down until you see Cháo Vịt Thanh Đa (Gốc Nhà Lá), click on it, and it will highlight the location:
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