Sao Nam

by The Foodster on Sun, September 07, 2008

Sweet, sour and satisfying. Sao Nam still serves up great Vietnamese fare. That's not all, the Sao Nam at Plaza Damas has a bakery too and books you can browse and buy.

Dig into the bamboo depths for all sorts of goodies

Foodster's Verdict

Sao Nam
  • Address

    Lot P-36, 2nd floor, Hartamas Shopping Center, Plaza Damas, Jalan Sri Hartamas 1, 50480 Kuala Lumpur
    Tel: 03 6201 0225

  • Open

    12.30 - 2.30 pm / 7.30 pm - 10.30 pm/ Drinks only after 10.30 pm

  • Pros

    Easy to park at night and service is fast

  • Cons

    Some of the specials look good but you have to order it in advance

  • Price Range

  • Parking


  • Certification

    Pork Free

It was one of those rainy Sunday nights where most of the usual hawkers were closed. Hankering for something different, we arrived at Sao Nam with images of sour, sweet dishes in our heads. Nothing like rain to awaken hunger in the tummy. The Sao Nam at Plaza Damas is a nice place for a rainy night. You can sit outdoors under the covered sidewalk and enjoy cool breezes in an otherwise very hot city.

There’s a whole special menu at the back, some you need to pre-order but I’m here for the Goi Mang Cut or the prawn and mangosteen salad. It never ceases to amaze me how delicious Indochinese salads are. Vietnamese uses familiar ingredients like Thai but with it’s own twist. Chewing through the food it's easy to imagine the joined borders and love of fresh greens and fruits coupled with essentials like fish sauce and tender meats. This is a signature salad and marries the juicy, tongue tingling mangosteen and fresh, briny prawns to perfection. It is then mixed with a Vietnamese vinaigrette, a combination of vinegar and squeezed citrusy-sour fruits. For texture they mix in some dried coconut and strips of salted squid. So delicious…

I tried the beef in a bamboo tube next. This one is oily with tender beef, a little bit like the Cambodian Luc Lac except it has more gravy and finely chopped herbs like mint and kafir lime interred thoroughly within it. Best thing about this dish is that it’s full of sliced onions adding mellow sweetness to the gravy. You eat this with a combination of starfruit slices, lettuce and more Vietnamese ulam in rice paper.

The rice paper is as fragile as paper so the trick here is to layer it with the lettuce and starfruit, dollop on the beef and try to roll and eat it before the beef gravy soaks past the paper and lands in a mush on your plate. I find that eating this with a small bowl of rice a better option. It’s got a salty edge that goes great with sticky rice and though the bamboo casing looks small, dig into its depth and you’ll get all sorts of gravied goodies like caramelised onions and bits of beef that’s dropped off and grounded down into the herbs at the bottom.

Another dish that was unexpected was the dau hu tom ko. When ordered we did not realise that the tofu is cooked in salted egg. I was a bit sceptical. Except for the most fantastic crab place that does this combo well, I am not a particular fan of the egginess of salted egg in a dish. This however, is rather good as the egginess is not too overpowering and goes well with the dried prawns and scallions. The tofu too is very, very soft and dissolves in your rice as you plop it in.

Another recommendation for the rainy day would be porridge. The fish porridge comes with nice slices of fish lightly fried and is full of flavour. It was a little salty but I put it down to the fish sauce in it. Trust me I can just eat this on its own though add a bit of the tofu and you’ll have a crazy yummy concoction- a new subtle take on the telur asin and smelly tofu in a usual local congee. Slurp!

We tried the ginger ice cream with lychee for dessert. The ice cream is more of a sorbet and is so infused with ginger that it’s spicy and pops your eye open with every mouthful. Probably for the best because the combination of cold night and warm bellyful of grub makes one sleepy. And we do need to get home to our toasty beds.