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Exploring Diverse Indian Flavors at Saigon’s Beloved Baba’s Kitchen

Have you ever stopped and wondered where the Indian curry you’re enjoying came from?

Like many dishes, the concept of curry took a long, circuitous route to Vietnam from its starting point on the Indian subcontinent.  

The British, during their colonial rule of what is now India, took a liking to curry, perhaps surprising given their famed aversion to flavor. It spread through their empire and eventually landed in France thanks to the French colony of Pondicherry, on modern India’s southeast coast. 

When the French colonized Vietnam, they brought curry with them, while thousands of Tamils and other people from southern India also moved here, particularly Saigon. Through social intermingling and the spread of curry powder in cooking, the ingredient became a staple in contemporary Vietnam, with nearly every home kitchen nowadays containing a packet or two of fragrant curry powder.

Thanks to these movements of people and products over the centuries, modern Saigoneers no longer have to wait for an old, old wooden ship to deliver their curry - or any other kind of Indian food - to the city. They can simply visit Baba’s Kitchen, which has been satisfying residents hankering for curry, pakora or tandoor chicken for a decade. 

While Baba’s has been a mainstay of Bui Vien Street for ages, and also a location in delightful Hoi An, they recently expanded to a spacious, graceful villa on a leafy Thao Dien side street. The airy interior is accented by touches of Indian art and decor, while the huge outdoor space in the back features a children’s play area, comfortable seating, and an open kitchen, so diners can watch their favorite dishes being expertly cooked. 

The backyard also displays a hand-drawn map of India, with each of the country’s 28 states represented by their best-known dish, many of which people can try at Babas while sitting on a huge bench shaped like an elephant.

This location is already popular among families and groups of friends who want ample space to comfortably and slowly enjoy their meal - an important quality given Baba’s hearty portion sizes. 

While the Indian stalwart has moved decidedly upmarket with the Thao Dien location, one thing has not changed: their expansive menu of delicacies from both northern and southern India, giving visitors a wide range of flavor and spice levels to choose from, from fiery vindaloo to milder dishes like palak paneer and harder-to-find regional specialties like the masala dosa.

Despite Indian food’s long history in Vietnam, many people still have not tried it, fearing the flavors will be too extreme. While curry powder is a staple of the cuisine, it’s not in every dish, and flavors range from savory to sweet, umami to sour, with plenty of vegetables and meat. When many Vietnamese and Korean diners, in particular, try it for the first time, they appreciate the communal-style dining and the diversity of small side dishes accompanied by rice. 

Baba’s understands that people from different parts of the world have different taste preferences, and they allow diners to customize their spice level - though the kitchen never compromises on flavor. And while many people in Saigon, whether local or expat, have tried Indian food before, Baba’s expansive menu always holds something new. The staff is therefore happy to provide descriptions and offer recommendations.

The Thao Dien restaurant also serves Thai and Sri Lankan dishes, while quick delivery is available city-wide through their website or Facebook page, as well as multiple delivery apps - and you might even get a phone call the following day asking how your meal was.

In 2020, it’s hard to imagine a world where nearly every kind of cuisine isn’t within easy reach. Two hundred years ago, the thought of being able to access the wonders of Indian food through a short drive or a few taps of your phone would have been as wild as the concept of flying cars - or even normal cars.

Today, thanks to Baba’s Kitchen, you can journey throughout the immensity of India, all without leaving Saigon. 

 

Baba's Kitchen's website

Baba's Kitchen's Facebook Page

+84 28 3838 6661/6662 (District 1 location).

+84 28 3744 6897 (District 2 location).

+84 0235 3939 919 (Hoi An Location).

274 Bui Vien, Pham Ngu Lao Ward, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City.

35 Le Van Mien, Thao Dien Ward, District 2, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

115 Phan Chu Trinh, Phường Minh An, Hoi An, Quang Nam