JavaScript is off. Please enable to view full site.

Authentic Middle Eastern flavors in the heart of Ho Chi Minh City

Friday, October 13, 2023, 14:38 GMT+7
Authentic Middle Eastern flavors in the heart of Ho Chi Minh City
A baker bakes pita bread at Al-Sham Saigon. Photo: Dong Nguyen / Tuoi Tre News

Firas and Ali, two employees at Al-Sham Saigon – a Middle Eastern restaurant in the heart of Ho Chi Minh City – spend their days smoothly kneading dough to bake dozens of pita breads in the dome oven that sits in front of the restaurant.

This process is repeated several times a day, producing the hundreds of the round Arabic flatbreads needed to serve the dozens of diners that visit Al-Sham each day.

Fire inflates pita bread in the oven. Photo: Dong Nguyen / Tuoi Tre News

Fire inflates pita bread in the oven. Photo: Dong Nguyen / Tuoi Tre News

Syrian and Lebanese food

Badeh Allahma first arrived in Vietnam about 10 years ago when he moved to the southern province of Binh Duong to work in a coffee factory.  

It was not long before he fell in love with the country and began looking at ways he could share his own culture with Vietnam.

About six years ago, he found a way to do that – opening a restaurant where foreigners and Vietnamese alike could sample some of the best Middle Eastern flavors that could be found in Ho Chi Minh City. 

"Vietnam is beautiful, there are many good people, and it's fun to live in Vietnam," Allahma said, adding that he is thankful that Vietnamese are so welcoming to Syrians like himself.

Badeh Allahma, owner of Al-Sham Saigon. Photo: Dong Nguyen / Tuoi Tre News

Badeh Allahma, owner of Al-Sham Saigon. Photo: Dong Nguyen / Tuoi Tre News

When it started, the restaurant was just a modest six-table eatery. 

Nowadays, however, it has grown into a new location at 314 Vo Van Kiet where it can seat over 100 guests.

The two-story restaurant is decorated in such a way that upon entering, diners are immediately 'transported' to Syria or Lebanon, the home countries of Allahma and his wife.

But the decorations are not the only authenticity at Al-Sham Saigon, the massive menu of over 100 authentic combinations of lamb, chicken, fish, mezze, falafel, stuffed vine leaf rolls, tabbouleh salad, zaatar pizza, and more truly encompasses the heart of Middle Eastern flavor.  

Everything on the menu is halal. 

For those looking to sample each of these dishes, make sure to visit during Al-Sham’s Sunday buffet or on the first Sunday of the month when they grill a whole lamb.

Staff grill a lamb in front of Al-Sham Saigon. Photo: Dong Nguyen / Tuoi Tre News

Staff grill a lamb in front of Al-Sham Saigon. Photo: Dong Nguyen / Tuoi Tre News

Most of the ingredients used at Al-Sham come directly from Allahma’s farms in Vung Tau – where he raises sheep and chickens – and Da Lat – where he grows fruit and vegetables.

The beef used at Al-Sham is halal and is bought directly from Muslim butchers in Vietnam.

Allaham’s motivation to open Al-Sham stemmed from his love of cooking and desire to introduce his homeland’s cuisine to Vietnamese people. 

Aside from running his restaurant, Allahma also visited food fairs around the city where he proudly brought the food he made to visitors for free, in the hope that Vietnamese people would know more about his homeland.

Al-Sham Saigon’s mezze platter, a selection of small dishes served as appetizers in many Middle Eastern countries. Photo: Dong Nguyen / Tuoi Tre News

Al-Sham Saigon’s mezze platter, a selection of small dishes served as appetizers in many Middle Eastern countries. Photo: Dong Nguyen / Tuoi Tre News

Dozens of Vietnamese guests

According to Allahma, most of the guests at Al-Sham Saigon live in Ho Chi Minh City and about 60 percent are Vietnamese. 

The place is visited by both Muslims and non-Muslims who come to the restaurant because they love the food here.

Justin Grosslight, an American who has been a regular at Al-Sham for the past three or four years, praised the eatery for its Sunday buffets.

“The buffet is great value for money and I also like Middle Eastern food, there's not much of it in the city,” he said.

Nguyen Hien Le, a resident of Go Vap District, has also visited the restaurant with his friends and family for its buffets many times. He is a big fan of grilled lamb.

"Most customers come here for the first time because they want to try something new,” Khanh, a Vietnamese staff member, said.

“We see many Vietnamese turn into repeat customers.”

Miidle Eastern food is served at a buffet of Al-Sham Saigon. Photo: Dong Nguyen / Tuoi Tre News

Miidle Eastern food is served at a buffet of Al-Sham Saigon. Photo: Dong Nguyen / Tuoi Tre News

Middle Eastern dips are served at a buffet at Al-Sham Saigon. Photo: Dong Nguyen / Tuoi Tre News

Middle Eastern dips are served at a buffet at Al-Sham Saigon. Photo: Dong Nguyen / Tuoi Tre News

Meeze and grilled meat swerved with pitta breads at Al-Sham Saigon. Photo: Dong Nguyen / Tuoi Tre News

Meeze and grilled meat swerved with pitta breads at Al-Sham Saigon. Photo: Dong Nguyen / Tuoi Tre News

Pastries wait to be baked. Photo: Dong Nguyen / Tuoi Tre News

Pastries wait to be baked at Al-Sham Saigon. Photo: Dong Nguyen / Tuoi Tre News

A baker prepares dough to make pita bread at Al-Sham Saigon. Photo: Dong Nguyen / Tuoi Tre News

A baker prepares dough to make pita bread at Al-Sham Saigon. Photo: Dong Nguyen / Tuoi Tre News

Like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter to get the latest news about Vietnam!

Dong Nguyen / Tuoi Tre News

READ MORE

Read more

Photo

Video

Check out stunning Du Gia Waterfall in Ha Giang, northern Vietnam

From morning through late afternoon, crowds of tourists flock to Du Gia Waterfall to enjoy its scenic beauty and refreshing waters. Nestled amidst the mountains and forests of Tien Village in Du Gia Commune, Yen Minh District, Ha Giang Province, northern Vietnam, Du Gia Waterfall is often likened to a slumbering fairy.

Foreigners cook Vietnamese meals for needy locals

A group of foreign tourists recently visited the Social Protection Center of Quang Nam Province in central Vietnam. They were touched by the care and attention given to the center’s senior citizens.

Crafting homes in Vietnam’s Hoi An

The traditional bamboo houses and nipa palm roofing in Hoi An City, Quang Nam Province, central Vietnam have an elusive origin. However, residents of the Thu Bon estuary have been living under nipa palm roofs for centuries.