Eating through Vietnam: Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon)

Vietnamese food is characterized by the robustness of flavor, spice, and truly, everything nice. Growing up in the San Francisco Bay Area meant access to some of the best Vietnamese food available outside of Vietnam itself (specifically in the South Bay). When given the opportunity to travel to Ho Chi Minh City, formerly known as Saigon, to learn and eat directly from the source of all goodness itself, we knew there would be no way of saying no. The following is a guide to all of the things we ate and loved in Ho Chi Minh City.

For a full map of recommended eats, see here or at the end of the post. This trip was originally taken in April 2017.

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Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon)

The general theme? I found that the best places to eat really have a limited menu. The best only serve one dish as it’s their specialty. If you want the best of the best, find the best people who specialize in one thing. However, that was much harder to find in Saigon. Much like many large cities like New York City or San Francisco, you have a wide variety of different cuisines from different cultures.

Interestingly, Saigon is so large that getting around was quite challenging (so much traffic and walking would take too long in the heat). This meant finding a place to eat and staying put till you’re full rather than roaming around and discovering something good along with your treks.

All in all, I would characterize Saigon’s food to be much closer to what you’d find in the states.

 

Bánh Khọt, Bánh Xeo, and Bánh Canh

One of my favorite dishes ever since having it at Yummy Yummy in SF’s Inner Sunset District is Bánh Khọt. I’ll be honest, I was so excited to try it in Saigon, but I was a bit disappointed. The shrimps were okay, and there was barely any coconut flavor. Bánh Khọt is savory mini pancakes that you eat wrapped up in lettuce, and other garnishes dipped in a fish sauce mixture. Both places I tried were a bit too oily and fried. There was also Bánh Xeo that is a sizeable savory pancake with veggies and meat inside. If you love one or the other dish, I do recommend to give it a try and decide for yourself if you like it or not.

We also got to try Bánh Canh with crab. The noodles are thick and made with tapioca rice flour. I liked this very much as it reminded me of a fishier version of Kao Paik, a Lao noodle soup with thick noodles.

Bánh Khọt, Bánh Xeo, and Bánh canh
Bánh Khọt, Bánh Xeo, and Bánh canh

You can find these either at Bánh khọt Cô Ba Vũng Tàu 40B Trần Cao Vân, phường 6, Quận 3, Hồ Chí Minh, Vietnam or Street Food Market32D Thủ Khoa Huân, Bến Thành, Quận 1, Hồ Chí Minh 700000, Vietnam.

 

Bánh Mì

Good ol’ friend, Bánh Mì is once again similar to what you can find in the states. We stopped by Bánh Mì Huỳnh Hoa where the line was long but quick for a snack on our way to Ben Tre Market.

Banh Mi

You can get this at Bánh Mì Huỳnh Hoa 26 Lê Thị Riêng, Bến Thành, Quận 1, Hồ Chí Minh, Vietnam.

 

Bún Mắm

Fishy, pungent, fermented? Yes to all three. I personally prefer the least of the three flavors but this was something we had to try as it’s something we wouldn’t normally get. It’s a thick fermented soup sometimes referred to as Vietnamese Gumbo, there’s shrimp, squid, fish, and many other kinds of seafood. I preferred it with lots of lime juice and spice to balance out the fishiness.

Bún Mắm Noodles
Bún Mắm Noodles

You can try this at Quán Bún Mắm22 Phan Bội Châu, Bến Thành, Quận 1, Hồ Chí Minh, Vietnam.  This is right alongside the touristy night shops that get set up near Ben Tre Market.

 

Hủ Tiếu

To be honest, I’m not quite sure what this dish is. Delicious, sure, but doing a quick search, there seem to be many variations. This was an egg noodle based dish with the broth and pork to the side. The noodles were coated in oil. We got to try this on our way to the Mekong Delta Tour. Let me know if you’re familiar with this dish and can point me in the right direction!

Hủ Tiếu Noodles
Hủ Tiếu Noodles

 

Phở Bo

Now, this is the Phở Bo I know! The works with brisket, rare beef, green onions, cilantro, bean sprouts, tripe, tendon, noodles and all. On recommendation from the boyfriend’s cousin, we stopped by Phở Hùng on our last morning in Saigon for breakfast. With more than 3 floors, this place was packed with everyone trying to get a hearty meal to start off the day. It comes with many garnishes off to the side.

Phở Bo Bo from Pho Hung
Phở Bo Bo from Pho Hung

You can get this at Phở Hùng | 243 Nguyễn Trãi, Nguyễn Cư Trinh, Quận 1, Hồ Chí Minh, Vietnam

 

Beers

The boy has an eye for craft beers. We originally spotted a location serving Pasteur Street Brews in Hanoi but decided to track down the source in Saigon. With craft beer and flight options, you can try a range from Saison to Stouts. There are also some western-style snacks to enjoy along with your beer. Worth the try if you’re a bit sick of Southeast Asian Beers at this point in your trip.

Wall Art
Wall Art

You can find Pasteur Street Brewing Company tucked in an alleyway on the second floor at 144 Pasteur, Bến Nghé, Hồ Chí Minh, Bến Nghé Quận 1 Hồ Chí Minh, Vietnam. 

 

Candy!

Along with our Mekong Delta Tour, we stopped by an old woman’s home where she makes coconut candies. We got to try coconut milk candy, coconut strips, candied ginger, candied pineapple, banana chips, peanut candies and more. I’ve had many variations of these candies for Lunar New Year but nothing tasted as good as these. If you get a chance, take these babies home and share them with family and friends.

Fresh candies
Fresh candies

 

Street Food Market

Lastly, since Saigon is so large and the traffic is a nightmare, if you have limited time and want to try everything in one place, the Street Food Market is your place to be. You can try a variety of food, drinks, and we even got to see a cover band.

Saigon Street Food Market Signage
Good ol’ Sugarcane Juice
More sticky rice!
Banh Khot

You can find this at 32D Thủ Khoa Huân, Bến Thành, Quận 1, Hồ Chí Minh 700000, Vietnam.

 


 

The Full Map

The full map of all Eating through Vietnam is located below. Let us know what you’ve tried!


Great resources that helped me throughout this food journey:

 


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