The economical central of the South – Sai Gon – is the gathering spot of immigrants. The city adopts and adapts different cultures to create a melting pot of global diversity, which reflects mostly in its cuisine. The most noteworthy is the infusion of Asian cuisine. Japanese restaurants gathered in District 1, Chinese restaurants and street stalls scattered across District 5, 6, 8, 10 and 11, authentic Korean restaurants almost everywhere in District 7. So, if you are a foodie wanting a small food tour of Asian cuisines, this article is what you are looking for.
Asian cuisine is all about the delicate balance between various ingredients and the robust notes that sometimes compliment, other times, contrast each other, creating a vibrant flavour palette. While mainly revolves around five major flavour categories of salty, spicy, sour, sweet, and bitter, Asia nurtures a number of flavour combinations that can satisfy the most demanding food critics.
Which combination represents which part of Asia and where to find them in Sai Gon? Let’s find out.
Chinese, the big brother of Asian cuisine
With the neighbouring geographical location, along with a history of love-hate relationship and the population of Chinese immigrants in Saigon, it is understandable that Chinese cuisine has long integrated itself into Vietnamese food culture.
Chinese cuisine has an elegant combination of flavours, colours and aesthetic presentation. Also, it is just as broad as its border. Thus, talking about their dishes can take a whole article. Here are some of our suggestions.
Chinese Noodles & the famous Dim Sums
Probably one of the most classic representative of Chinese cuisine in Sai Gon is Chinese Roast Duck Noodle or “Mì vịt tiềm” – a simple but irresistible dish. You can find it in places like Luong Ky Mi Gia at No. 1 Huynh Man Dat Street, Ward 19, near Thi Nghe bridge in Binh Thanh District or Mi vit tiem Hai Ky at 351 Nguyen Trai Street, Ward 7, District 5.
Chinese stir-fried noodle is another common meal that you can find anywhere. Tam Ky food chain is one of the most popular places that serves this dish. You can also go to Vi Huong at 59 Van Kiep Street, Ward 13, District 5 to have a taste. Or if you are feeling adventurous, try exploring Binh Tay market in the largest Chinatown of District 6 and find your most favourite place of your own.
Talking about Chinese cuisine without mentioning Dim Sum is a huge mistake. One of the best place in town for this dish is Crystal Jade Palace inside Lotte Legend Saigon Hotel at 2A – 4A Ton Duc Thang Street, Ben Nghe Ward, District 1. Famous for their top-notch dishes made by skillful Hong Kong chefs, this place is usually packed so be sure to book your table beforehand.
Main course with “Roasted suckling pig” and dessert with “Chè”
Roasting suckling pig is another famous Chinese dish in Saigon. Usually served with steamed buns, this is among the popular dishes of Chinese cuisine. The Huynh Man Dat junction in China Town in District 5 is the perhaps the most famous area for this dish. You can also visit Vinh Phong, A Tac, Thanh Xuan, etc. for this tasty dish.
After main dish comes dessert. Similar to Vietnamese cuisine, Chinese has many types of “chè”, or sweet dessert soups that have made a name of their own. Che Tuong Phong is one of the most authentic Chinese dessert place in Saigon. Located at 83 An Diem Street, District 5, this place has become the trusted destination for locals for a long time. Another authentic Chinese dessert is che Lam Vinh Mau located at 31 Nguyen Thai Binh Street, District 1.
South Korean, the BBQ king of Asian cuisine
South Korea is the origin of hallyu wave that sweeps through the world like a storm. Some popular South Korean dishes are “Bibimbap”, “BBQ Pork”, “Kimchi Chi Gae”, “Naengmyeon” and “Jap Chae Bap”. Driving around district 1 and district 7, you will find lots of South Korean restaurants and one example is Hanuri at 405A Su Van Hanh Street, Ward 12, District 10. The food is tasty, the price is reasonable and their seasoning is not as spicy as other places.
Another option is Korean BBQ at 4/4 Nguyen Binh Khiem Street, Da Kao Ward, District 1. The pork here is cooked by South Korean chefs so you can be assured of the place’s authenticity. Seoul Garden at 208 Nam Ky Khoi Nghia Street, Ward 6, District 3 is the place to go if you love South Korean Hotpot. Their buffet choices are abundant to match your personal preference and their service is really good as well.
Japanese, the muse of Asian cuisine
For Japanese cuisine, K-Café at 74A4 Hai Ba Trung Street is a must. The staffs are attentive and caring, if you visit here frequently enough, they can customize your choice without the need to wait for your order. The sushi quality is top-notch and for a group of more than 10 people, you can enjoy a 2-hour trip on the wooden boat while enjoying their dishes.
Sushi Rei at 10E1 Nguyen Thi Minh Khai Street, Da Kao Ward, District 1 is definitely another option not to be missed. This is one of the few Japanese restaurants to have received a Michelin star. The chef knows just the right amount of wasabi and seasoning suitable for each piece of his treat. No soy sauce or extra wasabi is needed when enjoying your sushi here. They only serve maximum 7 guests and 1 private room at a time, so make sure you book the place beforehand. You will not be disappointed with what you receive.
Thai, the spiciness of Asian cuisine
Thailand is among the most popular South East Asian countries for travelers and expats. Go to Con Voi Vang at 34 Hai Ba Trung Street, District 1 and enjoy their authentic taste. The price is very much reasonable and there is nothing to complain about their service. Moreover, Tuk Tuk Thai Bistro at 38 Ly Tu Trong Street, District 1 serves the best Pad Thai and Tom Yang fried rice in town!
Indian, the richness of Asian cuisine
Another Asian cuisine that can be found in Saigon is the Indian or “Chà và”. Come to Vietnam with the Dutch during wartime, Indians have since lived among Vietnamese locals and shared with us parts of their diverse cuisine. Spice India at 1B Bui Vien, Pham Ngu Lao Ward, District 1, has created their own fan base of locals and travelers. Their curries are made with yogurt to create a gentle, creamy sourness that can be quite addictive. You can also go to Punjabi Indian Restaurant at 40/23 Bui Vien Street, District 1 for good Indian dishes with a more vegan friendly menu.
Singaporean & Malaysian, two uniquely similar Asian cuisines
If you want to explore Singaporean cuisine, go to Geylang Lor 9 at 35 Dong Du Street, Ben Nghe Ward, District 1. The place is most famous for its frog porridge but also offers a wide range of Malaysian and Indonesian options. Because of its authentic taste, the place is loved by many locals.
For chilly crab, try Cua Hoa at 74/14 Truong Quoc Dung Street, Ward 10, Phu Nhuan District. Not only do they sell fresh crabs but also provide lots of sauce options to suit your taste. The restaurant stays so true to their motto of selling only fresh crabs that they are willing to change a new crab for unsatisfied customers.
Another Singaporean dish to try out is Wanton mee and Friends by Pontian at 134 Nguyen Thai Hoc Street, District 1 is the place to go. Their pepper sauce and black sauce is the reason why this place doesn’t need any other dishes to make a good first impression.
Although not as popular, there are restaurants that serve Malaysian and Mongolian dishes for those who are keen. For example, Halal Food Saigon at 31 Dong Du Street, Ben Nghe Ward, District 1 is popular for its authentic Malaysian cuisine. For Mongolian lamp BBQ, try Ba Con Cuu at 106 Cao Thang Street, District 3. The place is usually packed during holidays so do book your visit in advance.
Which Asian cuisine is your favorite? Do let us know in the comment sections below.
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