When in Saigon, one of the best things that you can do is satisfying your taste buds. Ho Chi Minh City street food offers you an exciting and sensory experience with its variety of colorful, aromatic, flavourful and budget-friendly dishes. In fact, you can count on street food to provide you yummy-ness for whatever time of the day, whether for breakfast, lunch, dinner or snacks. Get ready to awaken your mouthwatering senses with this Saigon Street Food guide. These options are all big hits not just for the locals but also for most foreigners seeking a good food trip.
Where to find the best of Ho Chi Minh City Street Food?
Although you can find food stalls in almost every street, there are some hot spots that you can visit:
- The tourist hub of District 1: Ben Thanh Market (although this mainly serves tourists, so the price is higher), Co Giang Street and Tran Khac Chan Street
- District 2: Thanh Da Street
- District 3: Nguyen Thuong Hien St and between Ly Thai To & Nguyen Thien Thuat streets
- Binh Thanh district: Van Kiep Street
- District 4: Vinh Khanh Street
- District 10: Su Van Hanh Street
These places are active from breakfast to dinner, although they come more alive in the evening. You don’t also have to bring a lot of money to get full as the prices can vary from as little as 10,000 VND (0.5USD). In fact, with just 20,000 VND (less than a dollar), you can already have a satisfying noodle soup with meat for lunch or dinner.
Before we start with the dishes, you should be familiar with the terms “banh” and “bun” because you will be seeing them a lot in this menu. Banh is a term that covers anything made with flour like bread, cakes, noodles, cookies and even dumplings. Bun is rice vermicelli made from rice flour and shaped into tiny round strands. Let’s get started!
Part 1 of Ho Chi Minh City Street Food: “Bánh”
1. “Bánh cuốn”
These rice crepes are steamed, stuffed with ground pork and shredded wood ear mushroom, and sprinkled with baby prawns and bean sprouts. The unique thing about this dish is the soft texture of the papers, thinly made by the mastered skills of the street vendors. Sometimes, you can even see them freshly made on a special stove, with the rice mixture blended out evenly and lifted up into almost air-thin papers. It is usually served with “cha lua” (slices of Vietnamese sausage) and eaten with the Vietnamese signature fish sauce dip called “nuoc cham”, which is a sensational combination of sweet, sour, and saltiness.
2. “Bánh xèo”
This crispy pancake sizzled and stuffed with pork, prawn and bean sprouts is a favorite afternoon snack for the locals. You can find them in any sizes, some are even just the size of a small bowl! Each region has its own variations of “Bánh xèo”, with different fillings and texture of the crusts. This is best enjoyed when they just got out of the hot pans, and make sure that you observe how the locals eat it before you grab a bite!
There would be a plate, or even a huge basket of herbs to eat with this dish. The trick is to imagine you’re eating Korean BBQ. Pick up the lettuce leaves, then add in some other veggies of your choice, maybe some cucumbers or pickled carrots and radishes. Next, with your master chopstick skill, tear a small pancake with some fillings, and roll them all up! Finally, dip the roll into the special fish sauce and enjoy!
3. “Bánh mì”
You cannot miss this if you have travel to Vietnam! This light and fluffy wheat baguette is further defined by its fillings, which usually includes pate, mayonnaise, hot sauce and some fresh herbs. And the best thing is that the selection range is huge for this dish.
“Banh mi thit” has slices of meat, “Banh mi op la” is stuffed with fried eggs, “Banh mi heo quay” has roast pork belly with barbecue sauce, while “banh mi xiu mai” is a baguette served with a special sauce pork meatball cooked in a homemade tomato sauce.
If you like them all, ask the vendor to put all in! It’s that much more juicily delicious.
4. “Bánh bèo”
Also known as “water fern cake”, these rice flour discs are shaped like a lily flower pad and sprinkled with crunchy pork rinds and toasted shrimp powder and served with a signature fish sauce. Though the Central Vietnam is where this dish truly shines, Saigon people have developed a love for it, too! You can buy these in the local markets, or in restaurants that serve Hue cuisine.
Usually, you would have to eat 3-4 cakes to fill full. One is simply just not enough to enjoy the whole delicious-ness.
Like most of the cakes in Vietnam, “bánh bèo” also has a soft texture but the topping gives it a nice balance, and you eat it with a bunch of fresh herbs. People often eat it with other types of cakes like “bánh bột lọc”, “”bánh nậm”, and a green bean paste. Order a box of “thập cẩm”, or mixed types and enjoy the sensational feast in your mouth with this Ho Chi Minh City street food.
5. “Banh da xuc hen” (Crispy rice papers served with clams)
Although simple, this rice paper crisp with flavors of sesame and coconut, served with a bunch of tiny clams, chili and onion makes a light yet satisfying snack. Also a delicacy from the Central Vietnam, you need to do a little research for the places that sell this dish. If you’re lucky, you’ll find some vendors carrying the woven bamboo baskets like in the old days passing through your stay. If not, try out in the local restaurants that sell “bún bò Huế”, or other Huế dishes.
But the best taste is from home! If you have a local friend, ask if they know how to make this. It’s super rustic, a sense you’ll never forget.
6. “Bánh canh”
Tapioca noodles are fatter and more chewy. But the special thing is the broth. The recipe differs among sellers but it all has that same rich flavour. You can try it with either pork knuckle and sliced pork (banh canh gio heo), crab meat (banh canh cua), fish sausage (banh canh cha ca) or snakehead fish (banh canh ca loc). The variation is amazing. You can choose the best “bánh canh” dish as breakfast, lunch, snack, or even dinner! They sell this all day long! In the small family restaurants with those plastic shabby billboards in the front along the sides of the streets, in the local markets, and even just on the carts that people pull everywhere in the city.
Make sure to add several herbs, some lime juice, and chili sauce to season the dish to your liking. You can also eat this with a side dish of “bánh quẩy”, deep fried flour sticks that add a little extra to this already flavourful Ho Chi Minh City street food.
7. “Bánh tầm bì”
Vietnamese call this dish silkworm noodles because of the worm-like appearance of the tapioca noodles. The vendor would cover it with coconut sauce. Then they will mix together many types of vegetables, pork meatball, pork sausage and other flavorful condiments to form a delicious looking plate. Vietnamese mostly enjoy this as a snack. For this, you have to go into the markets to find. The taste might be a little strange at first for travelers because it’s a combination of sweetness and sour. But give it some time, and you’ll sure to love it. Nothing says Vietnamese authentic cuisine more than this Ho Chi Minh City street food.
One factor that makes eating Vietnamese food enjoyable is watching how the locals do it. Sometimes, learning how to eat is sometimes more interesting than actually eating the dishes. You’ll hear people tell you stories behind the dish, the deep and profound meaning behind every component, every step involved. You’ll know a lot more about Vietnamese culture on around the table than in any other tours.
Notice how within 10 steps, you’re more than likely to see a small family restaurants or a street vendors? That is because Vietnamese cuisine is so diverse. Stay tune because part 2 of this series will bring you more mouth-wartering Ho Chi Minh City street food.
Personalize your trips with
Phuong (a Saigonese)
I'm a tour guide in Saigon for 2.5 years (since I was sophomore). After graduating from Economic University with Tourism Administration Major, I'm still so love to be a tour…Learn more