Saigon street food – An endless story
Welcome to Ho Chi Minh city – Saigon, the economic capital of Vietnam, and a vibrant city with impressive growth. Here you can find a great variety of cuisine from all around the world, while the city itself breeds the birth of new street food dishes almost every year. Let’s say you will only have one day in Saigon – Ho Chi Minh city, which places should you visit that best describe the rich food culture of this city? Let’s check out a few of our suggestions of street food as follows.
Breakfast – Saigon street food to start a day
Vietnamese cuisine is not just all about Pho. Although Vietnamese people do eat Pho for breakfast, it’s just one of the options you can choose to start a day.
Vietnamese cuisine is famous for being both a tasty and healthy treat, and this dish is a clear example of that. Although being called “bun xao” or “stir-fried rice noodles”, this dish is actually a non-fried assortment of fresh ingredients like bean sprouts, tofu, carrots, spinach and fried vegetarian spring rolls on a base of rice noodles, brought together by soy sauce. Like many other Vietnamese breakfast dishes, this dish is usually found at street hawkers. So if you find it difficult chasing after these fleeting “wild geese”, try to find one in the market on Co Giang street, district 1.
An option if you are a member of Meat Lovers club is another one of our most popular dishes – savoury sticky rice. Usually includes different types of meats like pork floss, minced pork sausage and chinese sausage on a base of sticky rice, topped with fried onion for extra flavour, this dish can keep your stomach full for longer despite its portion’s size. Being a popular street hawker dish, you can also find this one at Xoi Che Bui Thi Xuan on Bui Thi Xuan street with various topping options, along with some classic sweet treats for example: Tapioca and Imitation Pomegranate seeds dessert.
Bun – vermicelli noodles
An agriculture country as we are, it can take days to name all of the varieties of dishes made from rice here in Vietnam. If there are typically two types of “Pho” – “Pho Ga” or “Chicken Rice Noodles” and “Pho Bo” or “Beef Rice Noodles”, with “Bun” or Vermicelli, there are dozens. Vermicelli is a common lunch dish as well.
True to its name, “Mọc” – minced pork, this vermicelli noodles (this is one dish) is a simple and light dish of vermicelli, pork meat balls, minced pork sausage and cinnamon minced pork sausage in pork bone broth, sprinkled with fried onion. Originated from Northern Vietnam, this dish is usually served with banana flowers, shredded morning glory, shrimp paste and satay chilli. The gentle umami taste is the one and only star of this dish and also its charm.
“Bun moc Rom Map” serves quite a few versions of this dish yet stays true to its simple and umami value. On the other hand, “Bun moc Thanh Mai” is the place to go if you stay in the central business district and are looking for the original Northern taste.
One vermicelli dish that doesn’t have its fair share in Vietnamese cuisine mentions is Bun mam Mien Tay. Coming from the Western area of Southern Vietnam, the broth of this dish is based strongly on fish sauce, accompanied by seafood like shrimps, squids, grilled aubergine and crispy grilled pork, with side vegetable like bitter herb and shredded morning glory. The full-bodied fish flavour with hints of sweet makes this dish a distinctive treat. If you have always been so kind to your tastebuds with sweet, savoury and may be occasionally spicy taste, the hint of bitterness from the side vegetable will be an interesting surprise. As Vietnamese cuisine revolves around fish sauce, this dish is a representative worth trying. On a cautionary note, you may want to bring along chewing gum.
“But I am just looking for some snacks!” you may say? How about the following options?
Vietnam is the land of fresh vegetables. One way to enjoy the great variety of our lushful vegetables is via Banh Xeo – Sizzling pancake. This crispy pancake is made of thin pan-seared rice and turmeric powder mixture, with topping of mainly bean sprouts, shrimps and onion. Served along side with a huge plate of vegetables like mustard leaves, cabbage and other herbs, dipped in sweet and sour fish sauce, if you enjoy a greener diet, this is your go to dish. While the “Banh Xeo” place on Co Giang serves this dish the way it is, “Banh Xeo Ba Hai” brings the jumbo version of this pancake with many full-filling toppings and side vegetable of forest herbs that bring aromatic and some hints of sweetness to your tastebuds.
Of course, street food is a must-try in Vietnam! Strolling along a famous tourist place like Notre-Dame Basilica, you may not expect to find such a popular snack of Vietnamese youngsters like “banh trang nuong” just on the other side of the road. Sold like a commodity on every other street food stall at the park, if you see a local sitting in front of a mini grill with small container of quail eggs and chopped spring onions, you know what you are in for. Crispy grilled rice pancake with topping of pork floss, quail eggs, spring onion and minced pork, this is a hot and fun snack to nibble on while chatting with friends.
On certain days when you just can’t be bothered to think of a dish, but mealtime gets your stomach grumbling, what could you do? Well, here we have an option to help you with the food decision itself. If you are not too fussy on your diet, Lunch Lady can be your favourite stop.
Located in 1A1B Residential Area on Nguyen Dinh Chieu street, Da Kao ward, district 1, this place is well-tailored for Vietnamese fusion cuisine. Serving only one dish per day and rotating the menu throughout the week, coming to this place everyday of your first days in Vietnam can give you an overview of a few typical Vietnamese dishes. For a reasonable price, you will have an ease of mind from the daily “What to eat?” question. The dishes here are usually served with Western portions of meat as well. This place has already created a reputation amongst the expat community and you will find yourself sharing a table with many other fellow travellers. A good way to make new friends in a foreign country, isn’t it?
As for vegan and vegetarian travellers, don’t be discouraged. Vietnam is the land of vegetarianism and we are just getting started.
The amount of vegetarian places in Ho Chi Minh can be compared to mushrooms after rain in a good way. Vegetarian dishes in Vietnam is extremely cheap with great variety. You can find from vegan Vietnamese dishes of pure vegetables, to mocked meat and even vegan cheese. A must-go place is Loving Hut or “Hoa Dang” restaurant.
With stunning decoration and a menu that rivals many non-vegan Vietnamese restaurants, here is the place where you can take even your non-vegan/vegetarian friends over for a dinner out. And they will surely fall in love with this place as well. The menu here has a massive collection of Vietnamese dishes from breakfast, lunch, dinner to supper dishes to satisfy your inner foodie. This may be the only place in Ho Chi Minh city that sells vegan cheese, the vegan market on the upper floor of Loving Hut will make your cheesy vegan pizza come true. Occasionally , you will find a classical band to create ambient here as well. A huge plus for this restaurant and just one more tick to make this place a perfect option for a romantic dinner date. 😉
Last but not least, a shout out for the fellow British travelers out there who crave a bit of home taste amid your journey on the other side of the world, we have just the place for you.
Despite the small and sometimes easy-to-miss entrance, this place is truly a treasure cave! Owned by a British-Vietnamese couple, this is where you will find a classic English Full Breakfast in both vegan and non-vegan version with HP sauce and delicious hash browns. The variety of dishes in the menu can give indecisive individuals a hard time, and you will have not just food but lots of books and board games to kill time. You can spend half a day here with friends (vegans, vegetarians and non-vegans\vegetarians likewise) and still enjoy the whole experience on overall.
Our beginner’s guide to Saigon street food is just a humble introduction to the endless possibilities you can find in this lively city. There is so much more that Hp Chi Minh city has to offer. So get into the streets and explore the wonder and do share with us your experience with street food in Saigon!
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Hi!!! My name is Khue. I've been living in Ho Chi Minh City for 5 years now. If you really would love to enjoy a lovely city, do not hesitate…Learn more