When traveling to Vietnam, it’s important to visit all the iconic sites, walk through the history and soak up as much culture as possible. If you’re in Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), then it’s imperative to visit the Reunification Palace, War Remnants Museum, Ben Thanh Market, the backpacking quarter and other main Saigon attractions. But if you’re wandering the city with only sites as your guiding point, you may be overlooking one of Ho Chi Minh’s best attractions: the food.
Saigon is famous for its plethora of delicious street food. But with the city sprawling out over endless districts, roads packed full of motorbikes and autos and temperatures that leave tourists running for shade, the food often gets put on the back burner. If you are a lover of all things revolving around gastronomy, it’s very important to not make this mistake! Before you visit, do a bit of research as to what foods you’d like to try and where the best places are located, and make that an equally important destination during your travels through Ho Chi Minh City. Some of the best street food stalls and vendors are only a short walk away from most city sights, so you can fill your mind and belly all in the same run.
One of the biggest deterrents between travelers and delicious food is language. You want to try everything (as your taste buds are also on an adventurous holiday), but you can neither speak nor read Vietnamese. Worry not! Saigon locals are a friendly people, for the most part, and if you display an interest in trying some of their delicious Viet-concoctions, they will be more than happy to help. All meals have their special selections, so whatever time of day you are out food touring, you’re bound to find something delicious.
What’s the best way to start the day? If you’ve already slurped your token bowl of Pho (a must when visiting Vietnam), then another great breakfast food is the Banh Mi. Filled with fresh herbs, vegetables, meats/pate, chili and cheese (optional), you can have a hardy meal on the go or sit down to this Viet-Franco favorite over a dripping cup of Vietnamese filter coffee. Want to make it even more breakfast friendly? Ask for Banh Mi Op La, and you’ll get a beautiful fried egg tucked into the warm, fresh baguette; the perfect start to any morning.
If you’re looking for something strictly Vietnamese to eat, vendors push everything from street stall seafood (Vietnamese “Hai San”- shellfish, snails, shrimp, crabs) to smoky meats being grilled along the sidewalk (Vietnamese “Thit Nuong”- grilled pork is always a local favorite). Wherever you’re walking, just use your nose as a guide and tackle anything that smells even remotely attractive- Vietnamese food usually tastes a million times better than it smells (i.e. fish sauce). For a few HCMC favorites, check out:
“Hu Tieu” a famous southern dish, comprised of noodles, veggies and meat, with a sweet broth bringing it all together.
“De” or Goat Meat; this comes grilled, in curries and hotpots, and is great to wash down with a local beer (Bia Saigon!)
“Bun Bo Nam Bo”, another southern favorite, with noodles, beef, veggies, herbs and sweet fish sauce
Be adventurous during your visit to the big city. Try any stall that smells good, looks delicious or most importantly, has a lot of people eating there; crowds gather for a reason!