Ho Chi Minh City's Street Food
Vietnam’s street food is some of the best in the world. The options are endless and the dishes timeless. Even simply simplest fruit dish or baguette has a twist in this country. And, of course, being the center of Vietnam’s economic and cultural activity, Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) is the best city in the country to try street food.
Pho is the closest thing Vietnam has to a national dish, originally from Hanoi; this brothy and hearty noodle soup is now popular nation wide. Pho is mostly a breakfast dish, but stalls, some quite crowded, can be found at any time of day.
Small stalls serving sandwiches are also available. Small silver carts serve up these cheap eats (2 or 3 per dollar, depending on the fixings) on virtually every street corner in the city. Sausage, pate, pickled vegetables and chilies are the best combination, though salted pork and even vegetarian options are quite good. Some of these stalls have specialties that only the local people know about. Sitting back and watching business for a few minutes might lead to a nice discovery.
Other soups such as Bun Bo Hue, a rice noodle soup that is thicker than pho, is popular is the Chinese inspired hu tieu.
Lunch is the best time to find rice dishes. Many street stalls prepare their dishes and place them on shelves above the prep area of the cart. Diners simply point to what they want (a nice convenience for non-Vietnamese speakers) and it is served up over rice. Some of the best dishes are fried tuna steaks, tofu stuffed with vegetables or minced pork, barbecued pork chops, and stir-fried squid. Stir-fried or pickled vegetables are served as aside dish, as is a bowl of soup. All this produces a bill for under or around $1.
Late night chicken and rice stalls pop up, some cooking made to order. Also at night, try the drier squid. It is not nearly as pungent as it might seem. It is, in fact, the perfect accompaniment to a cool bottle of Tiger Beer.
The only real advice for visitors: explore. Many of these street food stalls serve one dish. Think of eating a dish that a cook has had years to perfect. The dining experience can be quite amazing, even if you are eating while sitting on the sidewalk in a plastic chair that seems to have been designed for children.
Exploring Saigon’s street food is one of the most rewarding experiences one could have while traveling in Vietnam.