Walking On Streets To Try Ho Chi Minh Food

Ho Chi Minh food has it own style. Just walk around this city you may find some amazing dishes to see how people here enjoy their life. In this article, we are going to make a fun and very tasty overview of Ho Chi Minh City’s best street food. This is not an exhaustive list, but hopefully it provides a good start for you.

Saigon is most definitely a magical place for your tastebuds.

Saigon is most definitely a magical place for your tastebuds.

 

VARIETY KIND OF CAKES AND SNACKS

1. Banh Beo

Banh beo from Nam Giao in Saigon

Banh beo from Nam Giao in Saigon

Part of the cuisine from central Vietnam, banh beo (literally “water fern cake”) are small round discs of rice flour, formed to look like lily flower pads found in the estates surrounding the old imperial city of Hue. Topped with crunchy pork rinds and toasted shrimp powder and served with fish sauce, they are a very rewarding dish to share as they usually come in multiples of 8 or 10. This typical cake already show at Ho Chi Minh food.

Where to try:  Nam Giao,136 Le Thanh Ton Street, in an alleyway behind Ben Thanh market. District 1.

Tel: +84 (8) 3825 0261

2. Banh Da Xuc Hen

Banh Da Xuc Hen in all its delicious glory

Banh Da Xuc Hen in all its delicious glory

Banh da xuc hen is a lovely and satisfying snack of Ho Chi Minh food. A large rice paper crisp with hints of sesame and coconut arrives on a plate. It looks bare, but then you lift up the rice cracker and peek underneath, finding a pile of teeny tiny clams fried in lemongrass, rau ram (Vietnamese coriander), chilli, onion and garlic. It is a simple dish in terms of ingredients but the taste is profoundly different than anything else. If you want a heavier version of this plate, opt for the com hen, rice topped with the same type of clams and served with a small bowl of clam broth on the side.

Where to try:  Hong Hanh, 17A Nguyen Thi Minh Khao Street, District 1.

Tel: +84 (8) 3827 4252

3. Banh Xeo & Banh Khot

Banh khot

Banh khot

There are many recommendations in town for banh xeo, most famously Banh Xeo 46A, which is on the ‘Bourdain trail’.

Banh xeo, crispy and delicious.

Banh xeo, crispy and delicious.

The banh xeo that you try in Ho Chi Minh food is not oily, the banh khot come with a variety of toppings on offer, and it’s got a filtered water system for the fresh herbs and vegetables so those with extremely delicate stomachs need not fear.

Where to try:  40B Trần Cao Vân near the Turtle Pond.

4. Banh Tam bi

Banh tam bi in its goopy glory

Banh tam bi in its goopy glory

This Ho Chi Minh food, called banh tam bi, is quite hard to translate in an English name. It may call “silkworm noodles”. It turns out that they are tapioca noodles that merely look like silkworms, and are coated with a thick coconut sauce, pickled vegetables, a pork meatball, some pork sausage, and more.

Where to try:  Quan Sadec, 154 Nguyen Dinh Chieu Street, District 1.

 

A LOT OF DELICIOUS DISHES WITH NOODLES

1. Banh Canh Cua

Fresh crabs – Main material for Banh canh

Fresh crabs – Main material for Banh canh

Banh canh noodles are Vietnam’s version of udon, a thicker noodle that can be made with either tapioca flour, rice flour, or a combination of the two. The cua in this soup is crab, and the result is a viscous crab soup with thick noodles — not for those who shrink from goopy foods. Thickened with tapioca flour (and thus gluten free) it’s a satisfying meal for those who like their food consistencies to be adventurous, and with chillies, green onions, and fresh lime on top, a very tasty bowl. Try this Ho Chi Minh food may give them a new experience.

Where to try:  Kim Long, 80/68 Tran Quang Dieu Street, District 3.

Tel: +84 (8) 3843 6498

2. Bun Bo Hue

Bun bo hue, spicy and citrusy.

Bun bo hue, spicy and citrusy.

As the name suggests, this Ho Chi Minh food that we suggest is originally from Hue, in central Vietnam, but it’s widespread and highly enjoyed in Saigon, at both indoor restaurants and street food stalls throughout the city.

Bun bu Hue broth

Bun bu Hue broth

Bun bo Hue is made with lemongrass and chilli, its broth both citrusy and strong, laden with thick cuts of meat. The most noticeable ingredients you’ll see is the massive pile of tangly medium sized fresh rice vermicelli noodles. And paprika or anatto oil render the broth its fiery orange colour, and fermented shrimp paste lends a complicated layer of taste.

Where to try:  Bun Bo Hue Dong Ba, 110A Nguyen Du, District 1

Tel: +84 (8) 3912 5742

3. Bun Cha Ha Noi

Same as Bun bo Hue, Bun cha Hanoi – Hanoi grilled pork vermicelli noodles is very famous in Ho Chi Minh food. As with many of the meals in Hanoi that were taken to Saigon, what is normally a breakfast or early lunch food up north is an all-day treat in Saigon. While some bun cha joints are open early only, most will be full around lunch and dinnertime as well, hungry diners piling bowls with fresh herbs and smoky pork.

Bun cha Hanoi

Bun cha Hanoi

This dish comprises seasoned pork patties and thin slices of pork belly, both grilled until crispy and served in a bowl with sweet fish sauce, slices of young papaya and carrot, and garlic. On the side, a bowl of plain rice noodles and a big basket of fresh herbs like perilla, mint, and stinky fish herb.

To eat, a bit of everything goes into your serving bowl: a handful of noodles, some pieces of pork, spoonfuls of the sweet fish sauce and herbs. If you like perilla as much as I do, you’ll need to ask for seconds.

Where to try: Quan Anh Hong, 34A Mac Dinh Chi, District 1

4. Bun Mam

Bun mam, fermented fish soup in a sweet sour broth.

Bun mam, fermented fish soup in a sweet sour broth.

Bun mam is a typical dish in Ho Chi Minh food. It’s a noodle soup with a fermented fish broth and seafood and pork belly and so much more. For many the words “fermented fish broth” isn’t what they want to hear. But the soup is actually skews sweet thanks, and with thick rice noodles and chunks of delicious fish and meat, it’s not to be missed.

Where to try: Bun Mam Dac San, 22 Phan Boi Chau, District 1

5. Bun Moc

Bun moc, photo courtesy of Vietnam Coracle

Bun moc, photo courtesy of Vietnam Coracle

Bun moc is served with savoury pork and mushroom broth. Broth aside, the soup’s fun lies in its accoutrements — slices of cha lua (a pork meatloaf coated in a cinnamon outer layer), slices of thin pork meat, and meatballs made of pork. Despite being a pork festival, it’s actually quite light, and the thin rice noodles compliment the meat well. The soup is topped with fried shallots and fresh cilantro.

Most tourists haven’t heard of bun moc, but it’s a nice counterpoint to the strong flavours of the pork and rice dishes below.

Where to try: Bun Moc Than Mai, 14 Truong Dinh, District 1

6. Bun Rieu Cua

Bun rieu cua on the streets of Saigon

Bun rieu cua on the streets of Saigon

Bun rieu is a Vietnamese crab based soup noodle dish. It appeared in Ho Chi Minh food receipt soon and become one of local favorite.

The soup calls for crab paste made from paddy crabs, which give the broth its main flavor, along with stewed tomatoes, that contribute a slightly tart and natural sweetness to the dish.

Bowl of bun rieu on the street.

Bowl of bun rieu on the street.

The complex mixture of ingredients and flavors in the broth, paired with rice vermicelli noodles, pieces of meat and crab paste, a beautiful selection of condiments like shrimp paste, chilies, and limes, and finally a pile of both blanched and raw vegetables, is what makes the dish so delicious.

Where to try: Looking for the woman making this dish at the Corner of Pasteur Street & Ly Tu Trong street, District 1. If she’s not there, please try the corner of Nguyen Du & Pasteur street as she tends to be at one of those two spots.

Note: Only open between 10am – 3pm

7. Bun Thit Nuong Cha Gio

Bun thit nuong cha gio, a bowl of win.

Bun thit nuong cha gio, a bowl of win.

Grilling the thit nuong, marinated pork.

Grilling the thit nuong, marinated pork.

Cha gio, fried spring rolls.

Cha gio, fried spring rolls.

This Ho Chi Minh food is different from Bun cha Hanoi. Serving with rice vermicelli noodles, grilled boneless pork, a crispy pork spring roll (often with taro), which is the cha gio part of the name, and fresh lettuce and herbs. You top it with spoonfuls of sweet fish sauce and chilli, letting the sweet and pungent liquid seep into every bit of your food.

There is some special taste in the spring rolls remain in this article. Instead of rolling them in cloudy rice paper, this vendor uses a big banh trang rice paper that has been softened. The result is a thin and crispy outside layer and extraordinary spring roll.

Where to try: Mrs. Thong, 195 Co Giang, District 1

8. Hu Tieu

Hu tieu soups are a complicated beast. The three most recognized types are Hu Tieu Nam Vang (hu tieu Phnom Penh style,) Hu Tieu My Tho (after the capital city of Tiền Giang Province, located in the Mekong Delta region of southern Vietnam,) and Hu Tieu Chinese style. The Chinese had a lot to do with hu tieu being in Vietnam in the first place. Chinese-Cambodian brought the dish from Cambodia (hence the Phnom Penh style,) and Vietnamese borrowed it and made their own Viet versions.

The complicatedness doesn’t stop there, however, because hu tieu also means just the noodle and not necessarily in soup form.

Hu tieu nam vang - Dry version of Hu tieu from Phnom Penh.

Hu tieu nam vang - Dry version of Hu tieu from Phnom Penh.

The noodles in a bowl of hu tieu can be chewy clear tapioca noodles, opaque white rice noodles like you’d use for pho noodle soup, or thin Chinese egg noodles (mi). The toppings cover a wide territory, and may include boneless pork, pork ribs, pork offal, shrimp, squid, wonton dumplings, fried garlic, fried shallot, and/or scallion. As usual, you pick and choose whatever you want. Hu tieu is the extreme have-it-your-way Ho Chi Minh food experience.

Where to try: Quan Mi Cat, 62 Truong Dinh District 1

9. Pho Bo – Vietnamese Beef Noodles

Pho bo in Saigon

Pho bo in Saigon

Not only in Ho Chi Minh food receipt, Pho is also famous as an featured food of Vietnam in the world.

The original pho is from Hanoi, however, pho in Saigon street has its own attractive.Tthe Southern-style makes it sweeter, less spices in the broth, sometimes cuttlefish added to the broth as well. It is more savoury, with a heady aftertaste of cinnamon, star anise, and roasted ginger. It may tastes denser, thicker with the spices, and regardless of whether that you try.

Where to try: Pho Phuong, 25 Hoang Sa Street, District 1, right on the canal’s edge

Tel: +84 (8) 3910 2422

Or

Where to try: Pho Thanh Binh, 18bis Nguyen Thi Minh Khai Street, District 1

Or

Where to try: Pho Le, 303-305 Vo Van Tan Street

Tel: +84 (8) 3834 4486

10. Pho Ga – Chicken Noodles

Staging station for my favourite pho ga in town.

Staging station for my favourite pho ga in town.

Ho Chi Minh food has the chicken soup is made with thick rice noodles. This Pho ga has rich chicken broth, thinly sliced chicken breast, signature spicy sauce, pickled garlic, and basket ‘o herbs.

Where to try: Pho So 1 Ha Noi, 25 Nguyen Thi Minh Khai Street, District 1

Note: Open 24 hours.

 

ROLLING IN THE STREET OF HO CHI MINH FOOD

1. Banh Cuon

Banh cuon on the streets of Saigon

Banh cuon on the streets of Saigon

Fried mung bean cakes, available at Banh Cuon Tay Ho

Fried mung bean cakes, available at Banh Cuon Tay Ho

Steamed rice crepes filled with wood ear mushrooms and ground pork often seasoned with white pepper, banh cuon are a wonderful breakfast meal that covers all bases.

Let take this for breakfast over eggs and bacon any day, to the consternation of Western friends. You’ve got your carbs, your meat, your vegetables, and it comes topped with lightly steamed bean sprouts, chopped basil, and fried curls of shallots. It’s filling but not heavy, peppery but not too spicy.

The dish literally translates to “rolled cake”, and originated up North, but is prevalent throughout Ho Chi Minh food. Each bite can be dipped into a sweet fish sauce with as much chilli as you’d like to add. When heading to the restaurant below, also try the fried bean cakes (photo below). Bonus points for the cutest chilli holder in all of Saigon.

Cutest chilli bottle in all of Saigon

Cutest chilli bottle in all of Saigon

Where to try:  Banh Cuon Tay Ho 1, 127 Dinh Tien Hoang Street, District 1.

2. Cuon Diep - Rolling With Mustard Leaves

Cuon diep at tib express in Saigon

Cuon diep at tib express in Saigon

These are a simple but surprisingly fulfilling treats consisting of mustard leaves that are rolled around vermicelli noodles and chopped up mushrooms and tofu. Served with a sweet peanut sauce, they satisfy both the crunchy and the healthy wants at once.

Where to try: Tib Chay, 11 Tran Nhat Duat, District 1

Tel: +84 8 3843 6460

 

WARM UP WITH LOCAL SOUP

1. Canh Chua – Sour Soup

Canh chua

Canh chua

Ho Chi Minh food has it special taste which is favorite with sour. This sweet and sour soup with rice paddy herb and pineapple, fish and tomatoes, can be found along the street in Mekong area.

Where to try: Quan Com So 7, No.3 Nguyen Van Trang, District 1,

Tel: +84 8 3835 8175

2. Canh Kho Qua - Bitter Melon Soup

Pork stuffed inside bitter melon (served in soup)

Pork stuffed inside bitter melon (served in soup)

Not everyone enjoys bitter tastes, but for those who do: bitter melon is for you. For this dish, canh kho qua nhoi thit or Bitter melon soup with pork, the bitter melon is boiled long enough so the bitterness curls just at the end of your tongue, after the other flavours sink in.

A light but comforting meal in Ho Chi Minh food, it is served in soup form, with the melon stuffed with ground pork, wood ear mushrooms and occasionally glass noodles. It is then tied together and cooked in a clear broth, topped with cilantro for serving.

Where to try: Com Tam Tu Quy, Tan Dinh Market, near the corner of Hai Ba Trung street and Nguyen Huu Cau street, District 3

Note: 5pm until late

 

EAT VIETNAMESE TRADITIONAL MAIN DISH

1. Com Suon

Streetside com suon grilling.

Streetside com suon grilling.

A very popular Ho Chi Minh food for lunch or dinner (sometimes breakfast too), this rice and grilled pork chop meal will fill you up quickly and cheaply. You will also get a spoonful of green onions fried in pork fat atop the chop itself, as well as some crispy pieces of pork rind. Served with a tiny pile of pickled vegetables, and usually a small bowl of light broth on the side. For those even hungrier, try com suon op la (grilled pork chop over rice with a fried egg). You’ll be full well into dinner time.

Where to try: The com suon joint directly across the street from the entrance to the water puppets show on Nguyen Thi Minh Khi, not far from the park’s entrance. Essentially: between Truong Dinh and Huyen Trang Cong Chua. It’s on the opposite side of the road as the park, and you will find it based on your nose, and the grill of pork at the side of the road.

2. Com Tam

Ca kho to, braised claypot catfish, from the best com tam joint in town.

Ca kho to, braised claypot catfish, from the best com tam joint in town.

Com tam, literally “broken rice”, started out as a dish served with lowered prices, since the rice did not meet standards for export and was thus available at a reduced price. It is a street food staple in Saigon, one of most popular Ho Chi Minh food. It can be found on almost every corner in one form or another.

The broken rice is kept to the side, with a glass shelf holding the stars of the lunch show: a panoply of incredible cooked dishes, some braised, some boiled, some stewed, that are meant to be eaten with the rice. Some of the restaurants also give you a banana as dessert.

Where to try: Dong Hoa Xuan, 49 No Trang Long, Binh Thanh District

Tel: +84 (8) 3510 1771

 

SOME SMALL BUT INTERESTING TASTE

1. Bot Chien – Fried Flour Cake

An example of a fried flour cake

An example of a fried flour cake

A greasy fave, bot chien involves rice flour cakes that are chopped into chunky squares and then fried in a large flat pan with whipped eggs and green onions. For those familiar with Singapore food, it’s reminiscent of chai tow kueh, but with rice instead of radish. This Ho Chi Minh food served when crispy, with a sweet rice vinegar and soy sauce concoction, and some shredded pickled young papaya to cool down the dish.

Where to try: Bot Chien Dat Thanh, 277 Vo Van Tan Street, District 3

2. Banh Mi – Vietnamese Meat Bread

Vietnamese meat bread in Saigon street

Vietnamese meat bread in Saigon street

In Ho Chi Minh receipt, Vietnamese meat bread has some changing in the materials. With Pork pie, pate, grilled pork, a few slices of cucumber, onion and coriander, a Saigonese bread brings to you complicated but wonderful taste that you may love.

There are many ways to eat Saigonese bread. Instead of pork and the other ingredients some people prefer dipping it in milk, covering it with butter or eating with fried eggs.

Where to try:

  • Banh Mi Huynh Hoa (Known as “lesbian banh mi” by Vietnamese friends, assumably because it might be owned by a female couple but I did not ask)
  • 26 Le Thi Rieng Street, District 1
  • The banh mi stall at 37 Nguyen Trai, District 1

 

SWEET ON THE STREET

1. Che Chuoi – Banana Sweet Soup

Che chuoi in Saigon

Che chuoi in Saigon

Che chuoi is a sweet banana and tapioca dessert, floating in a sea of coconut cream and topped with sesame and crushed peanuts. It is one che dessert in a long line of che options.

Where to try: 241 Vo Van Tan Street, District 3, Located right on the street, directly in front of Thien Ban Pagoda

2. Che thap cam - Mixed sweet soup

Che thap cam - Mixed sweet soup

Che thap cam - Mixed sweet soup

This Ho Chi Minh food, a sweet and tasteful desert, is the absolute perfect choice for someone who wants a little bit of everything. One glass has it all: beans, jelly, tapioca, steamed green rice flakes, mashed mung bean, coconut milk and sweet syrup on top. Everything is served in layers and then mixed up when eaten, making a sweet and savoury treat for a light and refreshing snack.

Where to try: 16C Ky Dong, District 3

3. Thai Sweet soup

Che Thai – Thai sweet soup

Che Thai – Thai sweet soup

If you don’t mind durian, have yourself a flavourful glass of Che Thai. A version of Thailand’s tub tim grob, the Vietnamese version is less sweet and uses a variety of fruits. You can actually find a rainbow in Thai sweet soup: the yellow of jackfruit, the red of faux pomegranate seeds, the green of Vietnamese jellos and the white of lychees and longans. All are served in a tall glass with condensed milk and a scoop of durian.

Where to try: 380 Nguyen Tri Phuong, District 10

4. Che Khuc Bach - Khuc Bach Sweet Gruel

It was introduced to Saigon long ago and admired as one of the best choice in Ho Chi Minh food receipt. The original Khuc Bach sweet soup contains cheese jelly, lychee jelly, roasted shredded almond seeds and sugar syrup. “Simple” and “savoury” are the two words that best describe the flavour of this dessert.

Original Khuc Bach sweet soup

Original Khuc Bach sweet soup

Saigon’s beloved Khuc Bach sweet soup was creatively varied by adding new toppings and novel cheese jelly flavours. Nowadays, chè lovers have more options than ever to enjoy, such as Khuc Bach sweet soup with fruits, tofu, cheese, cocoa, green tea, chocolate and so much more.

Where to try: 68/210 Tran Quang Khai St, District 1

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