8 Street Foods in Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam & Where to eat them
Make sure you read till the end for a *BONUS ITEM* (Trust me, you don't wanna miss it!)
“Good Food makes me HAPPY!”
Talking about Vietnamese food, I bet the first thing that comes to your mind is their famous ‘pho bo’ (beef noodle soup). Undeniably ‘pho’ is one of the Vietnamese prides, but during our trip in Saigon (now more well known as Ho Chi Minh City – I prefer calling it Saigon – Well, sounds nicer to me), we discovered there are many more delicious street foods that you should try in Saigon!
Vietnamese love their vegetables!
You will find leafy greens, mainly basil leaves, cilantro and bean sprouts (a lot of them!) as a side dish with almost every dish, and yes, you are supposed to soak the vegetables in the soup and eat with the dish. Other than that, most Vietnamese noodles are also garnished with cut chilli and freshly cut lime to further elevate the taste.
1. Pho Bo – Beef noodle soup
I guess this dish does not need further introduction but in case you do not know, pho is a popular Vietnamese dish, which is noodle soup. There are choices of pork, chicken and beef, with the latter being the most popular one.
Where we ate our Pho Bo:
1) Pho Qyunh
Address: 323 Phạm Ngũ Lão, Quận 1, Hồ Chí Minh, Vietnam
Business hours: 24 hours daily
2) Pho Le at Nguyen Trai
Address: 413-415 Nguyễn Trãi, Phường 7, Quận 5, Hồ Chí Minh, Vietnam
Business hours: 6AM - 1AM daily
Winner between the two?
I must say it is a tough match between Pho Qyunh and Pho Le. Both pho are delicious and flavorful, but Pho Le offers a slightly bigger bowl. Nonetheless, both portions are generous and it really depends on individual preference to determine a winner.
2. Bun Bo Hue – Beef spicy noodle soup originated from Hue, Vietnam
Originated from Hue - a city in central Vietnam, Bun Bo Hue is a popular Vietnamese dish, with soup containing rice vermicelli and beef. The vermicelli is thicker than the usual rice vermicelli we have, it is more like spaghetti in shape, with a soft yet bouncy texture.
Where we ate our Bun Bo Hue:
The Lunch Lady
Address: Hẻm D Chung Cư Nguyễn Đình C, Đa Kao, Quận 1, Hồ Chí Minh, Vietnam
Business hours: 11AM - 3:30PM daily
3. Com Tam – Broken rice with grilled pork
Com Tam aka broken rice is a Vietnamese dish made from rice with fractured rice grains. It looks very similar to normal rice, only the grains are broken into smaller pieces. It also has a similar texture to normal rice but smaller. Com Tam is usually served with grilled pork chops, shredded pork skin, a steamed pork and egg quiche and fried egg. Make sure you eat it with the accompanied chilli fish sauce for an added flavor!
Where we ate our com tam:
1) Saigon broken rice & grill @ Asiana Food Town
Address: 23/9 Park,, Tầng Hầm Khu B,, 4 hạm Ngũ Lão, Phạm Ngũ Lão, Quận 1, Hồ Chí Minh, Vietnam
Business hours: 8:30AM - 10PM daily
I was being skeptical when our hotel manager, Kevin Le recommended us to Asiana Food Town for its com tam. I mean, street food in a food court, really? But my better half insisted that we should give it a try so I crossed my finger.
It turned out to be a surprise. It was actually not bad at all! We ordered ‘The Special’ which consists of everything a plate of com tam should have. The dish may look commercial on a clean white plate but the taste was very well rounded. I was particularly fond of the pork egg pie and shredded pork skin, which definitely added some good flavor and dimension to the dish.
2) Com Tam Ba Ghien
Address: 84 Phan Văn Hùm, phường 10, Phú Nhuận, Hồ Chí Minh, Vietnam
Business hours: 7:30AM - 9:30PM daily
So we decided to go for round 2 after our first round of com tam at Asiana Food Town. Yep, straight to our second place for com tam right away, lol! In fact this was the place we initially planned to come but got sidetracked to the food court instead (in a good way).
4. Bo Kho – Beef Stew
Bo Kho may not be as popular as other mentioned dishes above but it is worth trying to learn about the different kinds of Vietnamese noodles.
“Kho is a cooking technique in Vietnamese cuisine meaning “to braise”, “to stew” or “to simmer” in which a protein sauce such as fish, shrimp, poultry, pork, beef, or fried tofu is braised on low heat in a mixture of fish sauce, sugar and water or a water substitute such as young coconut juice. The resulting dish is salty and savory, and meant to be eaten with noodles, French bread or steamed rice” (Wikipedia, Sept 2017).
Where we ate our Bo Kho:
Beef stew restaurant Martial Arts
Address: hẻm 5, 194 Đường Võ Văn Tần, phường 5, Hồ Chí Minh, Vietnam
Business hours: 2PM onwards till finish (closed on Sundays)
I don’t know how this place got its name but it sure is catchy. This small restaurant is located in a small alley and it is the only Bo Kho stall there so you won’t miss it. This unpretentious place seems like a home business as the interior is very house-like and we felt like we were dining at home instead.
As mentioned, Bo Kho can be eaten 3 ways – with noodles, French baguette or steamed rice. We chose noodles, I said ‘mi’ (I thought it would mean noodles in general) when we ordered and we were served with yellow noodles. It was then after I found out ‘mi’ means egg noodles in Vietnamese. If you like to have pho noodles instead, make sure you got to be clear when you order.
The red broth colour reminded me of tomato beef stew. The bo kho we had was filled with beef chunks and carrots, hence it brought out the sweetness of the beef broth. We thought the flavor combination was not bad but to be honest bo kho did not blow us away. Don’t get me wrong though; there is nothing wrong with the bo kho here. It is just our personal preference on the dish itself. I would still urge you to give it a try as I have seen a lot of positive feedbacks from others. Maybe you will love it!
5. Banh Mi – French baguette
Having some French-influence in Vietnamese history, banh mi, the Vietnamese version of French Baguette, is a very popular dish in Vietnam. You can easily find banh mi stalls around Saigon and you will be surprised how well Vietnamese can make French classic bread.
We had 2 types of banh mi during our trip, one being the classic sandwich type and the other one is banh mi op la, where banh mi is served with eggs and sausages in a personal hot pan.
Where we ate our banh mi:
1) Banh Mi Hoa Ma
Address: 53 Đường Cao Thắng, phường 17, Quận 3, Hồ Chí Minh, Vietnam
Business hours: 5AM - 10AM daily
Banh Mi Hoa Ma is famous for its banh mi op la and I must say this is one of the best breakfasts I had in Saigon. Take note of their opening hour, which is from 5am till 10am. So make sure you get up early for a hearty breakfast for a great day ahead!
I like the side pickles which helps to balance out the oiliness of the dish. And in case you are wondering, the small pot on every table is a tea pot (initially we thought it contained sauce because of its petite size, lol). I believe it comes with tea in consideration with digesting the oil from the dish.
I love the very localized environment with low tables and seats along the side of the wall down a side street. Needless to say, the food was awesome!
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2) Banh Mi Huynh Hoa
Address: 26 Lê Thị Riêng, Bến Thành, Quận 1, Hồ Chí Minh 700000, Vietnam
Business hours: 2:30PM - 11PM daily
This is probably the most popular place for banh mi in Saigon. Even my local Vietnamese friend said that is the best banh mi she has ever tasted, imagine that! This shop opens from 2.30pm onwards till late, and do expect a queue when you are there. It is no surprise to see people order a whole lot for takeaway.
My husband definitely enjoyed his banh mi here for its generous filling in the sandwich – substantial layer of mayonnaise and pate, assorted layers of luncheon meats and grilled pork, and a generous sprinkle of pork floss, topped with the usual garnishing such spring onions, cilantro, cucumbers etc.
6. Bun Cha
Bun Cha is originated from Hanoi. It is a Vietnamese dish of grilled pork and rice noodles with a side dish of dipping sauce.
Where we ate our Bun Cha:
Bun Cha 145 Bui Vien
Address: 145 Bùi Viện, Quận, 1 Phạm Ngũ Lão, Quận 1, Hồ Chí Minh, Vietnam
Business hours: 11AM - 10PM daily
We actually did not plan for this dish during our trip and in fact, it was quite random how we came across it. We were walking along Bui Vien street one night, watching the night life of Saigon, when we walked pass Bui Vien 145. I remembered seeing this shop somewhere, probably when I did my research on the internet or something so we decided to pop in since we were right in front of the shop.
The setting of this shop was more comfortable compared to the places we went for street food - air-conditioned, modern and cozy. we ordered their signature Bun Cha along with a side dish, Bo Nuong Li Lot, which is grilled beef wrapped in (dark) paper.
To be honest, it would not be fair for me to comment on the dish as I was still full from dinner earlier, we have been out for the whole day and I definitely did not have the best appetite then. My husband however, was at the top of his appetite (I wonder when he ever gets full from eating, lol) and loved the bun cha and was still talking about it the next day! I suppose you should have guessed the verdict by now. As for the side dish – Bo Nuong Li Lot, we thought it was alright, not exceptional.
7. Banh Xeo – pancake with prawns and meat
The dish I never thought I would love SO MUCH – period.
If you did not know me already, I am not particularly fond of deep fried food or some call them, heaty food. Probably adopted from my mum’s Cantonese taste bud, I always prefer soupy food or freshly steamed dishes. As you may already know, banh xeo is a Vietnamese savory fried pancake/crepe and from the photos, it looks pretty oily so to be honest, it wasn’t exactly on the top of my food list in Saigon if compared to pho or Vietnamese steamed spring roll (which obviously suit my taste bud more). If it wasn’t for my husband, we almost gave this dish a miss and heck I was glad we didn’t!
Where we ate our banh xeo:
Banh Xeo 46A / Banh Xeo Dinh Cong Trang
Address: 46 Đinh Công Tráng, Tân Định, 1, Hồ Chí Minh, Vietnam
Business hours: 10AM - 2PM ; 4-9PM daily
8. Ban Cuon – Vietnamese ‘chee cheong fun’
I learned about this dish from a friend who visited Saigon before me. She refers this as the Vietnamese ‘chee cheong fun’ (Chinese rice noodle roll). I would describe this dish as something between ‘chee cheong fun’ and steamed dumplings.
Using similar ingredients to make, Ban Cuon’s taste and texture kind of resemble the typical Cantonese dish, but with more enhanced flavor from the meat and sweet fish sauce, which plays a major role. We also love the fragrant crispy shallots, which complements the whole dish very well.
Where we ate our banh cuon
Banh Cuon Hai Nam
Address: 11 Đường Cao Thắng, 2, 3, Hồ Chí Minh, Vietnam
Business hours: 6:30AM - 10PM daily
You have made it till the end!!
Saigon Central Weekend Market @ 23/9 Park
We discovered a weekend market in a park just across our hotel. There is one section for food and drinks, and one section mainly for retail stalls. Isn't it perfect to eat and shop at the same time!? Here, you find a wide range of mouth-watering snacks that are irresistible! If you are not allergic to seafood or some sort, and if you love spicy (well, you can opt for non-spicy option), by all means go for the grilled octopus! We absolutely loved it!
Address: 23/9 Park, Phạm Ngũ Lão St., Phạm Ngũ Lão Ward, D.1, HCMC
Business hours: From midday 12PM every weekend
Let's have a look at the retail stalls shall we, you shopaholics!
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Till next time~
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