November 19, 2020By Jodi Ettenberg133 CommentsCity Guides, Food, Gluten Free Eating, Gluten Free Guides, Vietnam

After two winters of stuffing my face around this city I love sầu, I decided to lớn put together a guide to Saigon street food, gathering some of the places I keep coming bachồng to in one place. These are not the absolute best of everything, but rather a cross-section of delicious, cheap and authentic foods that are also conveniently located. I tended lớn head to outer districts more often, on the hunt for that bun mam a frikết thúc told me about, or what was billed as “the best Peking duck in town” by my enthused landlady.

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While fun side trips lớn outer districts are great, I wanted to lớn put together a post that would be more helpful for short-term trips. The restaurants & street stalls below are fairly central to where most travellers stay, meaning people can frequent them even if in town only briefly.

The Ho Chi Minc City / Saigon Street Food Guide: Self-Guided Street Food Tour

Last Updated: JULY 2020

One specific soup, a sweet-and-sour canh chua (phokhổng lồ in the “street food” section below), was what initially led me to lớn the city. I was lured in by the complicated tastes và unfamiliar sting of the rice paddy herb on my tongue. It might have been one soup that brought me khổng lồ Saigon, but it was the rest of the food that kept me there, and keeps me coming baông xã. It is not just taste of food that makes Saigon so enthralling, but the act of eating as well, and all of the craziness that eating comprises. The swirling noise, the families all sitting và enjoying a meal on the street, smiling at you fumbling with your condiments. The beauty of food being not just a necessity but also a sight in & of itself: a window inkhổng lồ culture, và a source of endless wonder.

Countless moments of me smiling as an old lady came over shaking her head at my terrible rice paper folding skills, correcting my technique as we sat at the edge of traffic. Or the bo la lot vendor who discovered my love of starfruit & made sure to lớn have extra on h& when I returned. The beloved grandpage authority at the pho ga restaurant below, who ran over to my bowl repeatedly khổng lồ ensure I added pickled garlic, lest I forget. The landladies that adopted me inkhổng lồ their homes, feeding me, giving me hugs, teaching me how lớn cook.

There are hundreds of moments lượt thích these baked into the aggregate of my memories in Vietphái mạnh. Most of them derive from food. As Luke Nguyen says in The Songs of Sapa: Stories & Recipes from Vietphái nam,

For Vietnamese people, food is our life; we are forever eating, cooking and talking about food. Food is communication – food is culture.


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Cha gio, fried spring rolls. They’re made with rice paper và are gluten-miễn phí. And ridiculously good.


Ah, bun thit nuong, how I love sầu thee. Abbreviated as BTN by friends, this dish is found throughout the city & combines all of the satisfying textures you might want for lunch in one heaping bowl of food. Rice vermicelli noodles, grilled boneless pork, a crispy pork spring roll (often with taro), which is the phụ vương gio part of the name, và fresh lettuce and herbs. You top it with spoonfuls of sweet fish sauce & chilli, letting the sweet and pungent liquid seep into every bit of your food. There are a myriad of BTN places that I frequent và enjoy, but the one below is my favourite because the spring rolls remain the most satisfying. Instead of rolling them in cloudy rice paper, this vendor uses a big banh trang rice paper that has been softened, much lượt thích we use for the fresh goi cuon (summer rolls) when making them in Canadomain authority. The result is a thin and crispy outside layer and extraordinary spring roll. I’ve sầu ordered extra every time I frequent Chi Thong.

Where: Chi Thong195 Co Giang, District 1

Canh Chua

As I’ve sầu mentioned when I came to Vietnam in 2012 for the first time, và in my recent posts, canh chua was the reason I first visited. This sweet and sour soup with rice paddy herb và pinetáo bị cắn, fish và tomatoes, can be found along the street in the Mekong, but rarely as street food in District 1. This restaurant, which also serves some good chicken dishes và fried fish, provides a heaping bowl — phokhổng lồ is above sầu. Order with a side of trắng rice to lớn make it inkhổng lồ a full meal.

Canh Kho Qua

Not everyone enjoys bitter tastes, but for those who do: bitter melon is for you. For this dish, canh kho qua nhoi thit, the bitter melon is boiled long enough so the bitterness curls just at the over of your tongue, after the other flavours sink in. A light but comforting meal, 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 & cooked in a clear broth, topped with cilantro for serving. If you can’t get to Saigon but this sounds like it is up your alley, a recipe here. For those heading to the restaurant below, you can order with some pork chops for the table, or with just a side of rice.

Where: Com Tam Tu QuyCho Tan Dinh (Tan Din Market), near the corner of Hai Ba Trung street và Nguyen Huu Cau street, District 3Yellow sign of the same name, plus waiters all wearing yellow shirts5pm until late

Che Chuoi

Che chuoi is a sweet banana and tapioca dessert, floating in a sea of coconut cream & topped with sesame & crushed peanuts. It is one che dessert in a long line of che options; see the Wikipedia page for a start on the others. I’ve found many friends didn’t enjoy the mung bean or black bean che treats, but all went for bịt chuoi lượt thích it was going out of style. The stall below is actually run by one gentleman — sometimes aided by his son — & his bowls of desserts, so you can piông xã và choose different options, including taro with coconut milk (che khoi mon). 

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

Com Suon

A very popular Saigon lunch or dinner (sometimes breakfast too), this rice và grilled pork chop meal will fill you up quickly và 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, và 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: The com suon joint directly across the street from the entrance to the water puppets show on Nguyen Thi Minh Lúc, not far from the park’s entrance. Essentially: between Truong Dinc 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, & the grill of pork at the side of the road.So good.

Com Tam

Com tam, literally “broken rice”, started out as a dish served with lowered prices, since the rice did not meet standards for export và was thus available at a reduced price. It is a street food staple in Saigon, found on almost every corner in one form or another. The broken rice is kept khổng lồ 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 lớn be eaten with the rice. Some of the restaurants also give sầu you a banana as dessert.

A favourite with com tam is ca kho khổng lồ, photo above, a rich braised catfish dish. For those who don’t lượt thích fish, fried chicken, pork belly with braised eggs, & fish cooked in pinehãng apple and vegetables are usually on offer too. The best advice I can give is go in a group và order to tóm tắt.

The restaurant below is owned by Hai of Eating Saigon (blog below), and provides a field trip out of District 1 and some terrific food. For those wanting khổng lồ stay closer khổng lồ ‘home’ you can head to the corner of Mac Dinch Chi and Nguyen Thi Đường Minh Khai for a com tam place (just past the KFC) that opens from 10am-2pm.

Where: Dong Hoa Xuan49 No Trang Long, Binc Tkhô cứng District+84 (8) 3510 1771

Cuon Diep

These are a simple but surprisingly fulfilling treats consisting of mustard leaves that are rolled around vermicelli noodles và chopped up mushrooms & tofu. Served with a sweet peanut sauce, they satisfy both the crunchy và the healthy wants at once. I would often head lớn Tib Ctuyệt for a fix.

Hu Tieu

Hu tieu soups are a complicated beast. I’ll kick this off with a paragraph from the Loving Pho blog, who wrote about the soup:

The three most recognized types are Hu Tieu Nam Vang (hu tieu Phnom Penh style,) Hu Tieu My Tho (after the capital đô thị of Tiền Giang Province, located in the Mekong Delta region of southern Vietnam,) and Hu Tieu Chinese style. The Chinese had a lot to lớn vì chưng with hu tieu being in Vietphái mạnh in the first place. <…> Chinese-Cambodian brought the dish from Cambodia (hence the Phnom Penh style,) and Vietnamese borrowed it & 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 size. I know. Let’s turn khổng lồ Andrea Nguyen’s great recipe for hu tieu Nam Vang for more.

The noodles in a bowl of hu tieu can be chewy clear tapioca noodles, opaque white rice noodles lượt thích 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 piông xã and choose whatever you want. Hu tieu is the extreme have-it-your-way Vietnamese food experience. I’ve sầu seen a ‘dry’ version too but have sầu never tried it.

Basically what I’m saying is, on your wanderings around town if you see a size of hu tieu you should just try it because it’s rarely the same twice. Though Andrea’s recipe is the ‘wet’ version of broth in the soup, I prefer it kho or dry, where the noodles are separate as in the phokhổng lồ above sầu. This is because I lượt thích to lớn add just a few spoonfuls of the broth, so the noodles remain springy. Plus, the post-meal dessert? More broth. The restaurant below is central, but this category of soup is also all over the streets, with the Chinese-style soup found more often than not in beautifully ornate wooden carts with Chinese lettering.

It’s important lớn note that some forms of hu tieu soups don’t actually use hu tieu noodles – ngươi (egg noodles, which are wheat-based) are unsafe for celiacs.

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I’ve sầu got a hu tieu lady in every District. You should too.

Where: Quan Mi Cat62 Truong Dinch District 1

Pho Bo

PHO! I couldn’t leave sầu this dish out of the menu, though as I quickly found when I visited for the first time, there is so much more to food in Vietnam giới than this popular soup. It merits repeating that there two primary types of beef phos you can get in Saigon, the Southern-style (sweeter, less spices in the broth, sometimes cuttlefish added khổng lồ the broth as well), or Hanoi-style. Hanoi was where the soup originated and while I love sầu Saigon dishes, I vị prefer the northern broth. It is more savoury, with a heady aftertaste of cinnamon, star anise, & roasted ginger. It tastes denser to lớn me, thicker with the spices, & regardless of whether I eat it with raw or cooked beef, it is a satisfying meal. I think my preference also stems from novelty; many of the soups I’ve sầu tried in Montreal or Thủ đô New York were from Southern Vietnamese who fled during the diaspora, & thus brought with them a more Southern recipe. I was surprised khổng lồ find the Northern-style soups far less sweet than I remembered from Montreal.

When I first spent the winter in Vietnam, I dedicated specific days of the week to a particular dish. Wednesdays were banh xeo days, Tuesdays were all about oc, snails, và Thursdays were earmarked for pho. So, I have eaten many-a-pho around town but three different options st& out. The first was recommended by Tom of Vietphái nam Coracle (his blog is in the blog section below), & remains my favourite, as cthất bại as I’ve sầu found to the great phos I tried in Hanoi. The second is owned by Prison Granny from my Why I Love sầu Saigon piece, and is part of why I decided to lớn take an apartment nearby; it was just that good. The third is a Chinese-style pho, a bit sweeter, but for meat-lovers it is a solid option. The nearby area — especially the side alleys off of Vo Van Tan street — is fun to explore.

Where: Pho Phuong (photo lớn below)25 Hoang Sa Street, District 1, right on the canal’s edge+84 (8) 3910 2422


I don’t know about you, but when I’m sick, all I want is chicken noodle soup. Sadly this option is often off the table (literally) in North America; as a celiac, I can’t eat the noodles. But Vietphái nam is a perfect place for siông xã celiacs, because their chicken soup is made with thiông xã rice noodles. This pho ga (ga is chicken) place also serves pho bo (bo meaning beef), but I wouldn’t go there for the beef soup. Instead opt for their flavourful, rich chicken broth and thinly sliced chicken breast. For those wanting a different fix, opt for mien ga (mien are mung bean noodles), both of which come with their signature spicy sauce, pickled garlic, and basket ‘o herbs. lưu ý that this is a place taxi drivers frequent at all hours of the night — it’s open 24 hours a day. It was a frequent visit during bouts of the flu, or even when full but walking by; one sniff of their chicken broth và you vì chưng an about turn và sit down for a bowl.

Where: Pho So 1 Ha Noi25 Nguyen Thi Phố Minh Khai Street, District 1xuất hiện 24 hours. 

Banh Mi

I can’t eat it, since it’s wheat, so I apologize for not being able to opine about the best one. However! Voracious friends recommend the two following places:

Where:

Banh Mi Huynh Hoa 26 Lê Thị Riêng, Bến Thành, District 1

and

Banh Mi 37 Nguyen Trai (aka Bánh Mì Thịt Nướng, Hẻm 39)

Also see this lovely 20đôi mươi piece from Austin Bush, about baking banh mi in Saigon.

A Slightly Fancier Meal

Bloom Saigon (formerly May Restaurant) is tucked at the kết thúc of a tiny alleyway near the canal’s edge, not far from my recommended Pho place on Hoang Sa. It’s mix in a lovely old colonial-style house, và run efficiently with delicious food. Would recommend trying the beef wrapped in mustard leaves, the tofu with lemongrass, & the sour soup, among other dishes. It’s a nice change from the more chaotic restaurants near the heart of District 1, and a lovely choice place for a date or anniversary.

For vegetarians wanting a bit of a nicer restaurant, try Hum Restaurant, located near the War Remnants Museum in District 3.


For more vegetarian eats, see Travel Lush’s Ho Chi Minch City guide (from 2018), this Foursquare menu (from 2014), this Culture Trip 10 Best Vegetarian List (from 2018), & this great cookbook from Cameron Stauch, Vegetarian Viet Nam.

Are you looking for vegan food in Saigon? Happy Cow has you covered, as does Messy Veggies.
Where: Hum Vegetarian32 Vo Van Tan Street, District 3+84 (8) 3930 3819Hum

Non-Vietnamese & International Food in Saigon

BBQ Ribs and Smoked Pork: My friover Mark opened his new restaurant ,Quan Ut Ut, with no advertising & only word-of-mouth referrals. It’s packed almost every night và with good reason: the food is exceptional, you get tremendous value for money và it’s built around the American BBQ concept but made with local ingredients. Whether you order family style or get your own, you must be sure to lớn try the smoked ribs or pork shoulder, the grilled okra, và if you’re not celiac lượt thích me, the banhỏ banhỏ burger, which a frikết thúc described as “a burger literally made out of bacon”. Ut is actually the onomatopoeia for the sound a pig makes, the Vietnamese for “oink”.

Where: Quan Ut Ut3 different locations via their Facebook page – District 1, District 2, & District 7.

Pizza: I can’t atchạy thử khổng lồ its deliciousness as they don’t make a gluten-không lấy phí version but friends rave sầu about a Japanese pizza place called 4 Ps, và a Thành Phố New York Times feature has made them even more popular. For those missing this food group, highly recommended by Vietnamese and expats alượt thích. The owner picked the name — short for Platsize of Personal Pizza for Peace — to reflect what he calls “delivering wow và happiness”. Love sầu it. Wish I could eat it.

Gluten-không tính phí Pasta: If you are celiac lượt thích me, there is a gluten-không lấy phí option for pasta, provided you’ve sầu tired of rice noodles. I can’t speak to their food generally but they use corn pasta for their dishes, and half portions were available. It was filling and I ended up with a slow cooked meat sauce, which was delicious.

Where: Ciao Bella11 Dong Du, District 1+84 (8) 3822 3329

Sushi: 

$$ – My friends John & Brooke first discovered this tiny restaurant, set slightly away from the road, sliding doors covered in a light curtain from the inside. Walking inside, you can choose to sit at the sushi bar (recommended, of course) or in the bigger dining room. While more expensive sầu than other options lượt thích Sushi Bar, the unique of the fish reflects the price point, and the meals are meticulously prepared.

Since I can’t eat Japanese soy sauce as it contains wheat, I took lớn ordering their salmon donburi bowl, fresh raw saltháng fanned over sushi rice & topped with a shiso leaf filled with saltháng roe. The roe gave sầu me the salt that was missing from the soy sauce, và made for an expensive sầu (by street food prices, that is — approx $17) but delicious meal. I’d rather have sushi less frequently but enjoy unique fish, so I recommover this versus some other joints in town. Their lunch set includes a dessert và small side dishes.

Where: La Phong Sushi HouseLunch 11:30am-2pm Dinner: 5:30pm-10:30pm 9 Tran Cao Van Street, District 1 +84 (8)48 3824 7882

$$- Another favourite spot is Hanayuki, who source their salmon from Norway. It’s always been fresh, delicious, & a cozy casual spot for lunch – when they have their best value meals.

$$$$ – Sushi Rei imports their fish from Tsukiji fishery market in Japan, & while prices reflect their sourcing (Omakase is 3,000,000 Dong, approx $129USD), this spot remains a reliable, delicious sushi experience in Vietnam giới.

Where: Sushi Rei10E1 Nguyen Thi Phố Minh Khai Street,Da Kao, District 1, HCMC

Indian: Fun fact: antibiotics make me crave Indian food. I have sầu no idea why this is, but when I was sick near the kết thúc of my Saigon stay, all I wanted to eat was paneer and dosa và thick creamy mutton korma. There are many delicious options for Indian in town, but two central ones are Ganesh and BaBa’s Kitchen. Ganesh is mix near the Opera House, away from the backpacker area, whereas BaBa’s is smachồng in the middle of backpacker central. So, if you want to lớn avoid the “khao san road of Saigon”, opt for Ganesh. However, both are great and have lovely owners & helpful waiters & waitresses. I prefer Ganesh’s palak paneer to that of BaBas, but BaBa’s dopiaza và vindaloo dishes were superior. Solution: try them both. And report baông xã please!

Where: 

BaBa’s Kitchen164 Bui Vien Street, District 1+84 (8) 3838 6661www.babaskitchen.in

Salad: Au Parc, specifically the Nicoise salad made with smoked fish & quail eggs. For those with kids, also a great option for weekkết thúc brunch as they have a không tính tiền child care area plus nanny on their upper floor.

Where: Au Parc Cafe23 Han Thuyen Street, District 1+84 (8) 3829 2772www.auparcsaigon.com

French Fries: L’Usine’s two location make these fries, but I was able khổng lồ eat them at the Dong Khoi location only as the chef was kind enough to fry them in new oil so as not to lớn have them contaminated with the breaded products they also fry.

Where: L’Usine Dong Khoi151 Dong Khoi Street, District 1(upstairs after going inlớn an art gallery-lined alleyway)www.lusinespace.com

Drinks and Smoothies in Saigon

Selection of places for beverages of different kinds, fancy và casual.

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Smoothies: Many a smoothie người in Saigon, và they are available just about everywhere. But for a wonderful place khổng lồ watch the world go by, owned by a lovely lady with a great smile, head to lớn Juicy.


Chuyên mục: Ẩm thực