With vendors selling specialty dishes daily on every street corner, you don’t stay hungry for long in Vietnam’s Ho Chi Minh City.
Street food is well and truly at the heart of this bustling city, but with so much on offer it’s difficult to know what to choose. So here are here are some of the best you have to try on your next trip in this bustling Vietnamese city.
Banh mi (Vietnamese sandwich)
A hark back to the years of French Indonesia when Vietnam was under colonial rule, this French-Asian fusion sandwich is one of the nation’s favorite snacks – think Subway taken to a totally different level.
A Viet-style French baguette – made with a mixture of wheat and rice flour so it’s light and crispy in texture – is packed with cuts of roast pork, rich homemade pate, pickles, fresh chili and aromatic coriander. It is then finished with a splash of soy.
How to eat like a local? Try Banh Mi Hong Hoa – 62 Nguyen Van Trang, Ben Thanh, District 1
Bun mam (fermented fish soup)
At first hearing, bun mam – a fermented fish soup sometimes called Vietnamese gumbo – doesn’t sound like the tastiest food in the world, but this is by far one of Vietnam’s superior noodle dishes.
Several chunks of crispy pork belly, slices of squid, a juicy prawn, raw vegetables, thick noodles and herbs are covered in a light fermented fish broth. This is not only a healthy meal, but it is one that will leave you feeling stuffed.
How to eat like a local? Try Bun Mam Mien Tay – 131, Xo Viet Nghe Tinh, Binh Thạnh District
Banh xeo (savory crepe)
Banh xeo literally translates as “sizzling cake” and is Vietnam’s answer to a savory crepe.
More often than not these will be cooked in front of you. Typically, it starts with frying off a piece of pork fat in a hot skillet before pouring in a batter made of rice flour, water and turmeric. Soon after, a prawn is added to the mix with a handful of bean sprouts. When ready, it’s folded in half and served with lettuce leaves and a sweet chilli fish sauce.
How to eat like a local? Try Banh Xeo at 46A Dinh Cong Trang Street, District 3
Goi cuon (Spring rolls)
Goi cuon or spring rolls are Vietnamese simplicity at its finest.
A soft rice paper is stuffed with slices of pork, prawns, noodles and lettuce, which is then rolled up into a fat cigar-like shape and served with a warm peanut sauce.
How to eat like a local? Try Amble down Tran Khac Chan Street, Phu Nhaun District
Oc bien (Sea snails)
Due to its proximity to the Mekong Delta, sea snails are surprisingly popular in the big city of Saigon. Two of the most popular evening snacks served up in the backstreets are fresh crab claws, cang cua, and snails. And there are dozens of restaurants and vendors serving different types of snails cooked in hundreds of ways. One of the best ways to eat is grilled over a BBQ and served with a little coarse sea salt and sprinkling of lime and chilli flakes. A common alternative is a sweet and sticky coating of garlic, sugar and chilli, which has been caramelized in pork fat. Some popular snail dishes are mud creeper snails in sweet coconut milk, Babylonia areolata coated in salt and chili, and giant garlic snails roasted and seasoned with chili jam.
How to eat like a local? Try Oc Dao at Alley 212B, Nguyen Trai Street, District 1
Banh trang nuong (Vietnamese pizza)
This crispy snack is similar in appearance to a pizza and is particularly popular in Ho Chi Minh City. To make them, a dry rice paper gets a topping of either minced pork, prawn or egg and is then cooked quickly on a BBQ or grill, before being topped with herbs and spring onion.
How to eat like a local? Try Saturday street food market on Phạm Ngu Lao Street, District 1
Com tam (rice with meat or fish)
Com tam is a pure gastronomic pleasure: barbecued pork on broken rice, topped with a fried egg and other accouterments. For locals, it is a delicious traditional dish but for foreigners, com tam is a quintessential Saigon experience. Com tam sellers dish out a big pile of rice with a choice of ready-cooked meat, fish or veg. The most common combo is known as com suon – rice served with a sweet and sticky pork chop, a fried egg, fresh cucumber, spring onions and a few thinly sliced pickles.
How to eat like a local? Try Com tam Phung on the corner of Duonh Cong Troung Street, Binh Thanh District
Bo la lot (minced beef wrapped in wild betel leaf)
This dish is made by wrapping minced beef, in a piper lolot leaf, which has a lovely peppery taste. It can be eaten in a number of ways: Rolled in rice paper; wrapped in a lettuce leaf with cold vermicelli noodles; or simply on its own. However, it will almost inevitably be accompanied by nuoc cham – a sweet chilli fish sauce.
How to eat like a local? Try Co Giang Street close to the backpacker area has a number of sellers serving up this popular dish, District 1
Pho (beef noodle soup)
This is without a shadow of a doubt Vietnam’s most famous dish. Traditionally served with a mixture of raw beef and brisket, this is a noodle soup bursting with flavour and texture. It is served with a generous heap of raw or blanched vegetables, which add a lovely crunch. Fresh chilli, lime and fish sauce can be added for extra zing and saltiness.
How to eat like a local? Try Pho Le 2 303-305 Vo Van Tan, District 3
Banh trang tron
A relatively recent Vietnamese creation which seems attract to the entire younger generation. Basically, it is a snack of shredded rice paper, seasoned with a chili sauce, and filled with herbs like Vietnamese coriander and basil and supplemented with pieces of squid, salty fish, and quail eggs.
How to eat like a local? Try Banh trang tron Chu Vien at 38 Nguyen Thuong Hien, District 3, Ho Chi Minh City, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam