A vibrant clash of the old and the new, Ho Chi Minh City in southern Vietnam is typified by traditional market stalls, French Colonial architecture and modern skyscrapers sitting peacefully side by side. A treat for all the senses, life in Ho Chi Minh City never sits still – with locals dashing about on put-putting motorcycles, street vendors selling delicious wares and the bright lights of amazing retail stores pulling you in.
One of South-East Asia’s finest centres of culinary excellence, Ho Chi Minh City satisfies every palate, appetite and budget. Whether you prefer refined dining in sophisticated settings, or delicious local delicacies straight from the market stall, Ho Chi Minh City has got the food for you.
So, to celebrate this amazing city’s vibrant culinary offerings, we’re going on a foodie tour of Ho Chi Minh City with a few of our favourite bloggers – unearthing the best dishes, and where to enjoy them.
Dishes You Must Try in Ho Chi Minh City
As the largest city in Vietnam, there’s so much great food to try in Ho Chi Minh City, and so many places to sample these culinary delights. Here, we list five dishes you absolutely must try during your visit.
Bánh mì – You might be surprised to find our first stop on our Ho Chi Minh City food tour is a sandwich, but bánh mì is a much-loved relic from Vietnam’s French Colonial past. Bánh mì is literally the French word for bread – and usually refers to light and airy baguettes with a thin crust. These baguettes lend themselves to an amazing array of sandwiches which are hugely popular amongst the locals.
Although many variations are available, the most popular is bánh mì thịt which usually consists of sliced pork, pork sausage, liver pate, meat jelly and vegetables such as carrots and cucumbers. Often this will be doused with a spicy sauce and mayonnaise.
Daryl and Mindi Hirsh from 2foodtrippers share their love for the city’s banh mi.
“You’ll find incredible Bánh Mì in Ho Chi Minh City at little, hole-in-the-wall shops like Bánh Mì Huỳnh Hoa. These shops sell incredible sandwiches loaded with pâté, pork, chilli, vegetables and mayonnaise that you’ll want to eat again and again. A fun breakfast bánh mì option can be found at Bánh Mì Hòa Mã where eggs and a range of Vietnamese meats are served with crusty bánh mì bread on the side.”
Pho – Perhaps Vietnam’s most famous foodie export, pho is a delightful soup consisting of a thin broth, slices of meat, vegetables and noodles. The locals dine on pho at an amazing pace, slurping the bowl of noodles and meat down in a matter of minutes. Although chopsticks and noodles don’t seem like natural compatriots, you’ll soon get the hang of pho, and the delicious rewards are well worth the effort.
Bánh bèo – A steamed rice cake which is named after its water fern-like appearance, is similar to a savoury pancake filled with delicious ingredients. Most commonly filled with prawns, scallions, crispy shallots, fish sauce and rice vinegar - bánh bèo is an ideal street food to snack on during a day exploring the city.
Vicky from www.vickypham.com offers her top tip for finding the best bánh bèo in the city.
“You can find bánh bèo anywhere in Vietnam, but the best places are from street food vendors, stationed on sidewalks and in alleyways. These small shops usually specialise in one or two dishes so they have mastered their craft. And when the small plastic stools they use for seating threaten to break under your weight, you know you have found one of the best places.”
Bún bò huế - If you’ve already sampled pho in Vietnam, or at home, and want to delve deeper into Ho Chi Minh City’s noodle heritage, then bún bò huế could be the dish to order. Huge flavours of beef, wonderfully spicy notes and a hint of lemongrass in the background, bún bò huế is warming and delicious. A smattering of vegetables and chillies on top, give this dish even greater depth, and rightly earns a place as a favourite amongst the city’s visitors.
Bánh cuốn – Despite originating in the north of Vietnam, Bánh cuốn is now a staple in Ho Chi Minh City, and it’s almost as fun to watch it being prepared as it is to eat. Street vendors will steam a ladle full of rice batter on a cloth over boiling water – creating a thin sheet. This sheet is then filled with ground pork, mushrooms, shallots and more before being rolled up. Not dissimilar to a spring roll, this delicious treat is great for eating on the go.
Where to eat in Ho Chi Minh City
As you may have noticed from the above suggestions, we’re fans of heading to market stalls and street vendors for our food treats in Ho Chi Minh City. So, we’ve listed three places to find the absolute best street food the city has to offer.
Ben Thanh Market – Whether you’re eating or not, Ben Thanh Market is a great day out in Ho Chi Minh City. Located in the hustle and bustle of the city, the market houses a huge range of stalls selling everything from exotic spices to household appliances. A great selection of street vendors are on hand to serve up all those Vietnamese favourites.
Binh Tay Market – An opulent Chinese exterior welcomes you to Binh Tay Market, offering an amazing atmosphere, Buddhist culture and a great array of stalls. If you’re hungry, be sure to head to the rear of the market where the large, open-air food market is sure to serve up something you fancy.
VietS Corner Flea Market – Small and quirky, VietS Corner Flea Market showcases the wares and talents of the next generation of Vietnamese. Run by an array of young locals, the market, set in a wonderful French Colonial building, offers a wide range of original, stylish and inexpensive market wares. And after you’ve shopped up an appetite, take to the roof, where the exciting food market can be found.
Ho Chi Minh City is visited during each of our Mekong River itineraries, giving you the chance to enjoy the foodie heritage and unique culture of this beautiful city.
If you’d like to find out more about our luxury river cruises through Europe and Asia, visit our homepage or call us today on 0800 330 340 and our friendly team will be happy to help you.