When the topic of Saigon cuisine is put on the scale, it may take us a lifetime to confirm how burdensome it is. Saigon culinary tour is now something extremely prevalent that you may only need a finger snap to own a high-ranking local food tour guide advise you what to be served when night falls. With a coverage of over 2000 square kilometers, have you ever wondered that how many food stalls, bistros, restaurants, and eateries are located within the domain of Saigon? The answer is obviously COUNTLESS. However, this inquiry seems to get a lot easier when it turns out to be a simple map dividing Saigon, or Ho Chi Minh City, into smaller specific localities with their own distinctive gastronomy assets. Below listed a walkover on where to locate different Saigon food zones like a local pro.
Street food vendor
Local markets archive:
Let’s kick start out guideline by listing down some famous local markets before everything. Why is that? Markets are endless sources of nutrition and inspiration where the best of the best is found. It may sound a little absurd when some of you may incite Saigon’s fine-dining bistros into the list. The thing is, most of the country’s culinary quintessence was started in the hands of mothers, long before high-end eateries were even born, and it may date back to thousands of years ago when markets were first formed.
In Saigon today, any local market owns a separate food court inside of which. Apart from Bến Thành, which is hands down the largest market that I do not need to even mention, other names you can step into are Bà Chiểu, Hồ Thị Kỷ, Tân Định, Bàn Cờ and a lot more. Daily dishes are what you can find here. For instance, common names that Vietnamese cannot live without, such as rice noodles, egg noodles, vermicelli noodles, Phở, broken rice, soup, spring rolls, pancakes and so on. Here is a tip for you, most of these markets are open at daytime, which means the best hours of the day for you to come to visit vary in the very first section of a day.
Tân Định Market
District 4 – Paradise of Hotpot and BBQ
Lied across a small segment of Saigon River, District 4 is now a sensational icon with long chains of BBQ and Hotpot eateries queued up along both sides of little thoroughfares. One thing you should keep in mind is that not the whole coverage of District 4 is used for BBQ and Hotpot only, but a part of which. Vĩnh Khánh Street is a familiar name to native Saigonese when a desire for tasty smoky meat is aroused in the middle of a hot night. Otherwise, try moving a little further to Xóm Chiếu and Đoàn Văn Bơ areas. These are tiny alleys crossing one another which makes them look exactly like a chessboard. Yet a variety of Vietnamese desserts show up at almost every single corner.
Chinatown – Little Hong Kong in the heart of Saigon
There is no doubt that our third candidate is saved for Chinese food this time. I must admit that Chinatown is found everywhere on the Globe’s surface, but the fusion and harmony of Chinese food added an elegant savor of Vietnamese essence will differentiate Saigon’s Cholon to any other namesakes (P/s: Cholon is a colloquial term for Chinatown).
Dating back to 300 years ago, the history of Cholon may amuse you with the same level of its culinary culture. A huge collection of Dimsum treats sweet soup dessert and noodles food stalls all make Cholon as great as always. Various Saigon food tours offer diversified packages towards hidden spots around these areas so there is no worry about getting lost at where to start.
Hà Ký sweet dessert in Chinatown
Downtown alleys combination
Last but not least, downtown Hẻm (Alleys) in Saigon is where you can recognize the core values for the true street food of Saigon. I am not overestimating the meaning and role these Hẻm are playing. Their long existence must be based on some reasons. Let’s get started!
Cô Giang Street in District 1 actually lives up when the Sun is gone. The place is notable for its string of Bò Lá Lốt spots. To be clear, Bò Lá Lốt is literally translated into Grilled beef wrapped with betel leaves. Some Saigon food tour companies will pick this dish as a type of starter.
A portion of Bò Lá Lốt
Cao Thắng Alley in District 3, meanwhile, will offer you Phá Lấu (Stewed Cow’s intestines with coconut juice), stir-fried noodles, soup noodles, flans, hotpot, smoothies and the list goes on.
Hồ Con Rùa, or Turtle Lake, a large manmade lake lied in between District 1 and District 3 at around 6 p.m is virtually lively. Covering a small area on the surface of the lake, Hồ Con Rùa is where you can find local Vietnamese fast food such as beef balls, tofu, sausage, Okra, soup, stir-fried corn and so on.
There is one thing for sure that my list above will definitely not end Saigon street food list right there. These are simply iconic roundups just in case you have no idea where to start your night. The best way to fulfill your stomach in the most “pro” way is to have a local companion with you. Imagine sneaking through the insane traffic at night and sit on the tiny plastic chairs place on the pavements while surrounded by locals, this is going to be one of the best memories you can ever have in Vietnam.