Ho Chi Minh in Vietnam is known for some of the best street food in the world. But with thousands of street food vendors literally everywhere, where should you begin your Saigon street food adventure? What should you eat? And exactly where should you try it?
Welcome to the RecipeTin Eats’ Top 10 BEST Street Food in Vietnam – Ho Chi Minh City!
Top 10 BEST Street Food in Vietnam
Ho Chi Minh City
The food in Vietnam is so good, I tell people it’s worth going to Vietnam just for the food. Seriously!
Ho Chi Minh City is the hot, buzzing food capital of Vietnam. Despite the modern face of Saigon, with the rise of trendy bars and restaurants, the true soul of Vietnamese food will always remain the traditional street food.
Fresh, fast, cheap, and above all delicious, this is the food of the people.
It’s also the food we love to eat in Vietnam and what keeps us coming back. 4 times in the last 12 months, to be exact!
There are literally thousands of street food vendors, stalls and restaurants serving a mind-boggling variety of mouth-watering dishes across the city. So, where is a visitor to begin their Saigon street food adventure? What should you eat? And where should you try it?
We’ve got answers. We’ve done the research, interrogated locals and eaten our way around the city over multiple trips.
We’re thrilled to share with you below what we think are the must-try, iconic dishes of Saigon and the best places to try them. So hop on the back of a Grab scooter (OK, maybe just get a taxi) and get ready to dive into the incredible world of Saigon street eats!
Welcome to RecipeTin Eats’ Top 10 BEST Street Foods To Try In Saigon!
(And exactly where to try them!)
1. Grilled pork and spring rolls on rice vermicelli (Bún thịt nướng)
WHY IT’S A MUST-TRY: Slippery cool noodles, fresh lettuce and herbs, fried spring roll, grilled pork. This is a riot of textures, colours and flavours in a bowl. Here’s my recipe for the chicken version!
THE PITCH: Enjoyed nationally, bun thi nuong can be found all over Vietnam except in Hanoi where they have their own version called bun cha. There are variations of bun thit nuong toppings, but grilled pork and spring rolls are the most popular and common. It’s also a cooled dish – seriously refreshing in Ho Chi Minh City’s sweltering climate!
BEST PLACE TO HAVE IT: Bun Thit Nuong Chi Tuyen, District 1 (Map)
This place started as a small street stall on Co Giang Street 40 years ago and is still going strong, morphing into a proper two-storey restaurant on the same street. It’s hugely popular – so much so that they barbecue pork continuously and in bulk at a dedicated grill up the street, whizzing the skewers back to the restaurant by motorcycle!
2. Broken Rice (Cơm tấm)
WHY IT’S A MUST-TRY: A Ho Chi Minh City staple, com tam is the iconic rice dish of the city
THE PITCH: Often eaten for breakfast, com tam (“broken rice”) is a rice dish usually topped with a smoky grilled pork chop, a slice of pork or prawn meatloaf, shredded pork skin and pickles. “Broken rice” refers to the cracked rice grains, which gives the rice a deliciously unique texture.
BEST PLACE TO HAVE IT: Com Tam Ba Ghien, Phuong 10 (Map)
3. Vietnamese Spicy Beef Noodle Soup (Bun bo hue)
WHY IT’S A MUST-TRY: It’s Pho – on steroids. And it’s hard to find outside of Vietnam!
PRONUNCIATION: boon bo HWAY
THE PITCH: Everybody who loves Vietnamese food knows and adores beef pho, and we are equally hopeless pho tragics. But travelling to Vietnam offers the chance to broaden your noodle soup horizons and open your mouth to some of the country’s lesser known but equally scrumptious offerings.
Bun bo hue is another of our favourite noodle dishes and is revered across Vietnam. Hailing from Hue, this noodle soup is a flavour disco of rich beef broth, lemongrass, shrimp paste all turbocharged with a good slap of fiery chilli oil. Have a laugh when you see me suffer in the video!
BEST PLACE TO HAVE IT: Bun Bo Hue Dong Ba, District 1 (Map)
It’s been around since the 1920s and though it might look like it hasn’t seen a renovation since, look past the tatty interior. With its friendly staff, convenient location, and deliciously fragrant bun bo hue, Dong Ba is still a Ho Chi Minh City local favourite and one of the best bowls we’ve had in the city!
4. Street Food Ghetto
This next place isn’t a dish, it’s a food experience area that’s well worth a visit. It’s an area called Nguyen Thien Thuat apartments (Map). One local affectionately dubbed it a Street Food Ghetto, and now we do too because it’s easier to pronounce!
It’s a local area and it’s pumping!! THIS is what I love about traveling – seeing the real local areas, getting away from the tourist traps!
As you stroll down the winding alleys, you’ll see crowds of locals going about their daily routine and vendors serving up all sorts of tasty foods.
Marinated pork grilled over charcoal, fresh soft rice paper rolls filled with beef and crispy rice pancakes grilled over coals and filled with shrimp, egg and slathered with butter – one of my favourite street snacks!
But my favourite food to have here is snail.
Yes. SNAILS. But not your common garden variety snails! They are sea snails and they taste like mussels!
Nibbling on sea snails and chugging down ice cold beers on the tiny plastic stools is the equivalent of pubs back home!
Sea Snails ?Top Pick!?
WHY IT’S A MUST-TRY: Eating snails while rubbing shoulders with the locals is one of the most authenticate eating experience you can have in Vietnam!
THE PITCH: Eating snails is a social tradition deeply embedded in the culinary culture of Vietnam. Groups of friends gather at speciality snail restaurants or street stalls to chat, share plates of molluscs and wash them down with beer over an evening.
Diners choose from piles of shellfish and water-dwelling snails of all shapes and sizes on display. The kitchen will then cook up the snails in one of many lip-smacking preparations, from stir frying with garlic and butter to braising them in rich coconut curries.
You won’t see any tourists at our favourite Pho establishment… and that’s just how we like it!
THE PITCH: The unofficial national dish of Vietnam, this rice noodle soup is all about the rich, long-simmered beef broth perfumed with gentle spice notes and other flavourings. Here in the south of Vietnam, pho always comes accompanied by fresh herbs and beansprouts to pile on top as you like. Nourishing and comforting yet light and balanced, it’s truly the perfect dish. No wonder pho has conquered to world and become synonymous with Vietnamese cuisine today!!
BEST PLACE TO HAVE IT: Pho Tau Bay, District 10 (Map)
Pho Tau Bay is one of Ho Chi Minh City’s oldest pho establishments, first opened by the present owners’ grandfather in Hanoi more than 70 years ago. What makes their pho special they say is their clear broth, free from any excess fat, boiled for 24 hours with meat, bones and minimal seasonings.
This is a true local’s joint, well off the tourist trail and nary a foreign face in sight! Well worth the trip for one of Ho Chi Minh City’s best and original pho.
6. Bo La Lot – Grilled Beef wrapped in Betel Leaves ?Top Pick!?
THE PITCH: Rarely seen outside Vietnam, bo lat lot is a dish of seasoned beef mince, gently spiced and wrapped with wild betel leaves before barbecuing on a a charcoal grill. They’re served as snacks, inside bread rolls, or can also form a meal.
In this latter form, it’s a DIY setup where the bo la lot are served alongside rice paper, lettuce leaves, rice noodles, herbs, sliced vegetables and pickles, along with an oddly addictive pineapple dipping sauce. You wrap the whole lot, attempt to shove it in your mouth (it’s hard because it’s so big!) and go for another one straight away.
BEST PLACE TO HAVE IT: Co Lieng Restaurant, District 3 (Map)
7. Crab noodle soup (Bún riêu)
WHY IT’S A MUST-TRY: One of Vietnam’s most popular soups but less known outside of Vietnam. You haven’t eaten properly in Vietnam until you try this intensely crabby noodle soup. And it’s virtually impossible to find good ones outside of Vietnam!
PRONUNCIATION: boon REE-YOO
THE PITCH: Bun rieu is a rice noodle crab soup that’s very popular across Vietnam. In Saigon, you’ll see more Bun Rieu street vendors than any other soup!
The orange broth’s flavour comes from pounded rice paddy crabs. The soup is delicate, aromatic and a faintly tart from the tomato chunks that are added.
Toppings can vary slightly but most typical is a kind of crab meatball, blood jelly (think of it as tofu made of pig’s blood – and no, I don’t go there!) and fried tofu. And of course, a hedgerow’s worth of fresh herbs is served on the side for you to add as you please.
Bun Rieu Ganh comes recommended by Luke Nguyen, Australia’s most well known Vietnamese chef
BEST PLACE TO HAVE IT: Bun Rieu Ganh, District 1 (Map)
Located just across from the central market Ben Thanh Market, Bun Rieu Ganh’s recipe goes back to the current owner’s mother who sold the dish on the streets years ago. Their juicy pork-crab meatballs in particular are so incredibly tasty they will have you falling all 10cm off your plastic stool to the pavement.
It’s also a favourite of famous Vietnamese-Australian chef Luke Nguyen and we can confirm it’s the best bun rieu we’ve tried in Vietnam!
8. Ben Thanh Markets
These markets are in the heart of District 1 (Map), the area where most visitors stay. It’s one of the oldest and largest markets in Vietnam and here you’ll find everything from fresh produce to souvenirs, textiles to handcrafts, as well as plenty of food and drink.
Most locals turn their noses up at these markets, deeming it to be touristy and overpriced. But for visitors it’s a must, and it’s one of the main attractions in Saigon!
You’ll see a variety of foods from soups to salads, seafood to crispy pancakes in the food area. We tend to get snack size share plates here, and here are 3 of my favourites
1. Rice Paper Rolls (below right) – Rice paper rolls, stuffed with fresh prawns (shrimp), rice noodles and herbs, dipped in a sweet peanut-y dipping sauce;
2. Grilled shrimp on sugarcane skewers (below left)-Made with prawn paste wrapped around sugarcane that’s steamed then grilled.
You’ll find numerous stalls throughout the markets selling both of these, and they’re all perfectly tasty. Perhaps not the best in the city, but perfectly acceptable and all part of the Ben Thanh Markets snacking experience!
The whole plate is scattered with a kind of dried shrimp floss, fried pork crackling, scallion oil and sprigs of coriander. Then everything is liberally doused with sweet nuoc cham.
Dig in with your spoon, making sure you get a bit of everything. It’s the kaleidoscope of textures and flavours that makes Bun bay-oh so magical, and why this little marvel is on my must try list!
Best place to have UFO’s: In one corner of the Ben Thanh market’s food area is a popular stall that specialises in these Hue-style banh beo. Crowded with locals, staff work furiously to keep up with demand. They cost a mere $1.20 for a plate and while I call it a “snack”, it is in fact enough for a meal!
9. Vietnamese Crab!
WHY IT’S A MUST-TRY: You’ve never had soft shell crab this fresh, this delicious, this cheap.
PRONUNCIATION: KOO-ah (means “crabs” in general)
THE PITCH: If you’re as crab-crazy as we are you won’t pass up the opportunity to try crab in Vietnam. The clawed critter is widely loved in Vietnam, with crab-based dishes such as bun rieu and banh canh cua hugely popular across the country. For a truly crab-centric experience, head to one of several specialty crab restaurants in the city where you can try crab served in a multitude of ways. Whatever you order, don’t miss the live soft shell crab, fried to absolute crispy perfection!
BEST PLACE TO HAVE IT: 94 Thuy Restaurant, District 1 (Map)
We got the tip-off on this restaurant from the always-excellent Serious Eats website. 94 Thuy specialises in crab and is a paradise for lovers of this tasty crustacean. All kinds of crab dishes can be had here but a particular specialty is the soft shell crab. Crab spring rolls, vermicelli crab noodles, and fried rice with crab are the other popular dishes, all overflowing with huge chunks of sweet, sweet crab meat.
10. Banh Mi ?Top pick!?
THE PITCH: What makes this sandwich as fascinating as it is delicious is the unique combination of cultural influences that come together in a banh mi. From the French there is the baguette, mayonnaise, charcuterie/cold cuts, and pate. The roast pork belly can be traced to Chinese origins. Then of course the Vietnamese taste for freshness and lightness is there with the herbs, fresh raw vegetables and pickles. It’s the poster child for a true fusion food that succeeds in deliciousness like no other.
It’s harder than you think to find really great Banh Mi in Saigon. But we finally did!
BEST PLACE TO HAVE IT: Banh Mi Sau Le, District 10 (Map) – A hidden local gem, the best banh mi in Ho Chi Minh City!
You won’t find Banh Mi Sau Le in any Top 10 lists or guide books. It’s way out in District 10 and we only discovered it through our foodie interpreter, David from The Street Food Man.
But we’ll say with hand on heart after trying many a banh mi around the city (including all the usual ones in “top 10” lists, Tripadvisor and guide books, that this is the best banh mi in Saigon. Everything about this banh mi is perfect- the airy bread, the quality of fillings, the way they chop the meat up, the just-right pickles.
It’s a long way to travel for a sandwich but if you’re serious about your banh mi, you have to get to Banh Mi Sau Le!
Seriously, one of the happiest moments of my life, chowing this down. We made multiple trips out to Banh Mi Sau Le every time we were in Saigon!
Saigon Top 10 Food Map
Here’s a map with all of the above restaurants (err, establishments ?) marked on it. As a guide, visitors in Saigon usually stay in District 1. Taxis and other forms of transport in Saigon (eg Grab, which is their Uber) are extremely cheap. A 20 minute taxi ride costs around A$3.
Recommendation: Saigon Food Guide and Expert
If you are not comfortable making your way around Saigon on your own, but are keen to try the best street foods the city has to offer, I can highly recommend using The Street Food Man, a local food guide company.
While we did not go on any of the tours, the owner of the company, Vinny (one of the most passionate foodies I have ever met in my life!), kindly arranged for one of his guides to act as our interpreter for the duration of our multiple trips to Ho Chi Minh City to film and collate information for this Top 10 post.
Our guide, David, was stapled to our sides from early morning to late in the evening every single day, as our interpreter with the many vendors we visited, and sharing with us hidden local gems that are not part of their usual food tours, some of which made our Top 10 List.
With his cheerful disposition, in depth knowledge and love of Saigon street food, we immensely enjoyed our time with him and learned so much about Vietnamese food. Highly recommend!
Taste of Saigon – at home!
And that concludes the RecipeTin Eats’ Saigon Top 10 Street Foods List! It’s just a small sample of the amazing food Vietnam has to offer, with specialities in various regions across the country.
In fact, the food here is SO GOOD, I tell people it’s worth visiting Vietnam just for the food – and it’s certainly the reason I keep coming back!
I hope you get a chance to visit one day. But even if you can’t, you can still get a taste of Vietnam at home using my recipes, such as these:
Vietnamese food recipes
While some of these aren’t on our Top 10 Saigon List, or are specialities of other regions (such as Bun Cha which is a Hanoi dish), these recipes stay true to the authentic versions and will transport you straight to the streets of Vietnam! – Nagi x
Life of Dozer
Dozer’s little souvenir from Vietnam!
I love it. He hates it! ?