If you’re lingering here in Saigon, whether it’s for a short or long term, these are the 12 must-eat dishes that you can’t just simply miss them out on your top things to do in Ho Chi Minh. From main courses, light bites to desserts, you name it, we have it for you. Vietnamese dishes are known for their authenticity, freshness and purity in both the cooking and the taste. Here are the 12 nominees. You can be able to find all of these in Saigon.
- Nuoc Mia (Sugarcane Juice):
This has got to be the most humble beverage to have in Vietnam, especially in Saigon where sugarcane juice comes to serve you in different stalls on the street. As for now, sugarcane juice has owned several shops in Saigon, but the classical stalls still do justice. The sugarcane will be crushed by a juice making machine to extract all the juice, lemonade will also be added for a boost of flavor. Top with lots of ice, one kumquat and there you have it!
Where to have: Nuoc Mia Quyt – Phan Dinh Phung, Ward 17, Phu Nhuan Dist, HCMC or many Nuoc Mia stands at any street corners in 24 districts of Vietnam.
2. Che Bap (Sweet corn soup):
Saigon is famous for chè (sweet soup) with creamy and gooey texture along with its decent taste from the coconut sauce on top. Che Bap is one of them, with thin slices of corn combined with rich coconut sauce and velvety texture from the glutinosa (a common kind of rice in Vietnam that’s used to sticky rice and chè). This one of a kind dessert is perfect for a chilly day in Saigon.
Where to have: 241 Vo Van Tan, Dist 3, HCMC (a small stall located in front of 241 Alley).
3. Xoi man (sticky rice):
Unlike the usual rice we have for lunch/dinner, sticky rice literally means…rice that stick altogether. This is a go to breakfast in Saigon for its convenience where students and office workers usually dig in. Steamy sticky rice is served with some hard boiled eggs, Chinese sausage and dried shredded chicken floss. Sprinkle some soy sauce on top and you’re good to go.
Where to have: Xoi Che Bui Thi Xuan – 111 Bui Thi Xuan, Pham Nguc Lao Ward, Dist 1, HCMC.
4. Canh Chua Ca (Sour Fish Soup):
A drop dead gorgeous dish from the South of Vietnam, which is obviously familiar to every single household in Saigon. This is usually eaten during hot summer days for the freshness and combination of different vegetables including: tomatoes, few slices of pineapple and some other complementary veggies. Pangasid-catfish is the star of this dish because it adds a hint of juiciness to the soup. Sour fish soup is not only slightly sour, but it must be salty and sweet altogether. A very complex dish to master, but it’s unforgettable.
Where to have: Cuc Gach Quan – 10 Dang Tat, Tan Dinh Ward, Dist 1, HCMC.
5. Ca Kho To (Braised fish in clay pot):
Another friendly dish for all the Vietnamese families, fragrant braised fish that is carefully caramelized in a clay pot with a hint of fish sauce for a wow factor. The clay pot will bring out the juiciness of the fish that a normal metal pot can’t be able to conquer, and clay pot is mainly used to braised dishes for other kinds of meats like pork and shrimps.It tastes both salty and sweet, bringing warmth and comfort to everyone.
Where to have: Cuc Gach Quan, 10 Dang Tat, Tan Dinh Ward, Dist 1, HCMC.
6. Bun Rieu (Crab and tomato vermicelli soup):
This fragrant vermicelli soup will blow your mind with a large combination of different ingredients, starting from the tomato soup base, followed by a few drops of shrimp paste (the main spice of the dish). Crab meat and complementary veggies add more values to the bowl, slurp on and enjoy!
Where to have: Ben Thanh Market Food Court
7. Banh Cuon (Vietnamese rice cake):
Steamy dish of Vietnamese rice cake is ready to be served with bean sprouts, green veggies and sweet fish sauce (which is slightly spicy due to the peppers). The rice cake will be made in several batters, it will spread on a steamy cloth surface to get to its thinnest slice, leave it there for around 1-2 minutes and carefully use a chopstick to remove from the cloth surface. Roll and stuff with some meaty stuffing, pleasure to the max.
Where to have: Lan Anh Restaurant, 291 Cach Mang Thang 8, Ward 12, Dist 10, HCMC.
8. Pho (Vietnamese chicken/beef noodles soup):
When in Vietnam, you cannot miss a bowl of pho. Pho usually comes in two flavors: beef and chicken, that are both flavorful and pleasurable. To add more values to the dish, add some fish sauce before eating and put in some veggies for a boost of flavor. No need to say much, Pho is the legend, wait for it, dary!
Where to have: Pho Xuan – 359 Le Van Sy, Ward, 14, Dist 3, HCMC.
9. Banh xeo (Vietnamese pancake):
Nope, this is not the usual pancake we have with syrup and honey and all that jazz. Vietnamese pancake can often be referred to sizzling cake for the sizzling sound while it’s being cooked on the pan. The stuffing includes shrimps, beansprouts and some other vegetables to compliment the dish, served with slightly sweetened fish sauce.
Where to have: 46 Dinh Cong Trang, Tan Dinh Ward, Dist 1, HCMC.
10. Com Tam (Vietnamese broken rice):
Rice plays a huge part in every single Vietnamese household, broken rice takes it to another level. The size of the rice is smaller than the usual ones, hence the name broken rice. A complete broken rice dish would mean nothing without grilled pork ribs, sunny side up eggs, spring onions and a slice of steamed Vietnamese omelette. Add on top sweetened fish sauce for a finishing touch.
Where to have: Ngu Phu Broken Rice – 69 Ly Chinh Thang, Ward 8, Dist 3, HCMC.
11. Goi Cuon (Vietnamese vegetable rolls):
Perfect for a hot summer day! Goi cuon is famous for its freshness that the veggies bring to the rolls, with the purest combination of shrimps, fresh vermicelli, lettuce and a thin slice of spring onion, they are all wrapped in a very delicate and gentle piece of rice paper which is the star of this dish. Dip the roll into bean paste, perfection!
Where to have: 48 Ngo Duc Ke, Dist 1, HCMC.
12. Banh mi (Vietnamese baguette):
To finish off this “things to do in Ho Chi Minh”, I cannot miss Banh Mi here. No need to say more about its deliciousness, the usual baguette is turned into a very simple and humble snack for every Vietnamese. Stuff in the baguette with some pork, soya sauce and other vegetables (you may want to add a few slices of peppers for extra spiciness). This is also an ultimate breakfast when you’re in a hurry.
Where to have: Banh Mi Bay Ho – 23 Huynh Khuong Ninh, Dist 1, HCMC.