Sai Gon, or Ho Chi Minh city, is one of the biggest tourist attractions in Vietnam thanks to its development. You should not miss out on the specialty of Sai Gon cuisine when traveling to this city. This article will recommend the top tasty dishes and best places to eat in Saigon for visitors.
1. The outstanding features of Sai Gon cuisine
Sai Gon cuisine is a harmonious combination of different cuisines from different countries: France, US, China, Cambodia, Thailand, etc. Thanks to the warm weather all year round and fertile soil, Sai Gon has a variety of fruits, vegetables and herbs such as mint, basil, green onion, ginger, turmeric to use as side ingredients. The main ingredients in Sai Gon cuisine are often seafood and meat, since Sai Gon has a long coastline.
People in Sai Gon cook their food in a variety of ways: boil, steam, grill, deep fry, stir fry. Each dish has a perfect balance of flavors: sweet, salty, bitter, sour and spicy. Each dish also has a distinctive flavor from a mixture of ingredients and the cook’s own recipe.
What makes Saigon cuisine unique is the sweet flavor. As local people usually add more sugar and coconut milk to the food, Sai Gon food is sweeter than any food in other Vietnamese regions. Besides, Sai Gon food is quite spicy, because people like seasoning with a lot of chili and pepper.
2. Saigon food tour: The 5 delicious dishes you should try once
Sai Gon is well-known for the diversity and the unique flavor of local cuisine. Below are 5 mouthwatering dishes you should try once when visiting this city.
2.1. Banh mi – Saigon sandwich
Banh mi is one of the most popular street foods in Sai Gon and a typical Vietnamese breakfast food. Inside the sandwich, meat is the most important ingredient which can determine the flavor of the sandwich. Besides, sellers can add cucumbers, pickled carrots, daikon radish, scallion and cilantro based on the demands of buyers.
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2.2. Pha lau – A dish made from pork meat and offal
Pha lau is on the list of must-try street food of Sai Gon cuisine. The dish is filled with pig or cow offal and herbs. The offal is stewed in coconut water, curry powder and five spices until the ingredients are tender. Pha lau is served with bread, noodles, steamed rice or sticky rice. The dish even tastes better when being eaten with sweet chili fish sauce.
2.3. Broken rice – One of the best Saigon foods
When referring to Sai Gon cuisine, broken rice with grilled pork chops can not be overlooked. Broken rice is very popular among domestic and foreign visitors thanks to its excellent flavor coming from the harmonious combination of ingredients including grilled pork chops and green vegetables. The typical sweet chili fish sauce also contributes to the characteristic flavor of the dish.
2.4. Fresh spring rolls – A popular dish in Saigon
Goi cuon, also known as fresh spring roll, is quite similar to the normal spring roll but it is eaten fresh. To make its outer layer, people take sheets of rice paper and soften them with a little water, then roll them around the main ingredients. The fillings are often pork tenderloin, shelled shrimp, green bananas and star fruits. The roll is served with fish sauce mixed with crushed garlic, chili and lemon juice. Rich peanut sauce is another suggestion to be enjoyed with the roll.
2.5. Hu tieu – Rice noodle soup
Rice noodle soup, or “hu tieu” in Vietnamese, is considered the quintessence of Sai Gon cuisine and Vietnamese cuisine. To make the dish, local people use a lot of ingredients such as pork bones, pork thighs, minced shoulders, pork ribs, dried shrimp, quail eggs, white radish, onions, green onions, etc. If you have a chance to visit Sai Gon, don’t forget to enjoy this flavorful dish!
>>> Read more: Vietnamese food: The TOP 10 must-try dishes in 2023
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3. Top 5 Saigon food courts to enjoy traditional Vietnamese dishes
If you are looking for somewhere to eat at a reasonable price, Saigon markets are a perfect choice. You can enjoy as many traditional Vietnamese dishes as possible there at a lower price, nevertheless, the flavor is still excellent.
3.1. Ben Thanh Market
- Opening hours: 7 a.m. – 8 p.m
Situated right in District 1, Ben Thanh Market has always been a famous destination for visitors to discover the specialty of Sai Gon cuisine and the daily lives of local people. If you visit Ben Thanh Market, don’t forget to try crab paste vermicelli soup, Hue bloating fern-shaped cake (banh beo Hue), Co Mai shrimp paste noodle soup (bun suong Co Mai), Thanh Mai vermicelli sprouting (bun moc Thanh Mai), sweet sticky rice, etc.
3.2. Ho Thi Ky Market – The paradise of Saigon street food
- Opening hours: 3 p.m. – 11 p.m
Situated in District 10, Ho Thi Ky Market is considered the paradise of Saigon street food among youngsters. The market is well-known for a variety of Cambodian dishes and traditional Vietnamese dishes such as rice noodle soup, crab soup, Hue bloating fern-shaped cake, green papaya salad, clam porridge, quail egg, fish vermicelli soup, etc.
3.3. Xom Chieu Market
- Opening hours: 6 a.m. – 11:45 p.m
Situated in District 4, Xom Chieu Market is home to more than 500 restaurants and vendors with a variety of dishes, from main courses to street foods. Coming to Xom Chieu Market, you should try Di Lan clam noodle, Co Oanh pha lau, Co Hang crab soup, Ha Tram sweet soup, etc. If you are considering where to enjoy Sai Gon cuisine at a reasonable price, Xom Chieu Market is an ideal choice!
4. Where are places to eat in Saigon to explore Asian cuisine?
Aside from enjoying traditional Vietnamese food, visitors can also explore Asian cuisine right in Sai Gon: Japanese cuisine, Korean cuisine and Chinese cuisine. The food is cooked by natives, thus the flavor is totally genuine.
4.1. Japanese Quarter
- Address: Le Thanh Ton – Thai Van Lung street, District 1
The Japanese Quarter, also known as Little Japan Town, is famous for serving popular Japanese dishes such as takoyaki, okonomiyaki, sushi, ramen, sashimi, etc. Tomidaya Ramen, Dambo Ramen Shop, Sukiya are some restaurants recommended for you. Aside from enjoying Japanese cuisine, the Japanese Quarter is also a famous place to take photos thanks to many cool graffiti walls and colorful lanterns.
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4.2. China Town
- Address: District 5, District 6, District 11
The China Town in Saigon impresses visitors with Chinese unique culinary and architectural characteristics. There are a lot of restaurants serving dishes like dumplings, wonton and duck noodles. If you have a sweet tooth, you should try many Chinese drinks and desserts such as sweet soup and milk tea. Most menus and signboards in this area are written in both Chinese and Vietnamese.
4.3. Korean Quarter
- Address: Phu My Hung urban area, District 7
Many South Koreans have moved to District 7 over the years, making it a tightly knit South Korean community and a paradise of Korean cuisine. The most popular dish here is spicy chicken with cheese, and you can enjoy the dish at Don Chicken, Chaos Chicken, Papa's Chicken, etc. If you have a sweet tooth, you should try bingsu – a Korean type of shaved ice. Otherwise, you can find other typical Korean foods such as kimbab (Korean-style sushi), bibimbap (Korean-style mixed rice), tteokbokki (Korean rice cake), etc.
Besides enjoying delectable Sai Gon cuisine, you should also visit other touristy destinations in Vietnam, such as Phu Quoc, Nha Trang, Hoi An, Da Nang, and Ha Long to explore even more local specialties. Regardless of the destination, booking your accommodation in advance is always advisable to ensure a comfortable and hassle-free experience. If you are seeking a relaxing and luxurious holiday with top-notch services, Vinpearl is an excellent choice.
Vinpearl provides a sanctuary of comfort and elegance, featuring spacious and well-appointed rooms, villas, and suites that exude contemporary sophistication. Each accommodation option is meticulously designed to ensure the utmost relaxation and tranquility, offering a peaceful retreat after a day of exploration or leisure activities.
Sai Gon cuisine is absolutely attractive and diversified. If you are concerned about what and where to eat in Sai Gon, hopefully this article will provide you with some useful information about the top-rated local dishes and best places to eat.