Ho Chi Minh City, also named as Saigon, is often mistaken to be the capital of Vietnam. The largest city in the country, it is named after the first leader of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam. A city notoriously known for its incessant honking and congested roads, a myriad of unique local dishes lies deep within its dark(ok, not that dark) alleys and streets waiting to be discovered.
What I love about this list is that whenever we’re there trying out the food, I noticed the lack of tourists and instead, their own locals eating there as well. It only means one thing: Eating delicious local food without the mark up in prices. (Think Sab x 2 in BKK)
And how did we know our list is good? We showed some of the locals in Ben Thanh Market our list to validate our research and they were surprised. The ladies chattered excitedly among themselves pointing to my list before asking how we got this paper(It was my itinerary btw).
Pho So 1 Hanoi
Thanks to globalisation, I am sure almost every Singaporean has been introduced to one of the most common dishes in Vietnam, the Pho(pronounced as fuh, but who cares actually). But it is a totally different experience eating Pho in its area of origin. Same same but different.
Generous serving of rice noodles, shredded chicken meat, herbs, a halved lime and a simple yet flavourful broth, you would be thinking that it’s practically the same as what you’re queuing for at Nam Nam Noodle Bar. But here in Vietnam, a bowl of Pho comes along with a plate piled with Thai Basil, pickled garlic and chilies. When the staff saw our plate left untouched, he approached us with much amusement and gestured us to put some into our bowl of Pho. So we decided to observe the locals.
First, they plucked off the leaves of the Thai Basil and threw into their bowls. Then, they added at least 4-5 pickled garlic, chilies. Lastly, sauce is added into the soup. This is the local way. To be honest, do not be pressured to eat their way. The magic of Pho lies in its incredibly power-packed broth, so do try out the soup first before you add anything extra. Otherwise, I recommend you to savour its simplicity.
You can find shops selling Pho in every corner of the streets but I did some research prior and this place was recommended.
25 Nguyen Thi Minh Khai, Dist.1
Bánh Canh Cua
This was the first dish I tried upon landing and boy did it start my holiday right. Ban Canh, simply means soup cake, is a dish that comprises of silver needle noodles(mee tai mak) and crab stock. I’m still not sure which part of the dish is my favourite. The light yet refreshing crab-infused gravy? The variety of ingredients made up by chunks of crabmeat, prawn, crab nugget, pork slices and pig’s blood cube? The plate of dough fritters(you tiao) that you can pair with? Or the part that everything just tastes so good together.
Although the staff are not versed in English, the shop only sells Ban Canh. So simply indicate how many bowls you’re having and you’ll be served.
Banh Xeo is a savoury crepe that comprises of fatty pork, shrimp and bean sprouts. The batter is made of rice flour and water, hence resulting in a crispy and thin pancake layer. This makes a good afternoon snack. Be sure to check out their opening hours though.
46 Đinh Công Tráng, Tân Định, 1, Hồ Chí Minh, Vietnam
Bánh Mì Hòa Mã
Best breakfast of our trip. This beats any American or hotel continental breakfast set hands down. Our research claims that this place makes the best Banh Mi Op La. And they were not kidding. Low tables and stools that lined the sides of the road beside – Classic Vietnam style – were filled with locals happily munching on their breakfast. Surprised to see tourists, the staff quickly got us seats and we ordered 2 sets and a cup of iced coffee. Each set comes along with a large roll of freshly baked Banh Mi, a portion of pate and a hotplate of fried egg and mixed meat. Well-seasoned and piping hot from the stove, this dish is breakfast for champions.
53 Cao Thắng, District 3, Ho Chi Minh City
Opening Hours: 7am – 10am or until they sell out, Daily