Saigon Street Food
While your wallet could easily be dented by glitzy accommodation, the good news is that Ho Chi Minh offers up some of the most affordable and mouthwatering food in Vietnam—and Asia for that matter—ranging from veggieand protein-packed banh mi sandwiches to steaming bowls of pho and tangles of vermicelli noodles piled high with grilled meat and herbs.
If you’re searching for that best-known of Vietnamese dishes—a fragrant, soothing, hot bowl of pho— you won’t need to look far: Vietnam’s unofficial national dish is available on pretty much every street corner, although you’ll need to dig a bit deeper to separate the good from the great. Expect to spend no more than VND50,000 ($20) on a bowl.
(170 Nguyen Dinh Chieu St.,
District 3) is a local favorite, a family establishment with an intense beefy broth and springy, al dente rice noodles showcasing the northern style of pho. If you prefer a bit more ambience, head to (260C Pasteur St., District 3, (+84) 8-3829-7943), which draws in a crowd of both locals and tourists with its clean, eclectically adorned two-story space. Drop fragrant handfuls of basil, bean sprouts and sawtooth herbs into the lime-scented broth and slurp up the perfect mix of soft noodles, herby broth and rare beef slices. For bang for your buck, there’s nowhere that packs on the meat (a mix of rare beef and beef brisket) like Pho Le (413 Nguyen Trai St., District 5, (+84) 8-3923-4008), scented with cinnamon, star anise, ginger and cardamom.
Elsewhere, street vendors offer up lesser-known Vietnamese dishes, from the simple yet satisfying egg and ham breakfast baguette ( banh mi op la) to the tomato and crab-stewed soup heavy with crab paste ( bun rieu) and the pork- and shrimp-stuffed savory pancakes made of rice flour, water and turmeric powder ( banh xeo). If a banh mi is what you’re after, don’t miss the celebrated
(26 Le Thi Rieng St., District 1, (+84) 8-3925-0885), which comes loaded with six to eight layers of luncheon meat and grilled pork, with mayo, pork floss, pate and pickled veggies.
One of the best places to sample several dishes at once is the Food Alley at Cao Thang Street in District 3, a stretch of local vendors hawking cheap eats alongside souvenir shops. Walk towards the opening in the center of the market and you’ll stumble upon a true off-the-guidebooks gem: A middle-aged lady in a traditional Vietnamese hat and red apron works furiously with two well-seasoned woks, adding just a spoonful of garlic here, a dash of hot peppers there to platters of fresh mussels, snails, crab legs, razor clams, prawns and scallops. Point to what you want and sit down with an ice-cold glass of sugarcane juice from the stand nearby. It’s the best of Ho Chi Minh City, all on a single plate.
Banh Mi Huynh Hoa
Tuck into the best of Vietnamese bites
Pho Thin Ha Noi
Pho Hoa Pasteur