Saigon Street Food

HK Magazine - - TRAVEL -

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

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