Ho Chi Minh City, also known as Saigon, is the largest city by population in Vietnam and is the arts and cultural center of the country. It is an international tourist site, with an estimated 6.39 million tourists in 2017. If you plan to visit this wonderful city, here’s a list of everything you should eat in Ho Chi Minh.
Bánh Mì Sandwiches
Banh mi means bread in Vietnamese, but it usually refers to a crusty baguette sandwich stuffed with meat, pork, pork skin, pate, radish and carrot pickles, cucumbers and chilies. A Vietnamese baguette is made with wheat and rice flour, which gives it a light texture, but it’s still crispy. In Saigon, you’ll find plenty of carts selling banh mi sandwiches. Some are meat-heavy, while others focus on the vegetables. Try to eat from different vendors to explore the nuances of sandwich-making.
Vietnamese Iced Coffee
Also called cà phê đá, iced coffee is a popular drink in Saigon. Today, Vietnam is one of the largest producers of coffee worldwide. Traditionally, it’s made in a single-drip cup. The coffee is slowly brewed over condensed milk, then poured over ice immediately. Even if you don’t like coffee, try it once before you leave.
The best way to get this street food is if you can watch it being made. It’s a sizzling fried pancake, like a crepe, but it’s made with rice flour. It can be filled with just about anything you choose, but shrimp, bean sprouts and lettuce are common fillings. It’s a filling dish that can be eaten on the go.
Banh Trang Nuong
Enjoy this dish that is similar to a thin-crust pizza. The banh trang nuong is some of the best street food in Ho Chi Minh. Dry rice paper is topped with minced pork or prawns, then cooked on the grill. Before it is served, it gets topped with herbs and spring onions.
Pho is probably the most popular Vietnamese noodle soup, but there are dozens of variations around the city. Pho is usually made with beef or chicken, noodles and lots of herbs. Bun rieu is another type of noodle soup, this time with a crab base stock. Tomatoes and rice vinegar give the stock a balance of flavor. The noodles are topped with fried tofu, meatballs or chunks of pork. It is usually topped with a crab paste for a dollop of richness.
Bun mam is another noodle dish that you’ll find in Saigon. The base is a dark broth made with fermented fish sauce, which may not sound appetizing but it’s actually a common component in many Asian dishes without a fishy taste or smell. It’s sweetened with a bit of sugar or tamarind and served with noodles, meat, such as pork and prawns, and eggplant, which soaks up the broth.
Bun bo Hue has a beef base stock, but it’s flavored with lemongrass. It uses rice vermicelli noodles and is topped with beef, pork, Vietnamese sausage or ham, and green onions. It has a rich umami flavor that is lightened by the lemongrass. It will usually be topped with fresh herbs and chilies.
Desserts You Don’t Want to Miss in Ho Chi Minh
If a cup of Vietnamese iced coffee doesn’t satisfy your sweet tooth, then you’ll want to look for these treats that will.
- Chuoi Chien (fried banana)
The bananas you find in Vietnam used in this dessert are sweeter and more fragrant than regular bananas. The crust is usually double deep-fried. The banana is dipped in the batter, fried until golden brown. It’s taken out of the fryer, dipped back into the batter and fried again. It needs to be served hot for maximum crispiness.
- Che (sweet Vietnamese soup)
This sweet dish is like a pudding or soup that is filled with beans, jellies, fruits or tapioca pearls. There are probably hundreds of varieties. It can be served hot or cold, over ice in a tall glass or in a short bowl. It’s a real treat that will be different every time you find it at a street vendor or in the restaurants.
- Banh Da Lon (pigskin cake)
This cake is steamed, making the texture soft and jelly-like. It’s made with rice flour, tapioca starch, taro, coconut milk, sugar and mashed mung beans. It is generally colored with food coloring to make it photogenic. It’s called a pigskin cake in fun, not because it’s actually got pork in the cake.
Get Excited About Travel
Ho Chi Minh City is an international city that has a thriving business environment for study. But make sure that you take time to enjoy the local culture while you’re studying abroad for the full experience.