A trip to Vietnam is a feast for the senses, with exotic scenery, scents, sounds, fascinating history and culture. It’s also a literal feast. Vietnamese cuisine is a foodie favorite, and it doesn’t have to be high-end cuisine.
In fact, one of Vietnam’s can’t-miss destinations is also home to one of the country’s most vibrant street food scenes, offering mouth-watering insights into the country’s culinary treasures.
Ho Chi Minh City (HCM), formerly known as Saigon, is a bustling, motorbike-filled, modern Asian city with French colonial architecture juxtaposed against modern skyscrapers. Its storied past includes a 20th century war, a colonial era, and an ancient history that infused Vietnam with a mesmerizing culture.
Learn about HCM’s wartime history at the War Remnants Museum, which provides insight into the Vietnam War, the Cu Chi Tunnels, a network of underground tunnels used by the Viet Cong, and the Reunification Palace.
Wonder at the mix of buildings, where modern, traditionally Vietnamese, and colonial styles harmoniously heighten the visual impact of the others. Immerse yourself in ancient Vietnamese history at beautiful temples like Jade Emperor Pagoda. For well-preserved colonial-era architecture, make sure to visit the Notre-Dame Cathedral Basilica of Saigon and Central Post Office: Located in the heart of District 1 (the district still called Saigon), these are landmarks of HCM. The Notre-Dame Cathedral Basilica is a beautiful red-brick structure, and the Central Post Office was designed by Gustave Eiffel, of Paris’ Eiffel Tower fame.
But sights and sounds of the city must be combined with its scents and flavors, and that’s where its culinary scene – and especially its celebrated street food and food markets – come in.
Banh Xeo, courtesy of Ho Chi Minh City Tourism Promotion Center
Here’s a guide to the distinctive gastronomy and hidden gems among the street food vendors of HCM:
Ben Thanh Market in District 1 (Saigon neighborhood) is one of the most famous markets in Ho Chi Minh City and a vibrant hub of activity. Here, you can shop for a wide variety of goods, including clothing, handicrafts, souvenirs, and, most notably, an array of delicious street food. Savor regional specialties like banh beo (water fern cake), banh nam (flat steamed rice dumplings)... Gate 7 of Ben Thanh Market is particularly renowned for its concentration of stalls selling delectable sweet desserts.
The market comes alive in the evening, making it a great place to sample local cuisine and immerse yourself in the bustling atmosphere of Vietnamese market culture.
Also in District 1, Tan Dinh Market stands out as a culinary gem with a history spanning nearly a century. Its food court comes alive in the evening, offering a variety of dishes from “broken” rice and porridge to noodles and refreshing beverages.
Cho Lon in District 5 and District 6 showcases the unique culinary traditions of Ho Chi Minh City's Chinese community. Binh Tay Market, Soai Kinh Lam, and Dai Quang Minh Market are culinary landmarks where people can indulge in roast duck, dumplings, chicken pot, and kung fu noodles.
In District 10, Ho Thi Ky Food Street is a vibrant destination with numerous food and drink stalls. Sample the spicy snail noodle soup (hu tieu oc) or the snail curry (pha lau oc) with its flavorful broth for dipping bread.
Don’t miss the authentic street food adventure at Turtle Lake in District 3, where rice paper, spring rolls, and cakes tantalize taste buds.
Nguyen Thuong Hien Street, also in District 3, offers mixed rice paper delights like golden beef sauce and fermented pork skin. In Phan Xich Long Street, Phu Nhuan District, indulge in diverse cuisines from Vietnam's regions and notable Korean and Japanese restaurants.
These culinary destinations in Ho Chi Minh City give you a tantalizing experience of the incredible range of Vietnamese food culture. From bustling markets to lively streets, each location presents a unique blend of flavors and culinary traditions.
You may love to indulge in a little pho (Vietnamese noodle soup) or banh mi (Vietnamese sandwiches) at home, but a tasting tour of HCM will leave you forever trying to find such delicious Vietnamese cuisine again.
START YOUR VIETNAM TRIP!
Top Image: Saigon City Hall with Vincom Center towers in the background: Getty
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