The Legal Nomads Self-Guided Tour to Saigon Street Food

saigon street food guide

After two winters of stuffing my face around this city I love, I decided to put together a guide to Saigon street food, gathering some of the places I keep coming back to in one place. These are not the absolute best of everything, but rather a cross-section of delicious, cheap and authentic foods that are also conveniently located. I tended to head to outer districts more often, on the hunt for that bun mam a friend told me about, or what was billed as “the best Peking duck in town” by my enthused landlady.

While fun side trips to outer districts are great, I wanted to put together a post that would be more helpful for short-term trips. The restaurants and street stalls below are fairly central to where most travellers stay, meaning people can frequent them even if in town only briefly.

The Ho Chi Minh City / Saigon Street Food Guide: Self-Guided Street Food Tour

Last Updated: NOVEMBER 20, 2022

One specific soup, a sweet-and-sour canh chua (photo in the “street food” section below), was what initially led me to the city. I was lured in by the complicated tastes and unfamiliar sting of the rice paddy herb on my tongue. It might have been one soup that brought me to Saigon, but it was the rest of the food that kept me there, and keeps me coming back. It is not just taste of food that makes Saigon so enthralling, but the act of eating as well, and all of the craziness that eating comprises. The swirling noise, the families all sitting and enjoying a meal on the street, smiling at you fumbling with your condiments. The beauty of food being not just a necessity but also a sight in and of itself: a window into culture, and a source of endless wonder.

Countless moments of me smiling as an old lady came over shaking her head at my terrible rice paper folding skills, correcting my technique as we sat at the edge of traffic. Or the bo la lot vendor who discovered my love of starfruit and made sure to have extra on hand when I returned. The beloved grandpa at the pho ga restaurant below, who ran over to my bowl repeatedly to ensure I added pickled garlic, lest I forget. The landladies that adopted me into their homes, feeding me, giving me hugs, teaching me how to cook.

There are hundreds of moments like these baked into the aggregate of my memories in Vietnam. Most of them derive from food. As Luke Nguyen says in The Songs of Sapa: Stories & Recipes from Vietnam,

For Vietnamese people, food is our life; we are forever eating, cooking and talking about food. Food is communication – food is culture.

Street food saigon taken literally: streetside eating
Streetside eating.

This is not an exhaustive list, but hopefully it provides a good start. For those of you who loved your time in Vietnam and want to commemorate it at home with something a bit more tangible, please see my hand-drawn, one-of-a-kind Vietnamese maps of food. They’re available in t-shirt and poster form.

hand drawn typographic maps of food

Note: I also realize some of you would have preferred diacritical marks in lieu of plain Roman letters, but when typing into Google Maps to find these places, most travellers have indicated they prefer the non-Tieng Viet script. I’m happy to update the post if this is no longer the case.

Also, if you’re worried about street food: here’s how to eat it without getting sick.

And finally: for celiacs like me, see my Celiac’s Guide to Vietnam.

Browse the Saigon Street Food Guide By Section:

Saigon is most definitely a magical place for your tastebuds. The balancing act between warming and cooling ingredients, between heavier meats and lighter rice-based carbs, fresh herbs to round out the taste, never get old. I’m no culinary anthropologist, but in learning through eating, and being corrected by others also passionate about food, I’ve hopefully created a crash course here that will help travellers discover more about the city.

As I am no longer living in Saigon and offering Jodi Eats Food Walks for readers, I wanted to give everyone a self-guided street food tour that they could enjoy without me. It includes my favourite places to grab soups, snacks, and more. And I’ve also included sections for restaurants, drinks, and getting around town.


Street Food and Local Stalls
A Slightly Fancier Meal
Non-Vietnamese and International Food
Drinks and Smoothies
Gluten-Free Tips
Map of Great Food in Saigon
Basic Information for Navigating Saigon
Books and Blogs About Vietnam and its Food

Street Food and Local Stalls in Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon)

I’ve tried to include as many photos of these foods as possible, since my descriptions might not do the trick but a photo usually does. These are all my pictures, except for the bun moc (thanks Tom!).

Banh Beo

banh beo saigon
Banh beo from Nam Giao in Saigon

Part of the cuisine from central Vietnam, banh beo (literally “water fern cake”) are small round discs of rice flour, formed to look like lily flower pads found in the estates surrounding the old imperial city of Hue. Topped with crunchy pork rinds and toasted shrimp powder and served with fish sauce, they are a very rewarding dish to share as they usually come in multiples of 8 or 10.

Where: Nam Giao
136 Le Thanh Ton Street, in an alleyway behind Ben Thanh market. District 1
+84 (8) 3825 0261

Banh Da Xuc Hen 

banh da xuc hen
Banh Da Xuc Hen in all its delicious glory.

I have a list of foods that sound like other foods in the local language. For example, the word for water in Bahasa Indonesia or Bahasa Malaysia is “air” — and obviously air in English is not food. In Vietnamese, the word for baby clams is “hen” — quite confusing at first, since I ordered it expecting a rice and chicken bowl, not even thinking that obviously hen would not be an actual hen. My brain did not compute.

Banh da xuc hen is a lovely and satisfying snack. A large rice paper crisp with hints of sesame and coconut arrives on a plate. It looks bare, but then you lift up the rice cracker and peek underneath, finding a pile of teeny tiny clams fried in lemongrass, rau ram (Vietnamese coriander), chilli, onion and garlic. It is a simple dish in terms of ingredients but the taste is profoundly different than anything else I have tried. If you want a heavier version of this plate, opt for the com hen, rice topped with the same type of clams and served with a small bowl of clam broth on the side.

Where: Hong Hanh
17A Nguyen Thi Minh Khao Street, District 1
+84 (8) 3827 4252

Banh Canh Cua

crabs vietnam

Banh canh noodles are Vietnam’s version of udon, a thicker noodle that can be made with either tapioca flour, rice flour, or a combination of the two. The cua in this soup is crab, and the result is a viscous crab soup with thick noodles — not for those who shrink from goopy foods. Thickened with tapioca flour (and thus gluten free) it’s a satisfying meal for those who like their food consistencies to be adventurous, and with chillies, green onions, and fresh lime on top, a very tasty bowl.

Where: Kim Long
80/68 Tran Quang Dieu Street, District 3
+84 (8) 3843 6498

Banh Cuon

Banh cuon on the streets of Saigon
Banh cuon on the streets of Saigon
Fried mung bean cakes.
Fried mung bean cakes, available at Banh Cuon Tay Ho

Steamed rice crepes filled with wood ear mushrooms and ground pork often seasoned with white pepper, banh cuon are a wonderful breakfast meal that covers all bases. I’d take this for breakfast over eggs and bacon any day, to the consternation of Western friends. But why not? You’ve got your carbs, your meat, your vegetables, and it comes topped with lightly steamed bean sprouts, chopped basil, and fried curls of shallots. It’s filling but not heavy, peppery but not too spicy. The dish literally translates to “rolled cake”, and originated up North, but is prevalent throughout Saigon. Each bite can be dipped into a sweet fish sauce with as much chilli as you’d like to add. When heading to the restaurant below, also try the fried bean cakes (photo below). Bonus points for the cutest chilli holder in all of Saigon.

Saigon street food
Cutest chilli bottle in all of Saigon


Where: Banh Cuon Tay Ho 1
127 Dinh Tien Hoang Street, District 1

Banh Khot & Banh Xeo

banh khot in ho chi minh
Banh khot, without the herbs you wrap these mini pancakes in, then shove in your drooling mouth.
Banh xeo in Saigon
Banh xeo, crispy and delicious.

I wrote about banh khot (mini knots of fried rice cakes) with a recipe here, but am grouping them with banh xeo (larger sizzling rice crepes) since the restaurant serves both. There are many recommendations in town for banh xeo, most famously Banh Xeo 46A, which is on the ‘Bourdain trail’ (he visited the place during his Saigon episode). I personally like them both, especially when wrapped in a blanket of mustard leaves and herbs.

Given that it’s a personal preference, I am sending you to a restaurant that does both well. The banh xeo is not oily, the banh khot come with a variety of toppings on offer, and it’s got a filtered water system for the fresh herbs and vegetables so those with extremely delicate stomachs need not fear.

Where: Banh Khot Co Ba Vung Tau
102 Cao Thang, District 3

2016 update: This location is closed but their other location, at 40B Trần Cao Vân near the Turtle Pond, is still open.

Banh Tam Bi

banh tam bi in saigon
Banh tam bi in its goopy glory.

I only discovered banh tam bi recently, toward the end of my latest visit to the city. On my way to the Co-op supermarket for some groceries, I passed a lovely new-looking restaurant with wood tables and chairs and a fun logo. Looking at the menu I saw the familiar hu tieu (see below), but did not know what banh tam bi was. So of course I delayed my grocery trip for a meal, a bit concerned because banh tam translated to “silkworm noodles” and I wondered what I would get for lunch. It turns out that they are tapioca noodles that merely look like silkworms, and are coated with a thick coconut sauce, pickled vegetables, a pork meatball, some pork sausage, and more.

I proceeded to text a bunch of food-inclined friends “I FOUND A NEW FOOD COME MEET ME NOW IT’S DELICIOUS”. Unsurprisingly, I returned quite a few times before I left town. I’ve found few places in Saigon that serve this Mekong dish from Bac Lieu, but Quan Sadec remains the best I’ve tried in town. Those who take issue with goopy foods might want to skip it; it’s gelatinous and fabulous, but not for those who are sensitive to consistencies in food.

Where: Quan Sadec
154 Nguyen Dinh Chieu Street, District 1

Bot Chien

A greasy fave, bot chien involves rice flour cakes that are chopped into chunky squares and then fried in a large flat pan with whipped eggs and green onions. For those familiar with Singapore food, it’s reminiscent of chai tow kueh, but with rice instead of radish. It’s served when crispy, with a sweet rice vinegar and soy sauce concoction, and some shredded pickled young papaya to cool down the dish. While available throughout Saigon, usually on the street, the restaurant below has indoor long table seating and waitresses in quintessentially bright Vietnamese daytime pyjamas. No one spoke English on my visits, but pointing at the bot chien ought to do you fine.

Where: Bot Chien Dat Thanh
277 Vo Van Tan Street, District 3 

Bun Bo Hue

bun bo hue street food saigon
Bun bo hue, spicy and citrusy.
Bun bu Hue broth
Bun bu Hue broth

I wish this wonderful soup from central Vietnam’s city of Hue was as popular as pho outside the country. The two are very different soups. Bun bo Hue is made with lemongrass and chilli, its broth both citrusy and strong, laden with thick cuts of meat. Paprika or anatto oil render the broth its fiery orange colour, and fermented shrimp paste lends a complicated layer of taste, one my Western palate was not acquainted with before trying the soup. These ingredients have been in other dishes I’ve tasted, but for some reason, this soup from the former imperial capital of Vietnam manages to bring them together in magical ways.

For a recipe, Wandering Chopsticks goes into the soup in more detail.

Where: Bun Bo Hue Dong Ba
110A Nguyen Du, District 1
+84 (8) 3912 5742

Bun Cha Ha Noi

Finding Bun cha Ha Noi in Saigon
Bun cha Ha Noi, as seen through someone’s phone.


As with many of the meals in Hanoi that were taken to Saigon, what is normally a breakfast or early lunch food up north is an all-day treat in Saigon. While some bun cha joints are open early only, most will be full around lunch and dinnertime as well, hungry diners piling bowls with fresh herbs and smoky pork. This dish, a fave among my friends, comprises seasoned pork patties and thin slices of pork belly, both grilled until crispy and served in a bowl with sweet fish sauce, slices of young papaya and carrot, and garlic. On the side, a bowl of plain rice noodles (the “bun” part of the name) and a big basket of fresh herbs like perilla, mint, and stinky fish herb. To eat, a bit of everything goes into your serving bowl: a handful of noodles, some pieces of pork, spoonfuls of the sweet fish sauce and herbs. If you like perilla as much as I do, you’ll need to ask for seconds. I’ve tried quite a few places around town but this one on Mac Dinh Chi remains my fave. It’s busiest at lunch time, and closes at 8pm.

Where: Quan Anh Hong
34A Mac Dinh Chi, District 1

Bun Mam

bun mam in Saigon
Bun mam, fermented fish soup in a sweet sour broth.

When I describe bun mam to friends — a noodle soup with a fermented fish broth and seafood and pork belly and so much more — I watch their faces fall. For many the words “fermented fish broth” isn’t what they want to hear. But the soup is actually skews sweet thanks, and with thick rice noodles and chunks of delicious fish and meat, it’s not to be missed.

This bun mam stand is also close to Ben Thanh market, but it is often full of locals. Tourists walk by with a concerned and curious look on their face, but rarely stop in. I usually bring people here if it is their first visit to Saigon, convincing them that the words “fermented” and “fish” don’t need to be a bad thing when grouped together. The owner, a gruff but loveably guy, finally stopped a reporter who was interviewing me to ask what I did for a living, baffled at how I kept rocking up with new people. When told I was a “food journalist” he beamed, and started having me flag tourists down to convince them to eat there when I was in the area. I brought him the full piece, which included a big photo outside his stall and the title “Girl Eats World” before I left town. It’s more expensive than the usual street meal – 65,000 dong – but locals pay the same price. The portions are generous and the ingredients very good quality, so I have no problem paying a bit more.

Where: Bun Mam Dac San
22 Phan Boi Chau, District 1

Bun Moc

bun moc in saigon
Bun moc, photo courtesy of Vietnam Coracle

Bun moc has been my go-to soup when I had no idea what else to eat, when my tastebuds were overwhelmed with the variety of other meals throughout the day and just wanted a simple bowl, with savoury pork and mushroom broth. Broth aside, the soup’s fun lies in its accoutrements — slices of cha lua (a pork meatloaf coated in a cinnamon outer layer), slices of thin pork meat, and meatballs made of pork. Despite being a pork festival, it’s actually quite light, and the thin rice noodles compliment the meat well. The soup is topped with fried shallots and fresh cilantro. Most tourists haven’t heard of bun moc, but it’s a nice counterpoint to the strong flavours of the pork and rice dishes below. The few kids I’ve brought seem to love it too, so it might be a good starter dish if you are travelling with a family.

Where: Bun Moc Than Mai
14 Truong Dinh, District 1

Bun Rieu Cua

best bun rieu ho chi minh district 1
Bowl of bun rieu on the street.
Bun rieu cua on the streets of Saigon
Bun rieu cua on the streets of Saigon

I wrote at length about bun rieu, including some history, in a post about how I had to fight for a bowl in the Mekong. Suffice it to say that this pungent crab and tomato soup is incredible, and the version in the photos above (address below) is not as strongly fishy as some of the others in town. If you want to dip your foot into bun rieu start with the lovely lady above, and then try it about town. She usually avoids giving foreigners the blood cube prevalent in bun rieu, so if offal is your thing, insist on yours. She’ll provide extra with a beaming smile.

Where: Corner of Pasteur Street & Ly Tu Trong street, District 1. If she’s not there, please try the corner of Nguyen Du & Pasteur street as she tends to be at one of those two spots.
The lady above is the person you’re looking for :-)
Only open between 10am – 3pm


Bun Thit Nuong Cha Gio

Bun thit nuong cha gio saigon street food
Bun thit nuong cha gio, a bowl of win.
thit nuong ho chi minh
Grilling the thit nuong, marinated pork.
cha gio gluten free vietnam
Cha gio, fried spring rolls. They’re made with rice paper and are gluten-free. And ridiculously good.

Ah, bun thit nuong, how I love thee. Abbreviated as BTN by friends, this dish is found throughout the city and combines all of the satisfying textures you might want for lunch in one heaping bowl of food. Rice vermicelli noodles, grilled boneless pork, a crispy pork spring roll (often with taro), which is the cha gio part of the name, and fresh lettuce and herbs. You top it with spoonfuls of sweet fish sauce and chilli, letting the sweet and pungent liquid seep into every bit of your food. There are a myriad of BTN places that I frequent and enjoy, but the one below is my favourite because the spring rolls remain the most satisfying. Instead of rolling them in cloudy rice paper, this vendor uses a big banh trang rice paper that has been softened, much like we use for the fresh goi cuon (summer rolls) when making them in Canada. The result is a thin and crispy outside layer and extraordinary spring roll. I’ve ordered extra every time I frequent Chi Thong.

Where: Chi Thong
195 Co Giang, District 1

Canh Chua

As I’ve mentioned when I came to Vietnam in 2012 for the first time, and in my recent posts, canh chua was the reason I first visited. This sweet and sour soup with rice paddy herb and pineapple, fish and tomatoes, can be found along the street in the Mekong, but rarely as street food in District 1. This restaurant, which also serves some good chicken dishes and fried fish, provides a heaping bowl — photo is above. Order with a side of white rice to make it into a full meal.

Where: Quan Com So 7
3 Nguyen Van Trang, District 1,
+84 8 3835 8175

Canh Kho Qua

canh kho qua market
Pork stuffed inside bitter melon (served in soup)
com tam tu quy ho chi minh city
Com Tam joint serving the great bitter melon soup.

Not everyone enjoys bitter tastes, but for those who do: bitter melon is for you. For this dish, canh kho qua nhoi thit, the bitter melon is boiled long enough so the bitterness curls just at the end of your tongue, after the other flavours sink in. A light but comforting meal, it is served in soup form, with the melon stuffed with ground pork, wood ear mushrooms and occasionally glass noodles. It is then tied together and cooked in a clear broth, topped with cilantro for serving. If you can’t get to Saigon but this sounds like it is up your alley, a recipe here. For those heading to the restaurant below, you can order with some pork chops for the table, or with just a side of rice.

Where: Com Tam Tu Quy
Cho Tan Dinh (Tan Din Market), near the corner of Hai Ba Trung street and Nguyen Huu Cau street, District 3
Yellow sign of the same name, plus waiters all wearing yellow shirts
5pm until late

Che Chuoi

best desserts ho chi minh
Che chuoi in Saigon

Che chuoi is a sweet banana and tapioca dessert, floating in a sea of coconut cream and topped with sesame and crushed peanuts. It is one che dessert in a long line of che options; see the Wikipedia page for a start on the others. I’ve found many friends didn’t enjoy the mung bean or black bean che treats, but all went for che chuoi like it was going out of style. The stall below is actually run by one gentleman — sometimes aided by his son — and his bowls of desserts, so you can pick and choose different options, including taro with coconut milk (che khoi mon). 

Where: 241 Vo Van Tan Street, District 3
Located right on the street, directly in front of Thien Ban Pagoda

Com Suon

com suon vietnam street food
Streetside com suon grilling.

A very popular Saigon lunch or dinner (sometimes breakfast too), this rice and grilled pork chop meal will fill you up quickly and cheaply. You will also get a spoonful of green onions fried in pork fat atop the chop itself, as well as some crispy pieces of pork rind. Served with a tiny pile of pickled vegetables, and usually a small bowl of light broth on the side. For those even hungrier, try com suon op la (grilled pork chop over rice with a fried egg). You’ll be full well into dinner time.

Where: The com suon joint directly across the street from the entrance to the water puppets show on Nguyen Thi Minh Khi, not far from the park’s entrance. Essentially: between Truong Dinh and Huyen Trang Cong Chua.
It’s on the opposite side of the road as the park, and you will find it based on your nose, and the grill of pork at the side of the road.
So good.

Com Tam

Saigon Vietnamese Ca kho to, braised claypot catfish
Ca kho to, braised claypot catfish, from the best com tam joint in town.

Com tam, literally “broken rice”, started out as a dish served with lowered prices, since the rice did not meet standards for export and was thus available at a reduced price. It is a street food staple in Saigon, found on almost every corner in one form or another. The broken rice is kept to the side, with a glass shelf holding the stars of the lunch show: a panoply of incredible cooked dishes, some braised, some boiled, some stewed, that are meant to be eaten with the rice. Some of the restaurants also give you a banana as dessert.

A favourite with com tam is ca kho to, photo above, a rich braised catfish dish. For those who don’t like fish, fried chicken, pork belly with braised eggs, and fish cooked in pineapple and vegetables are usually on offer too. The best advice I can give is go in a group and order to share.

The restaurant below is owned by Hai of Eating Saigon (blog below), and provides a field trip out of District 1 and some terrific food. For those wanting to stay closer to ‘home’ you can head to the corner of Mac Dinh Chi and Nguyen Thi Minh Khai for a com tam place (just past the KFC) that opens from 10am-2pm.

Where: Dong Hoa Xuan
49 No Trang Long, Binh Thanh District
+84 (8) 3510 1771

Cuon Diep

Vegetarian food ho chi minh city saigon
Cuon diep at Tib Express, District 3

These are a simple but surprisingly fulfilling treats consisting of mustard leaves that are rolled around vermicelli noodles and chopped up mushrooms and tofu. Served with a sweet peanut sauce, they satisfy both the crunchy and the healthy wants at once. I would often head to Tib Chay for a fix.

Where: Tib Chay
11 Tran Nhat Duat, District 1
+84 8 3843 6460

Hu Tieu

hu tieu soup ho chi minh district 1
Hu tieu nam vang, kho. Dry version of Hu tieu from Phnom Penh.

Hu tieu soups are a complicated beast. I’ll kick this off with a paragraph from the Loving Pho blog, who wrote about the soup:

The three most recognized types are Hu Tieu Nam Vang (hu tieu Phnom Penh style,) Hu Tieu My Tho (after the capital city of Tiền Giang Province, located in the Mekong Delta region of southern Vietnam,) and Hu Tieu Chinese style. The Chinese had a lot to do with hu tieu being in Vietnam in the first place. […] Chinese-Cambodian brought the dish from Cambodia (hence the Phnom Penh style,) and Vietnamese borrowed it and made their own Viet versions.

The complicatedness doesn’t stop there, however, because hu tieu also means just the noodle and not necessarily in soup form. I know. Let’s turn to Andrea Nguyen’s great recipe for hu tieu Nam Vang for more.

The noodles in a bowl of hu tieu can be chewy clear tapioca noodles, opaque white rice noodles like you’d use for pho noodle soup, or thin Chinese egg noodles (mi). The toppings cover a wide territory, and may include boneless pork, pork ribs, pork offal, shrimp, squid, wonton dumplings, fried garlic, fried shallot, and/or scallion. As usual, you pick and choose whatever you want. Hu tieu is the extreme have-it-your-way Vietnamese food experience. I’ve seen a ‘dry’ version too but have never tried it.

Basically what I’m saying is, on your wanderings around town if you see a form of hu tieu you should just try it because it’s rarely the same twice. Though Andrea’s recipe is the ‘wet’ version of broth in the soup, I prefer it kho or dry, where the noodles are separate as in the photo above. This is because I like to add just a few spoonfuls of the broth, so the noodles remain springy. Plus, the post-meal dessert? More broth. The restaurant below is central, but this category of soup is also all over the streets, with the Chinese-style soup found more often than not in beautifully ornate wooden carts with Chinese lettering.

It’s important to note that some forms of hu tieu soups don’t actually use hu tieu noodles – mi (egg noodles, which are wheat-based) are unsafe for celiacs.

I’ve got a hu tieu lady in every District. You should too.

Where: Quan Mi Cat
62 Truong Dinh District 1

Pho Bo

PHO! I couldn’t leave this dish out of the list, though as I quickly found when I visited for the first time, there is so much more to food in Vietnam than this popular soup. It merits repeating that there two primary types of beef phos you can get in Saigon, the Southern-style (sweeter, less spices in the broth, sometimes cuttlefish added to the broth as well), or Hanoi-style. Hanoi was where the soup originated and while I love Saigon dishes, I do prefer the northern broth. It is more savoury, with a heady aftertaste of cinnamon, star anise, and roasted ginger. It tastes denser to me, thicker with the spices, and regardless of whether I eat it with raw or cooked beef, it is a satisfying meal. I think my preference also stems from novelty; many of the soups I’ve tried in Montreal or New York were from Southern Vietnamese who fled during the diaspora, and thus brought with them a more Southern recipe. I was surprised to find the Northern-style soups far less sweet than I remembered from Montreal.

When I first spent the winter in Vietnam, I dedicated specific days of the week to a particular dish. Wednesdays were banh xeo days, Tuesdays were all about oc, snails, and Thursdays were earmarked for pho. So, I have eaten many-a-pho around town but three different options stand out. The first was recommended by Tom of Vietnam Coracle (his blog is in the blog section below), and remains my favourite, as close as I’ve found to the great phos I tried in Hanoi. The second is owned by Prison Granny from my Why I Love Saigon piece, and is part of why I decided to take an apartment nearby; it was just that good. The third is a Chinese-style pho, a bit sweeter, but for meat-lovers it is a solid option. The nearby area — especially the side alleys off of Vo Van Tan street — is fun to explore.

Where: Pho Phuong (photo below)
25 Hoang Sa Street, District 1, right on the canal’s edge
+84 (8) 3910 2422

street food pho ho chi minh
The best pho bo in Saigon

Where: Pho Thanh Binh (photo below)
18bis Nguyen Thi Minh Khai Street, District 1

where to eat pho ho chi minh
Prison pho, aka Pho Thanh Binh

Where: Pho Le (no photo)
303-305 Vo Van Tan Street
+84 (8) 3834 4486

Pho Ga

best Pho ga ho chi minh
Staging station for my favourite pho ga in town.

I don’t know about you, but when I’m sick, all I want is chicken noodle soup. Sadly this option is often off the table (literally) in North America; as a celiac, I can’t eat the noodles. But Vietnam is a perfect place for sick celiacs, because their chicken soup is made with thick rice noodles. This pho ga (ga is chicken) place also serves pho bo (bo meaning beef), but I wouldn’t go there for the beef soup. Instead opt for their flavourful, rich chicken broth and thinly sliced chicken breast. For those wanting a different fix, opt for mien ga (mien are mung bean noodles), both of which come with their signature spicy sauce, pickled garlic, and basket ‘o herbs. Note that this is a place taxi drivers frequent at all hours of the night — it’s open 24 hours a day. It was a frequent visit during bouts of the flu, or even when full but walking by; one sniff of their chicken broth and you do an about turn and sit down for a bowl.

Where: Pho So 1 Ha Noi
25 Nguyen Thi Minh Khai Street, District 1
Open 24 hours. 

Banh Mi

I can’t eat it, since it’s wheat, so I apologize for not being able to opine about the best one. However! Voracious friends recommend the two following places:


Banh Mi Huynh Hoa 
26 Lê Thị Riêng, Bến Thành, District 1


Banh Mi 37 Nguyen Trai (aka Bánh Mì Thịt Nướng, Hẻm 39)

Also see this lovely 2020 piece from Austin Bush, about baking banh mi in Saigon.

For an all-in-one option, please see this post from Tom of Vietnam Coracle, who shares a guide to “Noodle Street” in District 2, where you can find many of these dishes all near each other. This includes pho, banh canh, hu tieu Nam Vang, bun mam, and more. 

A Slightly Fancier Meal

Bloom Saigon (formerly May Restaurant) is tucked at the end of a tiny alleyway near the canal’s edge, not far from my recommended Pho place on Hoang Sa. It’s set in a lovely old colonial-style house, and run efficiently with delicious food. Would recommend trying the beef wrapped in mustard leaves, the tofu with lemongrass, and the sour soup, among other dishes. It’s a nice change from the more chaotic restaurants near the heart of District 1, and a lovely choice place for a date or anniversary.

Where: Bloom Saigon
3/5 Hoang Sa Street, District 1
+84 8 3910 1277

For vegetarians wanting a bit of a nicer restaurant, try Hum Restaurant, located near the War Remnants Museum in District 3.

For more vegetarian eats, see Travel Lush’s Ho Chi Minh City guide (from 2018), this Foursquare list (from 2014), this Culture Trip 10 Best Vegetarian List (from 2018), and this great cookbook from Cameron Stauch, Vegetarian Viet Nam.

Are you looking for vegan food in Saigon? Happy Cow has you covered, as does Messy Veggies.

Where: Hum Vegetarian
32 Vo Van Tan Street, District 3
+84 (8) 3930 3819

Non-Vietnamese and International Food in Saigon

BBQ Ribs and Smoked Pork: My friend Mark opened his new restaurant ,Quan Ut Ut, with no advertising and only word-of-mouth referrals. It’s packed almost every night and with good reason: the food is exceptional, you get tremendous value for money and it’s built around the American BBQ concept but made with local ingredients. Whether you order family style or get your own, you must be sure to try the smoked ribs or pork shoulder, the grilled okra, and if you’re not celiac like me, the bacon bacon burger, which a friend described as “a burger literally made out of bacon”. Ut is actually the onomatopoeia for the sound a pig makes, the Vietnamese for “oink”.

Where: Quan Ut Ut
3 different locations via their Facebook page – District 1, District 2, and District 7.

Pizza: I can’t attest to its deliciousness as they don’t make a gluten-free version but friends rave about a Japanese pizza place called 4 Ps, and a New York Times feature has made them even more popular. For those missing this food group, highly recommended by Vietnamese and expats alike. The owner picked the name — short for Platform of Personal Pizza for Peace — to reflect what he calls “delivering wow and happiness”. Love it. Wish I could eat it.

Where: Pizza 4Ps
8/15 Le Thanh Ton Street, District 1
+84 120 789 4444 (Wise to call first — they’re quite busy!)

Gluten-free Pasta: If you are celiac like me, there is a gluten-free option for pasta, provided you’ve tired of rice noodles. I can’t speak to their food generally but they use corn pasta for their dishes, and half portions were available. It was filling and I ended up with a slow cooked meat sauce, which was delicious.

Where: Ciao Bella
11 Dong Du, District 1
+84 (8) 3822 3329


$$ – My friends John and Brooke first discovered this tiny restaurant, set slightly away from the road, sliding doors covered in a light curtain from the inside. Walking inside, you can choose to sit at the sushi bar (recommended, of course) or in the bigger dining room. While more expensive than other options like Sushi Bar, the quality of the fish reflects the price point, and the meals are meticulously prepared.

Since I can’t eat Japanese soy sauce as it contains wheat, I took to ordering their salmon donburi bowl, fresh raw salmon fanned over sushi rice and topped with a shiso leaf filled with salmon roe. The roe gave me the salt that was missing from the soy sauce, and made for an expensive (by street food prices, that is — approx $17) but delicious meal. I’d rather have sushi less frequently but enjoy quality fish, so I recommend this versus some other joints in town. Their lunch set includes a dessert and small side dishes.

Where: La Phong Sushi House
Lunch 11:30am-2pm
Dinner: 5:30pm-10:30pm
9 Tran Cao Van Street, District 1
+84 (8)48 3824 7882

$$- Another favourite spot is Hanayuki, who source their salmon from Norway. It’s always been fresh, delicious, and a cozy casual spot for lunch – when they have their best value meals.

Where: Hanayuki
21C Ton Duc Thang Street
Ben Nghe, Ho Chi Minh City 70000
+84 28 3824 2754

$$$$ – Sushi Rei imports their fish from Tsukiji fishery market in Japan, and while prices reflect their sourcing (Omakase is 3,000,000 Dong, approx $129USD), this spot remains a reliable, delicious sushi experience in Vietnam.

Where: Sushi Rei
10E1 Nguyen Thi Minh Khai Street,
Da Kao, District 1, HCMC

Indian: Fun fact: antibiotics make me crave Indian food. I have no idea why this is, but when I was sick near the end of my Saigon stay, all I wanted to eat was paneer and dosa and thick creamy mutton korma. There are many delicious options for Indian in town, but two central ones are Ganesh and BaBa’s Kitchen. Ganesh is set near the Opera House, away from the backpacker area, whereas BaBa’s is smack in the middle of backpacker central. So, if you want to avoid the “khao san road of Saigon”, opt for Ganesh. However, both are great and have lovely owners and helpful waiters and waitresses. I prefer Ganesh’s palak paneer to that of BaBas, but BaBa’s dopiaza and vindaloo dishes were superior. Solution: try them both. And report back please!


BaBa’s Kitchen
164 Bui Vien Street, District 1
+84 (8) 3838 6661

38 Hai Ba Trung Street, District 1
+84 974 453 087

Salad: Au Parc, specifically the Nicoise salad made with smoked fish and quail eggs. For those with kids, also a great option for weekend brunch as they have a free child care area plus nanny on their upper floor.

Where: Au Parc Cafe
23 Han Thuyen Street, District 1
+84 (8) 3829 2772

French Fries: L’Usine’s two location make these fries, but I was able to eat them at the Dong Khoi location only as the chef was kind enough to fry them in new oil so as not to have them contaminated with the breaded products they also fry.

Where: L’Usine Dong Khoi
151 Dong Khoi Street, District 1

(upstairs after going into an art gallery-lined alleyway)

Drinks and Smoothies in Saigon

Selection of places for beverages of different kinds, fancy and casual.

Smoothies: Many a smoothie fan in Saigon, and they are available just about everywhere. But for a wonderful place to watch the world go by, owned by a lovely lady with a great smile, head to Juicy.

Juicy Smoothies Saigon Hem 18a
The owner of Juicy Smoothies
best smoothie saigon
A Juicy mango smoothie with no sugar and added whipped cream.

Where: Juicy Smoothie Bar
Next to alley 18A Nguyen Thi Minh Khai (Between Mac Dinh Chi and Dinh Tien Hoang)

Quiet Coffee: L’Usine has some delicious coffee as well, but I headed to Morning News when I wanted to read or write quietly. (Their business cards say “writers hideout, book lovers corner” after all!) Set in a teeny alley off the busier main street, you walk up several floors and then into a wood and art-filled room. More on the cafe from Nomadic Notes in his cafes of HCMC roundup here. My fave, the basic ca phe

Where: The Morning Cafe
2nd Floor, 36 Le Loi Street, District 1
+84 93 838 33 30

Vietnamese Coffee: There are no shortage of Vietnamese cafes dotting the streets in Saigon; walk around for more than 5 minutes and you are sure to find one, filled with (mostly) men drinking coffee at the side of the road, smoking and gazing out at the street. These are also quite fun to frequent, but for somewhere more relaxing to try Vietnamese coffee, opt for a cup at Cuc Gach cafe. (Note: this is a different location from their main restaurant).

Where: Cuc Gach Cafe
79 Phan Ke Binh Street, District 1
+84 (8) 3911 0120

Egg Coffee: I wrote a whole post about egg coffee (Ca phe trung), including how it originated in Hanoi and a recipe to try it at home. Given the explosion of its popularity with tourists, enterprising cafes in Ho Chi Minh City have started to sell egg coffee as well. While this isn’t a normal drink at home in Vietnam, it’s basically dessert in a cup, and decadently delicious.

vietnamese egg coffee ho chi minh city
Cafe Giang’s egg coffee, from Hanoi

Where: Nấp Sài Gòn
3/5 Nguyen Van Thu, District 1 (spacious location, extensive menu, including egg coffee).

Chrysanthemum tea: My Vietnamese friends believe that chrysanthemum tea is a coolant on hot days, and has medicinal properties as well. So it’s no surprise that this tiny tea joint at the intersection of two main arteries is always hopping. Motorbikes stop by to grab a glass before handing it back and driving off; others pick up litres of the sweet (seriously: SWEET) tea for their families at home. The taste might not be for everyone but it is worth a try at least once. It’s an easy walk from the Banh Cuon Tay Ho restaurant above — think of it as your dessert.

Chrysanthemum tea ho chi minh
Chrysanthemum tea.
tea ho chi minh city
Drinking chrysanthemum tea on the side of the road on the commute home.

Where: Nuoc Sam Co Ba
Dien Bien Phu, near the corner of Dinh Tien Hoang Street

Strangest drink location: I didn’t believe it at first, but the address for Animus is actually the address for the South African consulate, and they are attached to each other. The “Cigar Lounge” door in the back? It’s actually a door to the consulate. Unsurprisingly they serve South African wine (try the pinotage) and have had a two-for-one happy hour from 6pm-8pm for the last few months. Opulent decor, comfortable leather seats or wooden bar tables and chairs, and a very nice manager and staff.

[Reader Paul confirms that Animus is now closed.]

Where: Animus Bar and Lounge
 19 Phung Khac Khoan Street, District 1

+84 (8) 730 50066

Fancier rooftop: Recommended in many a guidebook, Shri isn’t at all off-the-path, but it remains my preferred rooftop bar for a sunset drink. I’ll usually grab some street soup nearby and then take the elevator to the top floor of the building, with choice of indoor and outdoor seating. Good wine selection and great views, but pricey. Other options include the Chill Sky Bar (much more dressy — no running shoes or flip flops), or the Cobalt Bar atop the newer Pullman Hotel.

Where: Shri Bar
27 Nguyen Thi Minh Khai Street, District , Top Floor
+84 (8) 3827 9631

Street bars: Per Saigoneer, COVID-19 has wrought an explosion of street-side cocktail bars, what they call “an inspiring breeding ground for the city’s cocktail entrepreneurs.” They’ve set up on sideways and in alleyways, but aren’t serving questionable mixes – they’ve put together mixology-focused cocktails that appeal to locals and expats alike. See Saigoneer’s piece on street cocktail bars for a few suggestions.

Jazz: Weekly jazz sessions at Le Fenetre Soleil, and while drinks are pricier than neighbouring bars, you don’t usually pay cover for the venue or music. Lovely setup with back terrace and funky decor. Definitely skews toward expats, not locals.

Where: Le Fenetre Soleil
44 Ly Tu Trong Street, District 1
+84 (8) 3824 5994

Less fancy rooftop: With a view of Notre-Dame Cathedral, a narrow and unlit alley entrance, a bathroom with a profoundly permanent smell of mothballs and a rickety staircase to the roof, Casbah isn’t for those seeking an opulent rooftop experience. But it is usually full of locals, the wine is reasonably priced, and the location is central. Definitely do not sit in the smokey indoor section, but rather motion to the staff to keep walking upstairs, past the bar and to the roof, where you can choose between cubbyholes with cushions surrounding a table and sit cross-legged, a long bar, or couches and chairs on the other side of the rooftop.

Where: Casbah Shisha Bar
59 Nguyen Du Street, District 1
(Entrance to the alley between the small convenience store. If you are walking from Dong Khoi and hit the place selling grilled chicken feet, you’ve gone too far.)

Relaxed Alternative: Live music, art, outdoor seating, casual food, usually on the grill, and skateboarding options, Saigon Outcast became a favourite Sunday afternoon activity for many of my friends. It’s not conveniently located as it’s out in District 2, but if you’re looking for a chill way to spend a Sunday and have some beer at the same time, it’s a good bet.

Where: Saigon Outcast
188/1 Nguyen Van Huong Street, Thao Dien, District 2
+84 12 2428 3198

Gluten-Free Vietnamese Food

With the exception of banh mi sandwiches, most of this list of food is gluten free and I ate it all.

There is a risk in using a translation card that stalls or restaurants will simply say “no we cannot serve you here” in lieu of risking what to feed you and getting you sick. I have found that researching what is safe and not safe helps the most in being able to make that decision for yourself. Head on over to the Essential Gluten Free Guide to Vietnam, because there I list the safe foods, the unsafe foods (and their Vietnamese names) and more guidance.

Then come back here and use the map to stuff your face with street food in Saigon.

Map of Great Food and Drinks in Ho Chi Minh City

 Basic Information for Navigating Ho Chi Minh City / Saigon

A good overview post from Roads and Kingdoms: 22 things to know before you go to HCMC


Several options for visas exist. Most popular is the Visa on Arrival (VOA) scheme, whereby you pay for a letter that invites you to the country from an online agency, and then you receive your visa upon arrival in Saigon or Hanoi. This is not available for land entries. Note that if you do this, you will need to bring a passport sized photo of you as well as your stamping fee for your visa, which differs depending on how many entries you have / how long you are staying.

  • E-visa agencies will offer online application of VOA, then email it to you as a PDF and you can print and bring with you for airline officials and to use for your actual visa on arrival in Saigon. Sometimes it took some serious explaining to the airlines that yes, it was a visa invitation and no it wouldn’t result in my being rejected. Airlines will customarily look for the actual visa in your passport instead. I’ve been using Evisa, but as they are not an official agency I would do some internet research to see what is best for your nationality.


Taxis get a bad rep in town but in my two winters of time living in Saigon, I’ve had only one negative experience. And it barely was negative — just a cab driver who insisted on extra charges because we were four people in the cab. In contrast, sometimes we piled in a clown car of 7 people into a van cab, with no extra charges levied by any of the drivers. This was clearly just a bad apple, not indicative of taxi drivers overall. Yes, I’ve occasionally had a driver say he knows the way and get lost, or my pronunciation of the street name sent another in the wrong direction before I realized where I was headed. But generally if you stick to the tips below, you should be fine.

  • Use VinaSun cabs if you can. White cab with green lettering. Of all the experiences, VinaSun proved time and time again to be the best. The other company I would recommend is Mai Linh, all green taxis, but my rides with VinaSun were always better.
  • When you leave the airport, you can actually choose whatever company you want. It seems crazy but it’s true. After you exit the international terminal and turn left to the taxi stand, there are a bunch of dispatchers across the same street, just facing the taxi stand. While there will likely be grey taxis waiting (of a different company), you can merely walk across the street or wave the dispatcher over, and request a VinaSun cab from the VinaSun dispatcher. They will call one for you and you can just wait a few minutes until it arrives.
  • Unlike in Bangkok, where you usually have to ask if they will take you to where you want to go (and they often say no), I’ve never been refused a ride. I’ve also never had to tell a cab driver to turn on his or her meter — it’s automatic.
  • I do round up fares usually, but only by 5,000 – 8,000 Dong or so. No 20% tip or anything like that, but rounding up is appreciated (albeit not required). I do tip right before or right after Tet (the lunar new year) however, since it’s an expensive time of year for most Vietnamese people as they are paying off debts and buying things for the house, etc.
  • When you’re waiting for a cab that someone is getting out of, don’t be irate that the prior passenger closes the door despite you waiting in front of them. The VinaSun cabs have to have the door closed from a prior fare to “reset” their fare recording and system, so it’s not that the driver is about to run off without you, or that the prior passenger is trying to deny you entry.
  • Cab drivers are usually unwilling and sometimes unable to make change for a bigger (500,000 Dong) bill. I’ve seen more than one driver fish out a second pile of bills in his pockets when pressed to make change, but another run off to a store to obtain change as he honestly did not have any. I tried to just bring smaller bills with me (50,000s or 20,000s) when taking a cab.
  • Asking for intersections of two streets was the easiest way to get to where I needed to go, or picking bigger landmarks like churches or hotels or famous skyscrapers (e.g Bitxeco tower) that are nearby.


Futa Buslines’ bright orange Phuong Trang buses (link to Vietnamese-only site) is reliable and leaves from the central De Tham area in District 1. Tickets can be booked at the office on De Tham near Pham Ngu Lao (272 De Tham; link is to Google map. Phone is +84 838 309 309), and small timetable cards available to keep on you for each destination, also from their offices.

See my guide to Mui Ne for a great destination to visit from Saigon!


Having been to a few of them, I recommend the Family Medical Practice in the Diamond Plaza if you are staying in District 1. It’s expensive – $60 for a consultation – but test turnaround is quick and their equipment is modern. If you need a specialist, you can make an appointment for here as well, such as a tropical diseases doctor or for those with kids, a pediatrician. Their receptionist is extremely helpful, so you can always just stop in to ask questions in lieu of calling if you are in the area. As I’ve said in my “Why I Love Saigon” post, the American Chiropractor Clinic is a very good value for people needing to see a specialist for back, neck or other joint pain.

SIM cards

I’ve found the best pay-as-you-go SIM for unlocked photos in need of a data plan to be the Mobifone SIM. You can go to any corner store and ask for a SIM, or to many of the iPhone/Android/Everything Stores that have popped up around town.

When you get the SIM card, also buy 100,000 Dong of credit. To activate the plan (this worked up until June 2014, but of course might change): Text the words DK MIU to the number 999. When a text comes back to you, reply with just the letter Y.

PRESTO. You are now signed up for the DK MIU data plan, which offers unlimited use of data (quicker speeds up to 5GB, then you get put into the slow plan) for the month.

If you ensure you keep at least 70,000 Dong (the cost of the plan as of June 2014) on your phone, you will be able to auto-renew once the month is up. Note that you’ll also get a few 50% sale messages, since Mobifone has days where credit is half off, meaning you receive double what you pay for in phone credit. These will be stored as ‘bonus’ credits in your phone, under the KM2 and KM3 headings when you check your credit. So I would just buy the data plan and then on a 50% day, I’d add another 100,000, which would keep my plan in action for the next few months. Texting not included on the plan, but quite cheap.


The Dong. Currently at a rate of 22, 306 Dong to 1 USD as of July 2016.

Added bonus: crass jokes. No matter how long I stayed in the country, the jokes (“fistful of Dong” or “show me your Dong” or any use of “YEAH YOU DID” after a Dong statement) did not get old. I even made my landlady a Dong flower with my rent money, but she was extremely unimpressed with my Dong Decorating Skillz.

Best to keep change / smaller denominations when you can, as many smaller stores or street stalls will be reticent to break a 500,000 note — and of course the banks give 500,000 notes for the most part.

Foot Massage

I consider this a “basics” because to me living in Asia includes availing myself of the reasonably priced and relaxing foot massages around the region. I try to go once a week or once every few weeks, especially since I enjoy long walks around Saigon.

This place is on a busy street behind the big Citibank building and is often full of Japanese business men on a lunch break. Chairs are laid out side by side on three different floors, and the 70 minute treatment (220,000 Dong at time of writing) includes the foot massage (45 minutes) plus a 25 minute head-shoulder-back combo. Of course, it is finished off by yogaesque stretching and cracking. Usually extremely busy during lunch hours for reasons above, so best to head there in the later afternoon.

Professional Foot Massage
44 Ton That Thiep Street, District 1

The Best Books and Blogs About Vietnam and its Food


Blogs about Saigon and Food in Vietnam

  • Historic Vietnam – from friend Tim Doling, one of the most knowlegeable people about Saigon, Vietnam and their architectural history. His blog is a wonderful exploration of old buildings and their background, as well as interesting people from Vietnam’s history.
  • Vietnam Coracle – Tom has been living in Saigon for many years and speaks great Vietnamese. He believes in sharing longform, useful content without making people pay for it, and he’s a really fun writer. His site has alley wanders, posts about food, and details about motorcycle trips away from the city, along with many other updates from his time in the country. See his great post about the best street food streets in Saigon here.
  • A Global Kitchen – my friend Cam is one of the more curious people I’ve ever met, always diving deep into the culture of food and sharing it with others. His blog houses some of the stories from his travels, as well as a great page on cooking classes around Southeast Asia.
  • From Swerve of Shore – photography from Vietnam with side trips elsewhere in Southeast Asia.
  • Eating Saigon – Joe and Hai explore and review street food around town.
  • Viet World Kitchen – Andrea Nguyen’s books are listed above, but her blog is also a source of recipes, information about ingredients and herbs, and commentary about Vietnamese food and traditions.
  • The Ravenous Couple – This lovely couple is not based in Vietnam at the moment but they have plenty of recipes for many of the dishes I’ve posted here, alongside stories of how those dishes figured prominently in their respective families.
  • Eating Asia’s Saigon posts – food and photography from around town, over a few years of visits and from former residents Dave & Robyn.
  • Sticky Rice – when people say they are going to Hanoi, I send them to Mark’s blog. He runs food tours with his partner Tu and the blog’s contents make that evident — it’s chock full of foods to try around town.
  • Hanoi Cooking Centre – another resource for Saigon. Tracey’s new book “Real Vietnamese Cooking” is coming out in September in North America, but you can still take cooking lessons at her cooking centre today.
  • Saigoneer – News, photos and events around town. Very useful for those visiting. See their Events Calendar for a great starting point!
  • Oi Vietnam – Oi also covers events around town, restaurant reviews, and has features from international locations as well.
  • Travelfish Vietnam Blog – updated frequently, an arm of the general Travelfish site, my go-to for news and updates for travel in Southeast Asia. They’ve also just posted a LONG food guide to the city here.
  • Rusty Compass Saigon guide – Mark’s page about the city, updated often, with mini reviews of restaurants and sights around town.
  • And for those looking for a food guide for Hanoi, Will Fly For Food has you covered here.

Happy eating!


The Legal Nomads Guide to Saigon Street Food

134 thoughts on “The Legal Nomads Self-Guided Tour to Saigon Street Food”

  1. Great post! I’m now craving Vietnamese food and missing Vietnam in general! Only wish I would have been able to read this before I went to Vietnam as it’s full of amazing recommendations.

  2. Wow, what an incredibly extensive resource, Jodi. This is going to be my bible when I visit Saigon next year, thanks so much for sharing this! All these food photos makes me seriously hungry for some Vietnamese food (as well as makes me consider giving up vegetarianism at times!) they look so delicious.

  3. Great post as usual, Jodi. I’ll be heading to Saigon in 3 weeks and hopefully I’ll be able to find some delicious vegetarian food there!

  4. Wow Jodi, this is an absolute beauty of a post. My mouth started watering from the first picture and description, and hasn’t stopped watering yet… Fantastic resource for food lovers.

  5. Hi Jodi, this post is amazing. I love Vietnamese food, but I’ve only tried a few things. This has opened a whole world of yumminess. Also, Asia’s Cauldron is a great read. I would highly recommend it because it portrays each country in the context of the region and the world. I’m from Southeast Asia and it gave me a new appreciation for my home region. :)

  6. Oh, this looks soooo delicious..! I get hungry just reading about it. As I am planning to go to South East Asia soon (and Vietnam ofcourse) this was very helpful. :)

    I also wanted to whish you a happy midsummer eve! Since I’m a Swede living in South Africa, the celebration is just not the same. I have tried to suggest various activities, such as building a flowery (slightly penis looking) pole, eating rotten fish and doing the frog dance around the previously mentioned pole. But no one seems keen..! Damn Southafricans, I dont understand why?! Jees.

    So big kram from a somewhat sad and lost Swede, in a country were midsummer eve is considered a bunch of “pagan rituals.”

  7. Awesome resource, Jodi, and as someone who has eaten at 90% of the places you list, I heartily second your recommendations! I was actually thinking of writing something similar culled from all the meals Tony & I enjoyed over our 3 month stint in HCMC, but now I see there is no need…

    Was so nice to meet up with you while we were in town. Since we both seem to feel the pull of this extraordinary country, I have a feeling that our paths will cross there one day again!

  8. All I can say about this post in YUM!! Makes me extremely eager to make it to this part of the world! Can’t wait for next year- thank you for all of the information!

  9. Fantastic article (and gorgeous photos)! We are in Saigon right now and it is very helpful. Looking forward to trying some of your recommendations starting today.

  10. As usual, thorough, informative and just enjoyable to read. Currently in Leh, India for the summer, but thanks to your wonderful mouth watering descriptions, I’m now looking at Vietnam as my next destination in the fall.
    Thanks so much for your generosity in sharing all of this.

  11. This is so comprehensive, you could make this into an e-book and a source of passive income. The section headers with anchor tags at the top make this post insanely useful … thanks so much Jodi!

    1. Hey Elaine, as I said in the post I’m fully aware of its utility as an ebook, but wanted to make it freely available for my readers who have followed along these last months in Saigon. I do plan to put it into a PDF eventually for my food walks when I restart them next season.

      Glad you enjoyed the post.

  12. Incredible! I now realise that I knew practically nothing about Vietnamese food and how diverse it is. I love Pho Ga but there is so much more to try. Very happy that I read this (and bookmarked it) before travelling to Vietnam. Thanks Jodi :)

  13. Jodi, This post is my new favorite thing on the internet. Thank you x1,000. Can’t wait to reference it constantly in Saigon. I saw the disclaimer about not selling it as an ebook. Can we get a PDF or a more printable/portable version?

  14. Probably the most generous post in the entire internet. If one of your friends has the skills to craft it into an ebook, with Geolocation, I’m pretty sure no one would hold you grudge for selling it. I understand, you’re not into selling your passion. Think of it this way : you’d just offer an easy carry-around wrapper, and keep the post for everyone to enjoy.
    Great pictures, impressive work.

  15. OMG, Jodi! You are so very awesome! I’m planning a trip to Vietnam next month and was contemplating sending you an email asking for this very information! Especially the gluten-free tips as I’m gluten intolerant. But instead, I don’t have to annoy you with another email request and can just read everything here! :) Thank you so much for putting this info together. It’s going to make my trip there that much better. And thank you for providing it freely… as someone who quit their job to travel around a bit it’s always nice to save a few dollars (but I did buy your e-book!). Anyway, you are so great! Thank you so much. I’m more than sad I didn’t make it to Vietnam in time for one of your food tours but this will run a close 2nd place :)

  16. This post is making me want to go back to Saigon! Missing those delicious Banh Beo. My favorite thing about Saigon is that I didn’t need any mobile data, since there was WiFi everywhere. Just stand outside of a cafe you’d been to before and you can connect :)

  17. Amazing food. It’s unbelievable what you can do with so much ingredients. Great photos and great recipes. Makes me very hungry!

  18. Such a timely post! I’m in Saigon right now and was looking for a food guide, and yours fits the bill perfectly! I really thought I’d be loosing weight coming to Vietnam, but it’s not panning out that way :( And well… this guide is going to wreck some serious damage lol

  19. Wow – what a phenomenal and comprehensive list! THANK YOU! Definitely keeping this handy when I head there, since one of the first things I start to research is where to eat… and now it’s all in one handy spot. The pics are amazing, and thanks for letting it be available for free! :)

  20. Hi Jodi,

    found my way to your blog via Cherie King ‘s blog. Thanks for this great list. I moved in Saigon last January and i’ll try some of your adresses. One of my Vietamese friend told me to be very careful as they used a lot of glutamate powder for the taste. I was surprised in the shops to see such big bags of glutamate. It seems the consumption of glutamate is not free of consequences. So from your experience, do u think they do use too much of glutamate ? Thanks for sharing your experience. Ann

    1. Hi Ann! Yes, they use MSG for flavour in a lot of the food, added as one might add salt to deepen taste. There are some places that use more than others, of course, so your mileage may vary. It’s found quite a bit in products in the USA and Canada as well, so it wasn’t new to me in Asia or Southeast Asia, but I have not had trouble with it unless it is a place that truly uses it instead of actually seasoning their products, which is rare. I have not sought to avoid it.

  21. Jodi,

    Just got back from our honeymoon to Nicaragua and have really enjoyed catching up on your blog. Love the new design and thanks for the tips on other blogs to look at for advice on Nicaragua.


  22. Hi, love your site! Can you write an article about your daily life in Southeast Asia? I’d like to know what it’s like to live there. Thanks.

  23. This is such a great guide to Saigon street food. Very complete and with a ton of resource. You have no clue what I would give for some Banh Beo or Banh Cuon right now. Though I just came back from Saigon this makes me what to go back for all the things I have missed apparently.

  24. Hey Jodi,

    I am definitely going to use this as my food companion when I hit Saigon in a couple of weeks! I am currently in Hue and you are so right about Bun Bo Hue – I find the flavours complex and delicious. In fact, I just left Hoi An, where I did a cooking class and couldn’t get enough of the food. I think Vietnamese food is some of the most complex – and at the same time simple – food I have ever tasted. I just finished writing about my food experiences so far and if the South is anything like central Vietnam, then I am excited!

  25. Great post! I recently returned from Vietnam and it was such a great experience! We spent some time in Ho Chi Minh City and I strongly recommend XO Tours for fantastic local street foods off the beaten path. We did the nighttime food tour and were taken on motorbikes to 5 different districts to experience what they had to offer. I probably wouldn’t have seen most of those districts on my own! I think it’s perfect for people visiting for the first time.

  26. Great post here Jodi. Food has been one of inspiration to travel. I wanted to know the taste of the food in every country I will visit. I find this helpful. Thanks!

  27. Wow wow wow! I’m impressed by this post. I’m a Vietnamese and you have listed all my favourite food here. Awesome! Make me so hungry though :P

  28. Jodi, what’s a great list! I ate my way in Vietnam and loved it. I agree with you that eating is a communication, not just to eat. Vietnam is a food paradise for sure. Those who have ever tasted it, won’t forget its tastes! Yummy!

  29. Holy crap, i’m basically drooling at my work desk after looking at these food pictures! I’m starting my backpacking trip through Southeast Asia November 15th for an unknown length of time and…the food. I can’t wait for the food. I found your blog around 7 months ago and it was one of the blogs that inspired me (not just for the food, but it definitely helped) to begin putting money aside and book my ticket (so I couldn’t back out) for my solo journey. I’ve never really traveled had a chance to travel much, nor have I been out of the country, so it’s definitely out of my comfort zone and I can’t wait. I’ve really enjoyed reading your blog and hope to run into you along the way!

  30. I first visited Viet Nam in 1955. sSince that time I have spent years in the country as a foreign correspondent and war correspodent. May I suggest adding to the list of books to read my political thriller “A Kind of Treason,” which was given an Edgar Alan Poe Award by the Mystery Writers of America and was hailed as a remarkable prediction of forthcoming events when published in the 1960s and also hailed as a remarkable protrait of the country at that time.

  31. Wow, this is a wonderfully written and well thought out guide. I wish I had this two years ago when I was in Saigon! I didn’t actually have the best experience in Vietnam, but reading things like this makes me want to go back and give it a second chance.

  32. oh my god this just made me so hungry. I’ve already been craving good banh mi all well, but this just put me over the top. now i have to get back to vietnam ASAP!

  33. I was some years ago in Saigon for three months studying and your post brings a lot of memories. I was a vegetarian back then, but anyway always found a great vegetarian option too.

  34. You made me miss Vietnam.. and it’s food! Bun Bo Hue and Bun Rieu are my go to soups so I’m happy to read you like them too. This is really a great list, Jodi! I hope it helps other travelers to be a bit more adventurous with their eating outside of pho. :)

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