I went to Ho Chi Minh City with a couple of friends for a 5-day holiday. We liked Vietnamese food very much, so our main mission was to eat as many local foods as possible. I’d been to Hanoi in Northern Vietnam previously and I looked forward to the Southern taste.
As a noodles-lover, it would be unthinkable to skip pho during any visit to Vietnam. I had beef and chicken pho–paired with Vietnamese milk or black coffee–on three out of four breakfasts.
I also ate bún thịt nướng (bottom-left; a kind of dry noodles dish) sold by two friendly aunties near the corner of Nguyen Du and Pasteur Streets. Got the dry noodles, chả giò and nem nướng, all in one dish. Perfect! The aunties didn’t speak any English and my Vietnamese vocab was limited to Hello, Thank You, (very) Delicious, and a handful of viet dish names; but somehow we could understand one another. I gotta say that was the meal I enjoyed the most during my stay in Saigon!
RICE PAPERS & RICE FLOUR
No trip to Vietnam would be complete without my all-time favourite summer and spring rolls. Here I had the gỏi cuốn (summer rolls), washed down with fresh coconut juice. On other occasions I bought a simple yet very crispy and tasty bánh tráng nướng from a street vendor, and then a bánh xèo crispy pancake at a restaurant.
Bánh mì is Vietnamese-style sandwich with French influence. I tried both the simple bánh mì ốp la (L) with fried egg and bacon at the hotel as well as the heavily stuffed bánh mì (R) at Bánh Mì Huỳnh Hoa. The latter is reputed to be the best in the city, and I could tell that by the long line of people queuing for their killer sandwiches even when it was past dinner time. Don’t let the veggies fool you. Saigon’s most famous bánh mì is a meat bomb!
Despite being a Southeast Asian, I’m not a big fan of rice. But upon learning that the so-called broken rice, or cơm tấm, was one of Saigon’s specialties, I set off in search of the dish when a thunderstorm entrapped me in Vincom Center for over four hours one afternoon. I had this pork-laden cơm tấm sườn bì. The chop was fine, but in general the dish was “too porky” for me. Ahahah…
CRAZY HOME-MADE FOODS
We took to Eating Saigon for a home-made dinner with a local Vietnamese family. And that was a super Saigon dinner! The family also printed out the list of dishes they had prepared for us.
Salad: Gỏi cóc tôm khô (kedondong with dried shrimp and fish sauce)
Soup: Canh chua trứng (tomato egg soup)
Main: Cơm chiên cá mặn (fried rice with dried fish and black pepper);
cá điêu hồng sốt chanh dây (fried fish with passion fruit sauce);
cánh gà chiên nước mắm (fried chicken wings with fish sauce-sugar-chopped garlic-lemon-red chili);
mực xào rau củ (fried squid with vegetables)
Desserts: Home-made yogurt, fresh fruits
Drinks: Blackberry juice
Big thanks to Eating Saigon for the arrangement!
Ice creams taste better in rainy days, don’t you think? We dared Saigon’s downpour to get to this small desserts outlet in District 3 and it paid off! Xôi kem (coconut ice cream with black sticky rice & topped with mulberry-flavoured sticky rice) alone wasn’t enough, so I ordered a second, socola kem dừa (boba chocolate + coconut ice cream float). Super like!
I also got to try Western-style desserts. IKEM (on the street next to Saigon Central Post Office) was probably Saigon’s first ever nitrogen ice cream. I had this “solo” cup of orange and organic honey. That was good!
Fanny was one of the ice cream parlours in Vincom Center. I was entitled to a free single cup after buying a ticket for the AO Show. Obviously one cup (coconut flavour) wasn’t enough, so I bought another one (avocado). Expensive, though. Hahaha!
What I brought home from Saigon: dried lotus seeds, coconut & pandan candies and cashew nuts from the market.