Forget midnight fridge raids, just step out onto Saigon streets

By Khanh Thien   November 12, 2022 | 04:00 am PT
Saigon residents don’t have to consider midnight fridge raids to satiate night-time cravings when they can just step out and feast on favorites like com tam, sticky rice and porridge.

Com tam (broken rice)

A portion of com tam with grilled pork rib and shredded pork skin. Photo by VnExpress/Khanh Thien

A com tam portion with grilled rib, shredded pork skin and a small bowl of chili fish sauce. Photo by VnExpress/Khanh Thien

Broken rice is one of the most popular street foods in Vietnam, and can be found almost everywhere in Ho Chi Minh City and southern provinces.

Vietnamese foodies can have broken rice for breakfast, lunch, or dinner without a problem.

The dish is usually served with tender grilled pork, a bed of pickled vegetables, steamed egg meatloaf, pork skin coated with roasted rice powder and garnished with scallion oil, and crispy fried pork lard.

A dish of broken rice costs VND25,000 to 40,000 ($1-1.61).

Recommended spots: Alley 95 Dinh Tien Hoang and 139 Ngo Tat To (Binh Thanh District); 218A Nguyen Trai (District 1); 75A Pham Van Hai (Tan Binh District); 73 Le Van Linh (District 4); 375 Cach Mang Thang 8 (District 10).

Hu tieu (thick rice noodles)

White rice noodles is a classic dish that showcases the food culture of Vietnam. The dish is highly customizable, allowing diners to dial in their individual preferences when ordering it depending on their cravings at that moment. Various toppings are offered by different eateries, but the standouts include fish, prawns, cuttlefish, quail eggs, minced pig, pork and char siu.

Typically, the broth is prepared by simmering marrow bone, pork, ground pork, ribs, dried shrimp, grilled cuttlefish and daikon.

A bowl of white rice noodles costs VND20,000 to 50,000 ($1-2).

Recommended spots: 253 Au Co and 737 Cach Mang Thang Tam (Tan Binh District); 109 and 68 Van Kiep (Binh Thanh District); 62 Ton That Hiep, 99 De Tham and 62 Truong Dinh (District 1).


A bowl of beef pho with chili sauce on top. Photo by VnExpress/Khanh Thien

A bowl of pho with beef and chili sauce on top is served with pieces of deep-fried dough. Photo by VnExpress/Khanh Thien

Reigning on top of any listing of Vietnam's culinary specialties is pho – the flat rice noodles soup that is made with either beef or chicken that has wowed the world.

The main ingredients of pho are beef slices, beef meatballs, coriander, basil, scallions and some other herbs. Diners can also order beef blood soup with a poached egg or some deep-fried dough quay as a side dish.

Aside from the classic pho served with beef, several stories offer it with chicken or shrimp. Diners can add spicy sauce, black sauce, lemon slices, and chili slices to the broth to enhance the flavor.

A bowl of pho usually costs VND30,000 to 70,000 ($1.21-3).

Recommended spots: 142 Pham Van Hai, 25A Cuu Long and 339 Le Van Sy (Tan Binh District); 288 M1 Nam Ky Khoi Nghia (District 3); 158D Pasteur (District 1); 380A Nguyen Thi Thap (District 7).

Duck porridge

When the weather turns colder at night, slurping spoonfuls of duck porridge is one of the best late-night snack options. The quality of the rice is what defines the dish. To ensure a better fragrance, the rice is often roasted before boiling.

Each serving usually includes duck, bean sprouts, coriander, pepper and fried shallots on top. It also frequently comes with a side of sweet-and-sour cabbage salad that is dipped in a spicy ginger fish sauce.

A duck porridge serving costs between VND30,000-80,000 ($1.21-3.22)

Recommended spots: 281/26/9 Le Van Sy and 521 Truong Chinh (Tan Binh District); 21A/23C Xom Chieu (District 4); 120 and 108 Binh Quoi (Binh Thanh District); 81 Tran Nao (District 2).

Frog porridge

Frog porridge served at 315 Hai Ba Trung Street, Tan Dinh Market, HCMC. Video by Vu Thinh

Frog porridge, a delicacy that originated in Singapore, is a favored late night snack in Saigon. The frogs are cooked so that spicy flavors permeate every fiber, making them yellow-brown before being served with creamy rice porridge.

Fresh, chewy frog meat is added to a dish of porridge along with scallions and a strong sauce to warm the stomach. A serving costs between VND50,000-70,000 ($2-3).

Recommended spots: 71 Co Giang (Phu Nhuan District); 315 Hai Ba Trung and 23 Nguyen Huy Tu (District 1); 91 Hong Ha (Tan Binh District).

Sticky rice

Saigon streets provide a wide range of sticky rice variations as late-night eats. Peanut sticky rice, mung bean coated sticky rice, pandan sticky rice and sweet corn sticky rice are some suggestions. The sweet, soft and hot sticky rice is frequently sprinkled with grated coconut, granulated sugar and peanuts. Sticky rice servings cost between VND7,000 and 10,000 ($0.28-0.40).

Diners can also choose savory sticky rice variations with char siu, dried shrimp, meat floss and chicken legs. The dish is not complete till it is topped with fried shallot, scallion oil and a special sauce. A portion of savory sticky rice costs VND20,000 to 30,000.

Recommended spots: 31 Nguyen Huy Tu, 148 Nguyen Van Cu, 577 Co Bac (District 1); 297 Hai Ba Trung (District 3).


A tray of snails steamed with herbs. Photo by VnExpress/Khanh Thien

Apple snails are steamed with lemongrass, green pepper and spicy chili. Photo by VnExpress/Khanh Thien

People who have tried them will swear by the unique snail dishes in Saigon. Snails from the river to sea, steamed, boiled or grilled are available late into the night in Saigon.

Many stores that sell snails have about 10-20 different kinds of mollusks on the menu, giving customers a lot of choices. One should prepare VND100,000-200,000 ($4-8) for a snail night-out.

Recommended spots: 51/24B Ho Thi Ky (District 10); 72 Duong Ba Trac (District 8); 859 Tran Xuan Soan (District 7); 381 Dien Bien Phu (Binh Thanh District); Alley 25 Nguyen Binh Khiem (District 1); 383 Vinh Khanh (District 4); and 235A Mai Xuan Thuong (District 6).

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