Eat like a local: a tour to explore Saigon's street food scene

By Nguyen Quy   May 12, 2021 | 03:23 am PT
Saigon has been dubbed a paradise for street food-obsessed travelers, with these five famed areas not to be missed.

Come nightfall, the purveyors of delicacies from all over Vietnam pop up by the thousand all over the city. Every night you can see locals huddle around low tables indulging their taste buds late into the night.

Co Giang Street in District 1

Just a five-minute drive from iconic Ben Thanh Market, Co Giang Street is home to many street food stalls established decades ago. For foodies, the street should be included on their travel bucket list.

Don't forget to drop by Ms. Tuyen's shop that specializes in rice noodles with grilled pork. White rice noodles are topped with crispy, sweet-tasty grilled pork, fried spring rolls, crush peanuts, oily green onion oil, pickled carrots and daikon radish. Bean sprouts, cucumber slices, and herbs make up the bottom of the noodle bowl.

Ms. Tuyens shop is a popular address in Saigon for rice noodles with grilled pork. Photo by VnExpress/Di Vy.

Ms. Tuyen's shop is a popular address in Saigon for rice noodles with grilled pork. Photo by VnExpress/Di Vy.

Not far from Tuyen's shop is Hoang Yen food stall where you can find the true taste of grilled beef in lolot pepper leaves, or bo la lot.

Ingredients include minced beef mixed with garlic and some spices, mixed well, stuffed into lolot leaves and rolled up like cigars. Piper lolot leaves are often used to wrap meat across Vietnam and Laos.

They are served up on a platter with fresh rice noodles, a herby-lettuce salad, rice paper and a dipping sauce.

A food stall on Co Giang Street serves guests with Bo la lot dish. Photo by VnExpress/Di Vy.

A food stall on Co Giang Street serves guests with bo la lot dish. Photo by VnExpress/Di Vy.

On Co Giang Street, there is a long-standing Chinese sweet soup stall without a name that should not be missed by any foodie. There are various tasty sweet soups at the stall like sweet egg soup with tea, water chestnut and lotus seed sweet soup and dried grape sweet soup.

Van Kiep Street in Binh Thanh District

Showcasing dozens of different dishes along a couple hundred meters, Van Kiep Street straddles the border of two of Saigon’s most vibrant districts, Phu Nhuan and Binh Thanh.

Most food stalls here don’t have names or addresses and you never know when they will actually be open.

More outstanding than any other street food stalls on Van Kiep Street is No.104 stall, a small and trendy spot specializing in grilled octopus and very well-known by many young Saigonese.

Grilled octopus is a popular dish of Saigonese drinkers. Photo by VnExpress.

Grilled octopus is a popular dish of Saigonese drinkers. Photo by VnExpress.

The spicy, marinated octopus grilled over a coal barbecue on the sidewalk with its fragrant smoke wafting into the street can attract anyone lost in this food maze street.

Don't forget to visit a food stall at 55/19 Van Kiep Street where the stall owner will serve you Vietnamese steamed rice rolls, or banh cuon, including a layer of golden egg.

Hailing from the country’s northern region, rice rolls have become a staple breakfast dish in Vietnamese cuisine. The stall only opens in the morning from 5 a.m. to 11 a.m.

Near the intersection with Phan Xich Long Street in Phu Nhuan District stand the two best bun mam (fermented thick Vietnamese vermicelli soup) stalls.

Vinh Khanh Street in District 4

Once a favorite spot of notorious gangsters, Vinh Khanh Street has been turned into a paradise for seafood. The area is abuzz with hundreds of sidewalk restaurants offering different types of seafood like oysters, lobsters, sushi and snails.

The street, only about 2.5 kilometers from Ben Thanh Market, is reachable by motorbike in about 10 minutes. Head to Ong Lanh Bridge, which is the boundary between Districts 1 and 4, turn left at the end and take a right turn onto Vinh Khanh Street.

Vinh Khanh Street is dubbed as HCMCs seafood paradise.

Vinh Khanh Street is dubbed as Saigon's seafood paradise.

The most famous joint on the strip is Oc Oanh at 534 Vinh Khanh Street that is renowned for its fried sea snails with salt and chili and grilled scallops with spring onions and peanuts.

Located at 122 Vinh Khanh Street, Sushi Ko has been serving roadside sushi for crowds of young Vietnamese and expats for a couple of years now.

Near the intersection with Hoang Dieu Street is BBQ Lua restaurant at 33 Vinh Khanh Street. The specialty here is grill-it-yourself barbecued meat. A small coal-fired stove is placed on your table onto which you lay chunks of marinated beef, pork, goat, and fish.

Nguyen Thuong Hien Street in District 3

U.K.-based Time Out in 2019 listed District 3 in downtown Saigon as one of the neighborhoods worth a visit and advised food enthusiasts to head to Nguyen Thuong Hien Street to sample its popular fare.

The one-kilometer street, which is only 2.5 kilometers from Ben Thanh Market, is lined with eateries where people open their shop from noon until midnight.

The most popular snack, easily found on this street is banh trang tron (rice paper salad). It is made of shredded rice paper mixed with dried shrimp, beef jerky, shredded squid, roasted peanuts, boiled quail eggs, shredded green mango, fried shallots, and fresh herbs. Vendors always add sweet spices, chili sauce and kumquat juice to make the flavors even more varied.

A closer look at rice paper salad, Vietnam’s popular street food. Video by Dang Khoa.

In addition, foodies can try a Vietnamese sandwich with beef that cost VND17,000 ($0.7), bun bo hue (Hue-style beef noodle) at Huong Giang restaurant and fermented pork at Ms. Nguyet’s stall.

Settle down to some snails and shellfish, a classic Saigon night out – at A Soi's stall where oysters, clams, crab claws, sea snails and local beer all grace the menu.

Near the intersection with Nguyen Dinh Chieu and Nguyen Thi Minh Khai streets there are several large ‘juicers’ where all number of tropical fruits are freshly squeezed into plastic bottles to take away.

Su Van Hanh Street in District 10

Su Van Hanh Street, home to a series of shopping malls that make up the city’s fashion paradise, is a long, lively street between Ngo Gia Tu Street and Nguyen Chi Thanh Street jam-packed with street food stalls.

This street’s specialty is banh xeo (crispy pancake), a popular dish in the central region and Mekong Delta. Dozens of vendors along an apartment block have been serving small banh xeo cooked on circular trays over flaming, coal-fired barbecues for more than a decade.

Eat like a local: A tour to explore Saigons street food scene - 4

Vietnamese crispy pancakes. Photo by VnExpress.

At the corner with Hoa Hao Street there’s a good Chinese-style noodle outlet called Tai Phat where foodies could try mi vit tiem (egg noodles with duck in a deeply aromatic broth), a popular dish of Chinese migrants in Saigon. The noodles are sold from a classic noodle trolley decorated with painted dragons and scenes from Chinese mythology.

Eat like a local: A tour to explore Saigons street food scene - 5

Mi vit tiem is a popular dish of the Chinese community in Saigon. Photo by VnExpress/Di Vy.

If you’re a fan of sweet soup be sure to head down to the dessert stall on the southern end of the street where you’ll find 16 different varieties of the sweet soups.

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