Saigon street treat: Five gourmet dishes for under a dollar

By Phong Vinh, Nguyen Quy   May 10, 2019 | 05:26 am PT
Anytime you are hungry try these five street foods that have become part of Saigonese lore.

Vietnam’s largest city is well known as a street food paradise where cuisines from all over the country converge. Here are foodies' five street dishes which are worth under a dollar.

Banh trang nuong (grilled rice paper)

Photo acquired by VnExpress

Photo acquired by VnExpress.

Banh trang nuong is rice paper grilled over charcoal with toppings such as egg, dried beef, mayonnaise and shallot. It is said to have been invented in Da Lat town in the Central Highlands and is often dubbed "Vietnamese pizza" due to the way it looks and is made.

It can be found at every street corner.

On burning charcoal, a thin rice cracker is grilled with butter, scallion and egg before minced pork, sausage and dried shrimp are added on top.

Locals love to add a lot of chili sauce on top for some extra fieriness. And you should know by now that many Vietnamese love their pizza with a lot of chili sauce and ketchup.

Where to find: 209 Ton That Thuyet, District 4, where a slice only costs VND5,000 ($0.21) and Turtle Lake in District 3.

Banh trang tron (rice paper salad)

Photo acquired by VnExpress

Photo acquired by VnExpress.

This simple dish is a part of Saigonese culture and goes back to many people’s childhood. 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.

You cannot find another snack like this with such a good blend of pungent, sour, sweet, and salt.

To try one of the best rice paper salads, make your way to Nguyen Thuong Hien Street in District 3 where you can find different versions of the dish depending on your choice.

The dish costs around VND20,000 ($0.86).

Bot chien (fried rice cakes)

Photo by VnExpress/Phong Vinh

Photo by VnExpress/Phong Vinh.

This is a street dish originating in China but made and loved in Saigon. It can't be simpler: you fry rice flour on a large flat pan, cut it into bite-size cubes, break an egg on top, and top with green scallion.

It is served hot and crisp with a mixture of sweet rice vinegar and soy sauce. Add some shredded green papaya to balance out the oil.

Where to find: 277 Vo Van Tan Street, District 3.

A plate of fired rice cakes costs you from VND15,000 - 20,000 ($0.64 - 0.86).

Offal stew

Photo by VnExpress/Phong Vinh

Photo by VnExpress/Phong Vinh.

Pha lau, an exotic street food commonly found in Saigon, is offal stew filled with pig or cow innards and cooked with herbs and seasoning in a way similar to curry, although not as spicy. What makes this dish unique is that the pieces are chewy yet soft enough to melt in your mouth.

Each vendor have their unique way of flavoring the broth. You can also order some bread to eat along with this rich broth. Locals sometimes dip the organs in fish sauce with minced chilies to enhance the flavor.

Where to try: Ton Dan Street in District 4 or Suong Nguyet Anh Street in District 1. The dish is around VND20,000 ($0.86).

Dried beef salad

Photo by VnExpress/Phong Vinh

Photo by VnExpress/Phong Vinh.

Goi kho bo, or dried beef salad, is a popular local snack that brings together papaw, carrots and dried beef, all thinly sliced and mixed with vinegar, fish sauce and dried crushed peanuts. Its perfect combination of sweet, sour, pepper and salt will tickle the palate of any curious diner, especially on chilly days.

One of the most popular goi kho bo in the city is sold on Vo Thi Sau Street along Le Van Tam Park in District 1. The shop has no tables or chairs, but customers are happy to enjoy the dish on their motorbikes or under the park’s canopy.

The shop opens from 2 p.m. until 9 p.m., and a bowl costs VND16,000 ($0.69).

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