Most visitors arrive in Vietnam with their heads full of visions of exotic jungle and historic sights, but within a few days a good number of them are drifting off to sleep at night planning their next gastronomic adventure. Vietnamese cuisine may have a foothold in many countries, but it has rarely been raved about like Thai or Italian cuisine.
This is a shame because its nutritious ingredients and deft preparation produce some culinary delights that are world-class. And Ho Chi Minh City, you’ll be pleased to hear, is the best place in the country to explore the diversity of Vietnamese dishes.
What to Eat in Saigon
As in other Southeast Asian countries, rice and noodles form the staples of the diet, accompanied by a staggering range of soups, stir-fries and salads as well as baked and steamed dishes.
The traditional way to start the day is with a steaming bowl of pho, or noodle soup, typically with beef, while the evening meal usually consists of rice with toppings. Experiencing traditional Vietnamese cuisine should not be an expensive option if staying away from tourist establishments.
Fresh herbs, vegetables and chillies are usually provided on the table for diners to help themselves.
When you feel like a break from local food, the city is particularly well supplied with French, Italian, Japanese, Mexican and other international restaurants.
Where to Eat in Ho Chi Minh City
When you feel like treating yourself to a memorable culinary experience, head for one of the atmospheric downtown restaurants like Temple Club or Lemongrass, where you’ll also be serenaded by traditional musicians.
It’s also worth keeping an eye open for hotels offering buffet lunches and dinners, where for around US$15 you can sample the best of not only Vietnamese but also Japanese and international cuisine.
When you just want to fill yourself with a no-frills meal, the budget district is your place. Plenty of places feature dishes from a dozen different countries on their menu yet still seem to turn out reasonable fare for US$2-3.
How to Eat in Saigon
The Vietnamese are a tactile bunch, particularly when it comes to eating. They love to play with their food, so there’s no need to stand on ceremony and worry about bad manners.
Feel free to slurp your noodles, shovel your rice from your bowl to your mouth, and generally enjoy the process. Bones can be gnawed and then discarded on the floor as diners in Ho Chi Minh City are expected to enjoy their food without hindrance…more on recommended Saigon Restaurant Listings.