The best local dishes from Ho Chi Minh City are well regarded as nutritious, savory, and hearty delights that can be enjoyed at any time of the day. Some of the defining traits in Vietnamese cuisine include rice, noodles, seafood, pork and beef, as well as various fresh herbs and spices, all of which result in robust flavors and unique interpretations. Although the city is evolving into a cosmopolitan landscape with sprawling shopping malls, fine-dining restaurants and luxury hotels, you can still find plenty of roadside eateries, vibrant street market, and street food carts to satisfy your appetite for authentic Vietnamese delicacies.

    Dining in Ho Chi Minh is not just limited to Vietnamese pho and coffee as you can also enjoy fresh seafood, noodles, rice, spring rolls, and meats prepared with an array of cooking methods. Also great for travelers on a tight budget, some of these must-try foods in Saigon are not only hearty and filling, but also great value. This is what to eat in Ho Chi Minh for a real taste of the city and Vietnam.

    1

    Banh mi

    Available almost everywhere in Ho Chi Minh City, banh mi is a quintessential Vietnamese dish that you should never miss out on. This baguette sandwich contains pickled vegetables, pate, butter, soy sauce, cilantro, chilies, and hot peppers. Quick and tasty, you can also choose from a variety of meat fillings for your banh mi, including heo quay (roasted pork belly), cha ca (fried fish with turmeric and dill), cha lua (boiled sausages), xiu mai (meatballs), thit ga (boiled chicken), trung op la (fried egg), thit nuong (broiled pork loin), and xa xiu (Chinese barbecued pork).

    2

    Pho

    Pho is a rice noodle that’s served in a flavorful soup with beef, bean sprouts, lime wedges, and greens such as basil, mint, cilantro, and onions. It's generally served with a side of chili sauce for added spice. A basic bowl contains tai (beef slices), bo vien (beef meatballs) or nam (beef flank), but diners can also opt for more exotic ingredients such as gan (beef tendon), sach (thinly-sliced pig stomach), and ve don (flank with cartilage). This popular breakfast option is widely available at any local restaurant or street market in Ho Chi Minh City.

    3

    Oc

    Oc refers to platters of Vietnamese shellfish that are prepared in varying methods and generally best enjoyed with a cold beer or 2. Due to its popularity, there are plenty of roadside stalls and inexpensive restaurants with raw snails, blood cockles, clams, shrimps, and crabs displayed out front. After selecting those that tickle your fancy, you can enjoy them broiled, sautéed, curried, or steamed. We highly recommend broiled mussels with scallion oil and peanuts (chem chep nuong), blood cockles sautéed in tamarind sauce (so huyet ran me), and clams steamed with lemongrass.

    4

    Com tam

    Com tam is actually ‘broken rice’ in Vietnamese and is usually served with fried egg, diced green onions, and a variety of meats such as suon nuong (barbecued pork chop), bi (shredded pork skin), and cha trung (steamed pork and egg patty). Diners can also enjoy this dish with a side of pickled vegetables, cucumber slices, and nuoc cham Vietnamese dipping sauce. Com tam can be enjoyed any time of the day as it is relatively inexpensive, with street markets and roadside food stalls selling for about VND 20,000 per bowl.

    5

    Goi cuon

    Goi cuon or Vietnamese spring rolls consist of vermicelli noodles, pork slices, shrimp, basil, and lettuce tightly wrapped in translucent banh trang (rice papers). Due to its very subtle flavor, you can dip it in a mix of freshly ground chili and hoisin-based dipping sauce topped with crushed peanuts. This traditional appetiser is a healthier alternate to cha gio, which is a deep-fried egg roll made with a combination of mung bean noodles, minced pork, and various spices.

    6

    Banh xeo

    Ban xeo is a savory pancake that’s made of rice flour, coconut milk, and turmeric, stuffed with ingredients such as pork slices, shrimps, sliced onions, bean sprouts, and button mushrooms. Unlike the ones you find in Nha Trang and Hanoi, ban xeo in Ho Chi Minh City is much smaller in portion as it is usually eaten as a snack or appetiser. The best way to enjoy ban xeo is by wrapping it in mustard leaf, lettuce leaves or rice wrappers, together with mint leaves, basil, herbs, and sweet fermented peanut butter sauce. Lastly, dip it in a sweet and sour fish sauce.

    7

    Hu tieu

    Hu tieu is a subtler version of pho noodles, featuring a clear pork-based broth, flat rice noodles, and an assortment of pork toppings. There are also countless variations available in Ho Chi Minh City, though the most popular one is hu tieu xuong, which is topped with pork ribs. Alternately, you can enjoy hu tieu with shrimp, squid, or fish if you’re not a fan of pork. A bowl of hu tieu is usually pretty reasonably priced at street stalls but can be a bit more expensive if you’re dining at more established restaurants.

    8

    Ca kho to

    Served in numerous Vietnamese restaurants within Ho Chi Minh City, ca kho to refers to catfish braised in a clay pot. This dish is prepared by cutting a whole catfish into fillets before it’s braised in a thick gravy made with a combination of soy sauce, fish sauce, sugar, shallots, garlic, and various spices and seasonings. Due to its intense sweet-salty flavor, ca kho to is always served with a plate of white rice.

    9

    Banh cuon

    Loosely wrapped in a steamed fermented rice sheet, banh cuon contains a mix of ground pork, minced wood ear mushroom, onions, Vietnamese ham (cha lua), steamed beansprouts, and cucumbers. You can easily spot vendors selling banh cuon in prominent marketplaces such as Cholon Market and Ben Thanh Market as well as local restaurants in Ho Chi Minh City. This traditional Vietnamese dish is sometimes topped with shrimp floss, cilantro, and herbs, with a sweet-sour dipping sauce made with fish extract, lime, and chili.

    10

    Bun Thit Nuong

    A hearty dish in Ho Chi Minh City, bun thit nuong features vermicelli rice noodles with freshly chopped lettuce, sliced cucumber, beansprouts, pickled daikon and carrot, basil, chopped peanuts, and mint, topped with broiled yet tender pork shoulder. Diners can also opt for bun thit nuong cha gio, which comes with crunchy slices of cha gio (deep-fried eggrolls). As with most Vietnamese dishes, you also get a side of nuoc cham sauce to mix into the bun thit nuong for a flavorful ensemble.

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