There is no doubt that Ho Chi Minh City is a paradise for street foods and cheap eats. In almost every street you can find stalls, vendors selling foods all days, especially in the late afternoon to evening. In this guide, we will have a review of 3 cheap eats in Ho Chi Minh City that many locals opt for.
There are many ways for you to enjoy street foods in Vietnam. You can find quick snacks or full meals, sweet treats in any of these street foods places. The stalls could be mobile or settled at one place.
Outdoor eateries. You will see many stores in Ho Chi Minh City with a small stall at the front, some tables inside the house as well as all the way to the outside. The stalls are fixed at these houses (usually the sellers’ houses), so you can easily come back for another meal again.
Pop-up stalls. These pop-up restaurants are street vendors with a mobile stall, but they usually stand at one place that they can sell the most. Sometimes, the vendors only have a few bags or a carrying pole containing tools and ingredients, along with a stack of plastic chairs with them. They will place these plastic chairs out when customers come and clear out when the police patrol the areas.
Take-away. In order not to be caught by patrols, the vendors only push or carry their stalls around or settle at one place and selling prepared foods that they have already put in boxes and bags. You come to their stalls, order, pay for the foods and go. There are no seats for you to stay around. You can eat while strolling down a street or in a park.
The below is an independent review of us on the 3 places to have cheap eats in Ho Chi Minh City that are favored by many Vietnamese, especially the students and office workers.
The alley is located in Ho Chi Minh downtown, about a 15-minute walk from the Saigon Opera House, surrounded by many office buildings. It is a dead-end alley with a narrow and crowded entrance. You will see the two rows of vendors lining up on the two sides first, and when you get through them, you will find a parking lot for motorbikes and bikes (VND 5,000/bike), and an area with plastic tables and chairs. You can order the food and bring it to the tables to eat. Vendors here sell a variety of foods from noodles, rice to summer rolls, banh trang nuong (Vietnamese pizza), and stir-fried corn.
Price range: VND 10,000 - VND 20,000
Opening hours: usually from 3 PM to 6 PM
The tables and chairs in the eating area are cleaned, but the old brick tiled floor is a bit messy. The locals may have no problem with it, but if you have an easily upset stomach, we wouldn’t recommend coming to this place to try street foods.
Banh trang nuong (Vietnamese pizza)
This Vietnamese pizza filling is a mixture of ground pork, shrimp flakes, two quail eggs, butter, and green onion, topped with a bit of mayonnaise and chili sauce. You can have one for VND 12,000. That is the average price of a Vietnamese pizza, but the ingredients used in this one are quite stale.
Bap xao (stir-fried corn)
This Bap xao has the standard ingredients like corn, shrimp flakes and green onion, stir-fried with butter. The price is VND 15,000 for one serving without egg and VND 20,000 with an extra egg. There are little shrimp flakes, but the stir-fried corn is buttery, savory and flavorful.
Bo bia (popiah)
The price is VND 20,000 for 5 rolls. Ingredients of Vietnamese popiah are usually poached/steamed/stir-fried julienne carrot and Chinese water chestnut, lettuce, Chinese sausage, and fried beaten eggs. Strangely, this popiah was also added with Bun (Vietnamese vermicelli), which is a typical ingredient of Goi cuon (summer rolls). But the dipping sauce is quite good, savory and peanutty.
Pennywort and Passion Fruit Drink. VND 10,000 each
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Located in a district for food-lovers, District 4, this alley has a wide variety of foods to offer such as basket clam noodle, sticky rice, banh beo (water-fern cake), snails, offal stew, and sweets like sugar-coated banana, che - sweet soup, and sugar cane juice. You can park your bikes at nearby schools around this area and walk to the shop for food. There are stores and mobile stalls alike from one end to another of the alley. This place is also a bit more spacious than an average alley, where you can drive your bikes easily.
Price range: varies
Opening hours: usually from 3 PM to 7 PM
At one end of the alley, there are 4 stalls next to each other selling pha lau, oc, che, and nuoc mia.
Pha lau (offal stew)
This Pha lau store has a place to park your bikes across it (for free if you are going to eat at the store). VND 20,000/bowl with one loaf of bread. The offal is stewed in a light curry soup, a bit chewier than expected, but the soup and fish sauce is nice.
The price is about VND 40,000/dish, depends on the dishes you order. This store offers many types of seafood like snails and clams as well as balut. There are different ways to prepare for different kinds of snails, but they are usually boiled, stir-fried or grilled.
Garlic snail stir-fried with garlic
Blood cockles stir-fried with tamarind sauce
Oc bong (snails with dotted pattern with smooth white shell) stir-fried with spicy butter sauce
Read more on A guide to Snails on a Plate.
Che (sweet soup)
This sweet soup is che thap cam, which is a mixture of almost all the ingredients they had (mung beans, red beans, white beans, jelly, and coconut milk. It is good for a VND 15,000 drink.
If you are a sweet tooth, this che is what you should try.
Read more on Vietnamese desserts you must try.
Nuoc mia (sugar cane juice)
You can have this glass of sugarcane juice for only VND 6,000. The drink is refreshing, not too sweet, a perfect drink to balance with the spicy and oily foods.
This food street in District 3 is famous for banh trang tron (a rice paper mix). You can find many stalls lining up selling this delicious street food along with snails, khoai lac, xoai lac (veggies and fruits shake), and fruits drink. Except for snails and some drink stores, there are no tables or chairs for you to sit down. You simply shop and go. The food selling area starts from one end where it crosses Nguyen Dinh Chieu and to the other end at the intersection with Nguyen Thi Minh Khai.
Price range: varies
Opening hours: usually from 5 PM
Banh trang cuon (rice paper mix roll)
For VND 15,000 you can have a box of rice paper mix roll. In the roll that is cut into small pieces, all of the ingredients of rice paper mix like shrimp flakes, beef liver jerky, Vietnamese coriander, and fried shallots are rolled up. The soy sauce, shaved unripe mango, one boiled quail egg, and one fried quail egg are put aside. It is a good snack with a balance of savory and sour, soft and crunchy.
Khoai lang lac pho mai (sweet potato with cheese powder)
This snack could easily fill you up because of the starch in the baked sweet potatoes. The cheese powder gives the sweet potatoes enough saltiness and flavor. The price is VND 20,000 for one bag.
Strawberry smoothies. VND 20,000/glass
Orange juice. VND 15,000/glass
There are many other food streets across Ho Chi Minh City. These 3 streets are famous with the locals because they are near the city center and offer foods and snacks at a low price. The quality of the foods is accordance with the price offered, but it is definitely where you can find many locals in their daily life.
What cheap eats have you tried in Ho Chi Minh City? Share with our other readers your review in the comment section below.
Related article: Places to eat and drink in Ho Chi Minh City
The Hai Ba Trung Alley was near my hotel and a close walking distance to reach. I went at around 5 PM and it was really crowded, mostly locals. Overall, it was a good experience but the cleanliness of some stalls are a bit sketchy.