In 2016, CNN channel affectionately recognized Saigon to be a capital of Vietnamese cuisine. In Saigon, you can find the best dishes from all regions in Vietnam: the North, the Central, and the South. The natives in Saigon have been accustomed to eating food at local places instead of going to a restaurant. As a traveler, if you want to try out the local places instead of touristy places, check out these local places to eat in Saigon.
Saigonese starts their morning quite early to leave for school or work, so people tend to have a quick grab of banh mi or xoi as breakfast. Nonetheless, it is also possible if you want to enjoy the morning at a slower pace with an icy ca phe sua da after some pho or broken rice.
With witty creativity and a strong passion for food, the Vietnamese have successfully renovated the French baguette into the world-renowned banh mi. The secret to a good banh mi lies in many different factors: the warm and crunchy bread, the savory paté, and the ridiculously good fillings. A big bite of banh mi offers a heavenly buttery and savory taste, not to mention the fresh cucumbers and cilantro, the crispy sound of freshly baked baguettes, which will satisfy all of your senses.
Address: 53 Cao Thang Street, Ward 3, District 3
Opening time: 6 AM - 11 AM
Price range: VND 32,000 - VND 54,000
A full set of Banh mi Hoa Ma
Opened in 1958, banh mi Hoa Ma is arguably the one that invented banh mi in the “sandwich style” that we have today. When they first started, the baguettes were initially served in the French style - with fried eggs and hams on the side. At that time, however, most of their customers were students and blue-collar workers, so nobody had the time to sit back and enjoy their meal. Consequently, the owners came up with the solution which is to put all the meat and paté inside the bread to serve the people in their rush. Now you can have their banh mi in both styles, either as takeouts or directly from the sizzling pans on the table.
The rustic com tam is served with a plethora of ingredients on top of the rice. There are suon nuong (marinated pork chops) garnished with mo hanh (scallions and oil), cha trung (steam egg meatloaf), bi (shredded pork skin), fried egg, and some pickles. The dish is only completed with a little special fish sauce drizzled on top. Besides the basic com tam suon nuong, you can also choose com tam ga (grilled chicken), com tam cha ca (grill fish cakes), and com tam thit ba roi (grilled bacon).
Address: 84 Dang Van Ngu, Ward 10, Phu Nhuan District
Opening time: 7:30 AM to 9:30 PM
Price range: VND 50,000 - VND 83,000
A dish of Com Tam Ba Ghien with pork chop
Arguably the best com tam in the city, Saigonese has loved Ba Ghien for more than 20 years. Com tam Ba Ghien brings you a feast, rather than just a dish, because a plate of com tam in this place is notorious for its significantly huge marinated ribs. The price is not so cheap compared to other com tam stalls, but this place is guaranteed to not disappoint you in any way.
Vietnamese prefers to have a big lunch at home with their family members. On the table, besides the rice, a must-have in any Vietnamese meals, there are some certain kinds of soup such as canh chua (Vietnamese sour soup) and some braised pork or braised fish. Having said that, if family meals are not your forté, there is a wide selection of Vietnamese lunches you can choose from.
Bun bo Hue is a precious gem from Central Vietnam - the one dish that can proudly compete with the internationally famous pho. Its smell and the taste are much stronger (spicier and saltier) than pho because of mam ruoc (small shrimp paste). Don’t worry if you are not familiar with the pungent smell; any skillful bun bo maker will know how to strike a balance with the help of spices like lemongrass. A bowl of bun bo used to be quite simple with a few slices of beef. The modern version of bun bo is accompanied with several options like chewy huyet (blood cakes), crunchy cha ca (fish cakes) or cha cua (crab cakes), and the soft and juicy mong heo (pig foot) or gio heo (pig shank).
Address: 113 Ba Huyen Thanh Quan, Ward 6, District 3
Opening time: 7 AM - 10:30 PM
Price: VND 50,000
A bowl of Bun bo Ut Hung with herbs
Ut Hung has been around for more than 20 years. Although bun bo Hue in Saigon has minor alterations to fit the appetite of the locals, which are mostly immigrants, bun bo Ut Hung still sticks to the traditional Hue flavor. The place is apparently crowded with hungry customers but the service is totally reliable.
Among the great number of noodles in Vietnam, bun rieu is the hidden treasure. It is cooked from a complex mixture of crab pasted, pieces of tofu, shellfish, and tomatoes, which add such special, slightly sour kick to the broth. Bun rieu across Vietnam may come with different ingredients, but their taste is still similar. Bun rieu is usually enjoyed with some vegetables and mam tom - the stinky but delicious paste, and a squeeze of lime juice to keep a balance and give the soup the signature citrusy taste.
Location: 4 Phan Boi Chau Street, Ben Thanh Ward, District 1
Opening time: 9:30 AM - 7 PM
Price: VND 50,000
Outside of Bun Rieu Ganh
The standard bowl of Bun rieu
A little-known fact is that most of the bun rieu places in Saigon are merely street food vendors. Bun Rieu Ganh is one of the best places to eat in Saigon. Their bun rieu have been Saigonese favorite comfort food for more than 30 years. Used to be a hawker with a carrying pole and pots of bun rieu, the owner of Bun Rieu Ganh has now opened a small store near her old spot on Phan Boi Chau Street, West Gate of Ben Thanh Market.
Same with lunch, dinner with family members at home is the best rejuvenating medicine after a tiring day in Vietnamese belief. However, if there is too little time to cook, people would also love to dine out. Here are a few dishes and places to eat in Saigon in the evening.
Banh xeo, a famous food across Vietnam, has a good many of savory fillings: slices of cooked pork, spawns and bean sprouts. The word “xeo” describes the sizzling sound in Vietnamese when the batter hits the heated pan. Banh xeo is served with a plate full of vegetables. Use some vegetables to wrap a small piece of banh xeo and don’t be afraid of getting your hand dirty and dip it straight up in the sweet and sour fish sauce to have a “finger-licking good” experience.
Address: 46A Dinh Cong Trang, Tan Dinh Ward, District 1
Opening time: 10 AM - 2 PM and 4 PM - 9 PM
Price range: VND 80,000 - VND 135,000
A plate of Banh xeo 46A
Banh xeo Dinh Cong Trang is famous to many foreign visitors as the restaurants the late Anthony Bourdain went to. The place has a diverse menu of traditional Southern-Vietnamese culinary goodness, but banh xeo is in the top-favorites. This place is also near Tan Dinh Church and Tan Dinh Market, quite famous attractions of Ho Chi Minh City.
If you are looking for a light dinner but still wish to challenge yourself, then chao long is the impeccable choice. In spite of the standard porridge cooking method, in which the broth is simmered with pig’s bone to obtain the delightful sweetness, the excitement about chao long is the pig’s offals, which can be a little strange for people who are not used to eating the intestines. To be like any local gourmet, don’t hesitate to ask for a couple of chao quay - a kind of deep-fried batter, to put in the smoking hot bowl of chao long; it will add a little texture and make the porridge a bit cooler to eat.
Address: 170B Vo Thi Sau, Ward 8, District 3
Opening time: 11 AM - 10:30 PM
Price range: VND 44,000 - VND 50,000
There are plenty of places to eat in Saigon and the one in Vo Thi Sau Street, with spacious location and lovely food, is one of the most renowned chao long places. The secret lies in the incredibly tasteful broth - one taste and you cannot help wanting more. Not to mention the great many of the pig’s offals make the porridge much more pleasing.
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Pho Hoa is reputable that almost all Saigon citizens know about this store. Pho Hoa is well-known for their “Pho” - traditional beef noodle soup of Vietnam. Pho Hoa has been handed down from generation to generation since the 1970s until now.
Pho Hoa from outside
Their “Pho” is cooked according to the old family recipe. To ensure the consistent quality of the dish, they only run one store, and there are no more branches anywhere else although the number of their guest is getting higher.
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At Pho Hoa, you can choose to enjoy your bowl of Pho with many kinds of beef, such as well-done beef flank, rare beef slices, tendon, tripe, beef balls, brisket, or ask for a combination of them all. This is called a "Pho dac biet".
Pho is often used with fresh Vietnamese herbs. When you sit in, there is always a plate of fresh herbs on the table. These herbs bring out and enhance the unique flavor making the pho more exquisite and delicious.
Delicious bowls of Pho
Locals eating Pho usually make a side dipping sauce with either the black sauce known as the hoisin sauce (made from soybeans) and/or the red chili sauce.
Address: 260C Pasteur Street, Ward 8, District 1
Opening time: 7 AM - 10 PM every day
Pho - VND 70,000 for normal size and VND 80,000 for a special size.
Besides, Pho Hoa also offers several other Vietnamese dishes such as spring rolls, summer rolls, cakes, and drinks with prices from VND 5,000 to VND 60,000.
Pho is considered as a traditional dish of Northern Vietnam in Hanoi. However, Pho Le has changed their cooking recipe to suit the Southerner’s taste, preferencing a sweeter soup base, so that Saigon locals can be more enjoyable with their Pho.
Pho Le is one of the most long-standing local places in Saigon. It was first established in the 1960s. Pho Le has grown with many Saigon locals since they were young. This is one of the places to eat an authentic pho in Ho Chi Minh City.
413 - 415 Nguyen Trai Street, Ward 7, District 5
303 - 305 Vo Van Tan Street, Ward 5, District 3
Opening time: 6 AM - 1 AM (the next day)
At Pho Le, you can order drinks such as Coffee, iced green tea, and fresh coconuts with prices from VND 15,000 to VND 25,000.
Ca Can has been a famous brand in Saigon for many decades. The Ca Can brand has been well-known since it first appeared in the 1970s when Mr. Ca Can and his wife were civil servants before opening this store. Mrs. Ca Can was good at cooking and Mr. Ca Can was good at external communication, so their store attracted many people at that time. However, Mr. Ca Can’s family then emigrated to Canada. Until the 1990s, they came back to Saigon and re-opened the Ca Can brand again.
Hu tieu Ca Can
At Hu Tieu Ca Can, you have 2 options for the noodles: dry “Hu Tieu” and soup “Hu Tieu”. With dry “Hu Tieu”, you are served a bowl of rice noodles mixed with the special unique sauce and a small bowl of hot soup on the side. The soup “Hu Tieu” is self-explanatory with the noodles served together with the soup base.
The Hu Tieu noodle is a specialty dish originating from Phnom Penh. However, it has been changed to be more suitable with the Vietnamese taste. A bowl of Hu Tieu includes various ingredients: pork chop, ground meat, boiled quail egg, shrimp, liver, chives, onion, lettuce, fried shallots, bean sprouts, etc.
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Except for Hu Tieu, you can also enjoy Banh Bao (steamed buns) Ca Can. They offer various kinds of filling for the steamed buns. The guests can choose ground meat, boiled quail eggs, salted duck eggs, or char siu (a kind of barbecued pork).
Address: 213 - 215 Nguyen Tri Phuong, Ward 9, District 5 (at the intersection of Nguyen Tri Phuong and Hung Vuong Street)
Opening time: 6 AM to 2 AM
Hu Tieu: VND 65,000 - VND 85,000
Banh bao: VND 35,000+
If Pho is a traditional dish of Hanoi then Saigon has Com Tam (Broken Rice). Broken Rice is a local dish of Saigon that can be easily found everywhere in Saigon, especially around breakfast and lunch hours. Yes, people just love it that much. But if you want to find local places to eat in Saigon, Com Tam Nguyen Phi Khanh is highly recommended. At Com Tam Nguyen Phi Khanh, they are known for their specialty called Cha cua (grilled ground meat and crab).
Com Tam Nguyen Phi Khanh
Address: 113 Nguyen Phi Khanh Street, Tan Dinh Ward, District 1
Opening time: 6 AM - 1 PM
Price range: VND 20,000 - VND 55,000
Com Tam Thuan Kieu is one of the biggest restaurant chains of Broken Rice in Saigon. Com Tam Thuan Kieu was established before 1975 and now it has expanded to nearly 10 outlets in Saigon. Coming here, visitors are often surprised by the huge slices of grilled meat. In spite of being famous for the Broken Rice, Com Tam Thuan Kieu also offers a variety of Vietnamese family meals. A vegetarian option is available to be paired with broken rice.
A plate of Broken Rice at Com Tam Thuan Kieu with various combo toppings
Centrally located addresses:
26 Ton That Tung Street, Ben Thanh Ward, District 1
114 Yersin Street, Nguyen Thai Binh Ward, Districts 1
Opening time: 10 AM - 8 PM (hours of specific stores vary)
Price range: VND 30,000 - VND 100,000
Another long-standing food store in Saigon is Chao Muc Thanh Son that has been in operation for more than 30 years. This special local dish is an uncommon find and there are not many local places to eat in Saigon like it.
The store’s classical signboard
The restaurant can be easily spotted with a trolley at the front. A bowl of squid porridge consists of raw bean sprouts, pork skin, spring onion, dried squid, and some slices of fresh ginger. The secret to a good porridge is cooked with dried shrimp to become sweeter and tastier.
Bowls of Squid Porridge
Besides, Thanh Son also serves “banh canh cua” (crab rice noodle soup), another famous dish of Saigon. The bowls of crab rice noodle soup look so tempting with the orange soup base and crab meat.
Address: 144 Nguyen Dinh Chieu, Ward 6, District 3
Opening time: 9:00 AM - 11:00 PM every day
Price range: VND 30,000 - VND 42,000
Learn more about what to eat in Southern Vietnam.
Hoang Ty Restaurant has become a familiar brand with Saigon citizens. This chain of restaurants specializes in the traditional dish from Trang Bang, Tay Ninh - a province in Vietnam. Two specialties of the restaurant are rice noodles (banh canh) and rice paper (banh trang).
The rice noodle at Hoang Ty is praised for its pure and tasty soup with the soft white noodle. And the Trang Bang rice paper is not transparent but has a white and a rough surface. The taste is also a bit saltier than normal rice paper used in spring rolls. You would use the Trang Bang rice paper to make a roll, which includes lean slices of pork, fresh herbs (another specialty about the Trang Bang rice paper rolls), vegetables, and pickled carrot and radish as the filling. Then you would dip the rolls in a sweet fish sauce to enhance the favors.
Trang Bang rice paper and lean meat
Address: 70 - 72 Vo Van Tan, Ward 6, District 3
Opening time: 9 AM to 10 PM
Price range: VND 50,000 - VND 160,000 per person
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Saigon is well-known not only by its history but also by its diversified cuisines. Saigon locals are considered to be a connoisseur of food places. Make sure to stop by one of these local places to eat in Saigon for your off-the-beaten-path travel experience. Check out more wonderful foods, drinks, and where to find them in Saigon here!
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Leah has taken me and my family to the best places for Vietnamese food, your food tour is absolutely the best