10 best Ho Chi Minh dishes (part 1)

The best Ho Chi Minh City dishes 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 top must-try foods in Ho Chi Minh City are not only hearty and filling but also cost less than VND 40,000 per dish. 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 is priced between VND 10,000 and VND 15,000, with 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 (grilled pork loin), and xa xiu (Chinese barbecued pork).

2. Pho

Pho is rice noodle that’s served in a flavourful soup with beef, bean sprouts, lime wedges, and greens such as basil, mint, cilantro, and onions with a side of chilli 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 priced between VND 20,000 and VND 30,000 at any local restaurant or street market in Ho Chi Minh City.

3. Oc

Best enjoyed with cold beers, oc refers to platters of Vietnamese shellfish that are prepared in varying methods. 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 strike your fancy, you can enjoy them grilled, sautéed, curried, or steamed. Priced at VND 20,000 onwards, we highly recommend grilled 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, 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 comprise 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 appetizer is a healthier alternative to cha gio, which is a deep-fried egg roll made with a combination of mung bean noodles, minced pork, and various spices.

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