Must-Try Local Dishes
Below is a list of dishes that are unique to Vietnam and, in particular, to Ho Chi Minh City. They can be found at any number of restaurants. For specific restaurant recommendations, please keep reading.
If you are looking for an easy snack to enjoy with a cup of coffee, seek out one of the many stalls selling Che Com.
Che Com is made from sticky glutinous rice and is filled with caramel, ginger, and cashews or peanuts. It can be recognized by its gingery aroma and looks something like a small round muffin.
No trip to Vietnam would be complete without a bowl of the iconic Pho noodles. A relatively simple dish with many variations, expect a clear broth full of thick noodles topped with spices and fresh basil.
Easy on the stomach and easy to find, eating a quick bowl of Pho can be a satisfying way to experience the local culture.
Similar to a spring roll, Be Thui is a classic dish that features roasted calf meat wrapped in rice paper. Dipped in shrimp paste or chili sauce and filled with coriander and green banana, these are spring rolls of a variety you won't be able to find at home.
Refreshing Must-Try Beverages
Vietnamese Coffee (Ca Phe)
Vietnam is also a major producer of Robusta coffee. Bitter and strong, a traditional cup of Ca Phe is served with a few spoonfuls of sugar. Ca Phe Sua Da (or coffee with milk) can be a gentler approach for less seasoned coffee drinkers.
Typically served in small metal drip filters over ice, Vietnamese coffee will keep you alert and full of energy on a long trip.
After a few minutes in Vietnam, you will surely notice the abundance of fresh fruit for sale. At many fruit stalls and nearby shops, you can find any number of fresh fruit smoothies. Paired with a bowl of Pho, these smoothies make for an excellent addition to any lunch.
Bia (beer) is beloved and enjoyed in Vietnam both with and without food. Restaurants will typically serve beers made in the region. To the Western traveler, Vietnamese beer will seem light, slightly sweet, and generally low in alcohol.
Saigon and Saigon Red are two of the best-selling beers in the country but keep your eyes open as many types of Vietnamese beers are only sold locally and you may only have one chance to try one you see.
Where to Eat Breakfast
Try the Saigon Coffee Roastery for a light breakfast and cup of famous Vietnamese coffee. With air-conditioned seating and a vegan-friendly menu, customers can expect a comfortable atmosphere and a friendly staff. The Roastery serves local varieties of coffee and has a mixed menu that changes frequently.
151/5 Dong Khoi St, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City 700000, Vietnam
If you need something more filling to eat or prefer brunch to breakfast, try Red Bean De Tham Restaurant. This is an excellent location to try either local breakfast dishes or something more familiar. Expect dim lighting and a soft atmosphere that pairs well with a slow and sleepy morning.
216 De Tham Street | Pham Ngu Lao Ward, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
Where to Eat Lunch
You cannot leave Ho Chi Minh City and say you have tried the local cuisine without sampling some of the delicious local street food. Steaming bowls of noodles with fried vegetables and meat dot the winding streets and alleys of Ho Chi Minh City, each featuring its own take on historic Vietnamese dishes.
Navigating the numerous vendors can be a challenge. Knowing what to buy and where can be even more difficult. If you travel with Asia Highlights, our local guides can provide you with information about the history and production of the various foods you may want to try.
Check out this link for more information on our Taste of the Mekong Tour: 9-Day Taste of the Mekong Delta Tour.
Where to Eat Dinner
Whether you prefer Vietnamese food or something more familiar, be sure to stop at Nhu Lan Restaurant at least once while you are in Ho Chi Minh City. Nhu Lan is famous for its Vietnamese-style sandwiches.
If you are not familiar with Vietnamese history, it might be surprising that one of the favored local dishes in HCMC has bread in it when the country seems so taken with rice and noodles.
During the French occupation of the country, the baguette was introduced into the Vietnamese diet. Over time, the sandwich became a staple of the local diet and began to feature local ingredients like fresh mint, shredded pork, and sometimes even mango or other fruits.
50–64–68 Ham Nghi St, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City 70000, Vietnam
Let Asia Highlights Buy You Dinner
The safest way to travel to any new country is as part of a tour group. Our guides are familiar with local dining etiquette and practices as well as the safest and cleanest places to eat. Look at the tour options below to find the best fit for you.
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