These are simple yet delicious dishes. Look yummy?
1. Broken rice
Cơm tấm (broken rice) with bì and chả
Cơm tấm, or broken rice, used to be called “poor people’s rice” since it was made from grains that broke during harvest or cleaning and were sold cheap.
Over the years it has become a popular dish for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
It is usually served with grilled pork ribs, bì (thinly shredded pork mixed with cooked and thinly shredded pork skin) or chả (a mix of steamed eggs, crab meat, ground pork meat, Jew’s ear mushroom, and vermicelli) or both.
It can be found almost everywhere in Ho Chi Minh City and the southern provinces, from street stalls with plastic stools and tables to fancy air-conditioned restaurants.
2. Kuy teav
Hủ tiếu sa tế (Chinatown satay noodle soup)
There are around 20 different versions of hủ tiếu (kuy teav) – a noodle soup consisting of rice noodles with pork stock and toppings – in HCMC.
The most famous ones are hủ tiếu Nam Vang (Phnom Penh rice noodle soup), hủ tiếu sa tế (Chinatown satay noodle soup) and hủ tiếu Mỹ Tho (My Tho rice noodle soup).
There is also a dry version (without soup and with sauce) of kuy teav.
3. Bánh mì
Bánh mì xíu mại (Vietnamese sandwich served with Chinese meatballs)
Bánh mì (Vietnamese sandwich) is so famous that it has entered the Oxford English Dictionary. It defines bánh mì as “a Vietnamese snack consisting of a baguette (traditionally baked with both rice and wheat flour) filled with a variety of ingredients, typically including meat, pickled vegetables, and chili peppers.”
The best bánh mì should be grilled over coals, with the crispy shell filled with meat, crunchy pickled vegetables, and fresh herbs, smeared with mayonnaise and pâté, and seasoned with a few drops of soy sauce and a spicy chili condiment.
Saigonese have many choices of filling for bánh mì — like thịt nướng (grilled pork),xíu mại (Chinese meatballs known as shu mai in Chinese), and chả cá (deep-fried fish paste).
4. Fried rice flour cakes
Bột chiên (fried rice flour cakes)
Bột chiên (fried rice flour cakes) is a dish that originated in China and has become a popular street snack in Saigon.
It is made from rice flour cakes chopped into chunky squares and fried in a large flat pan with whipped eggs and green onion.
It’s served crisp with a sweet rice vinegar and soy sauce concoction and some shredded pickled young papaya and carrot to cool down the dish.
5. Mixed rice paper
Bánh tráng trộn (mixed rice paper)
Bánh tráng trộn (mixed rice paper) is the favorite snack of teenagers in Saigon. It is like a salad made of shredded rice paper mixed with jerky, dried shrimps, roasted peanuts, boiled quail eggs, shredded mangoes, fried onions, and herbs.
It is seasoned with chili sauce, salt, cashew oil, and onion oil until it is sour, spicy, salty, and sweet at the same time.
The dish can be found anywhere in Saigon but the most famous street for bánh tráng trộn is Nguyen Thuong Hien in District 3.
6. Papaya salad
Gỏi đủ đủ (papaya salad)
Gỏi đu đủ (papaya salad) is made of shredded papaya, rice crackers, sliced jerky, roasted peanuts, and herbs seasoned with chili sauce.
It is usually sold on carts pulled by street vendors. The most famous spot to buy this dish is in front of Le Van Tam Park on Hai Ba Trung Street.
7. Pork and shrimp rolls
Gỏi cuốn (pork and shrimp rolls)
Gỏi cuốn (pork and shrimp rolls) is one of the healthiest snacks in Saigon. It is made of tightly wrapped rice paper bundles filled with sliced pork, shrimp, vermicelli noodles, herbs, and vegetables. A Hoisin sauce topped with crushed peanuts and chili is often served on the side for dipping.
8. Phá lấu
Phá lấu served with bánh mì
Phá lấu is pig/cow intestines boiled down to a soft texture in a salty broth. It can be served with bánh mì (Vietnamese sandwich) or noodles.
9. Sweet soup
A bowl of chè (sweet soup)
Chè (sweet soup) is the perfect dessert in always-hot Saigon. There are a myriad of sweet soups differentiated by origin, taste or ingredients.
Ốc hương, a popular snail dish
If one comes to Saigon for the first time, chances are they will be invited first to a coffee shop and then to an ốc (snail) eatery.
Saigon is famous for many kinds of snails and diverse styles of cooking.