Food and travel, one of life’s great experience intersections. Although we enjoy our share of refined cuisine and elaborate meals at restaurants, it’s often our street food quests – raw on-the-ground journeys that convey authenticity – that yield some of life’s most revealing moments and enlighten us in unexpected ways.
Food generally serves as a natural gateway to a more profound understanding of culture and history, people and space. Street food draws us naturally to explore, to press further afield than we otherwise might, allowing us to make greater personal discoveries not only about the favors, but also the essence of the cultures they represent.
To you, we make the case that the active search for street food and novel street level culinary experiences not only fills the bowl, but also feeds the soul. Here is the list of memorable meals in Saigon running under the $1 mark. Of course, culinary delight need not to be achieved on the back of an empty wallet.
1.Xoi – Sticky rice
Saigonese love to eat steamed sticky rice. It is one of the most popular street food in this dynamic city. Elders, children and adults eat this kind of food in the morning for breakfast, in the afternoon or in the evening. In Saigon, you can find hundreds of food stalls selling sticky rice. Often these are served for breakfast as a filling main dish but some types are simple snacks, wrapped in paper and eaten on the run; toppings include coconut, steamed dried beans, peanuts…
Where to eat:
- Xôi gà Bà Chiểu – 318/1 Bui Huu Nghia, Ward 1, Binh Thanh District, HCMC.
Opening hours: 5 pm – 11.30 pm
- Xôi mặn 409 – 409 Tran Phu, Ward7, District 5, HCMC.
Opening hours: 4 pm – 12 am
- Xôi Cadé – 451 Tran Phu, Ward 7, District 5, HCMC.
Opening hours: 8 pm – 2 am
- Saigon Xôi Bắp Lady – 24 Nguyen Huu Cau, Tan Dinh Ward, District 1, HCMC.
Opening hours: 1 pm – 5 pm
2.Banh mi – Vietnamese baguette
It you’re planning on traveling to Vietnam, the one sandwich you will hear about and will not want to miss is the Banh Mi. This iconic sandwich has been consistently ranked as one of the best sandwiches in the world.
What is that makes this sandwich so fantastic that its notoriety is spreading across the world so quickly? As a cool and foodie, I appreciate the balance of the sandwich. It touches every sensation on my tongue perfectly and leaves nothing more to be desired from such a humble and simple sandwich. Layered with meat, smothered in pate and mayo, and topped with fresh herbs, pickles, and chili creates a texture and flavor party.
Where to eat:
- Bánh mì chả cá – 41/1 Nguyen Binh Khiem, Da Kao Ward, District 1, HCMC.
Opening hours: 6 am – 1 pm
- Bánh mì thịt nướng – alley 37 Nguyen Trai, Pham Ngu Lao Ward, District 1, HCMC.
Opening hours: 5 pm – 8 pm
- Bánh mì Bảy Hổ – 23 Huynh Khuong Ninh, Da Kao Ward, District 1, HCMC.
Opening hours: 2 pm – 5 pm
- Banh mì bì – 172 Tran Hung Dao, District 5, HCMC.
Opening hours: 5.30 am – 9 am/ 2 pm – 5 pm
Among the munchies in Saigon, bot chien is found on almost every street corner come sun down. Bot chien starts off as a scrambled mess of one or two eggs and fried rice flour cakes, pre-marinated in a secret sauce. The result of bot chien are little bite sized nuggets of crispy sticky rice flour, enriched with egg, and with a nice smoky flavor. A smattering of shredded turnip is then added to the batch and garnished with chopped green onion before being delivered to your table, where you then have the option too top it off with shredded young papaya.
Where to eat:
- Bột chiên – 190 Hai Thuong Lan Ong Street, Ward 24, District 5, HCMC.
Opening hours: 2 pm – 10 pm
- Bột chiên – alley 109 Nguyen Thien Thuat, District 3, HCMC.
Opening hours: 4 pm – 10 pm
4.Goi kho bo – Beef jerky papaya salad
Goi kho bo, also known as goi du du, is a spicy green papaya salad topped with beef jerky. This snack starts off with a smattering if shredded unripe papaya. It is then layered with roasted peanuts, strips of beef jerky, fried dough crackers, and chopped up basil and coriander. The special things of this meal are the two dressings: one a zesty chili sauce and other, a salty condiment whose base flavor is unknown. Remarkably enough, eve after the sauces are mixed together, the distinct flavors of sweet, spicy, and sour stay distinguishable.
Where to eat:
- Gỏi khô bò – opposite to Le Van Tam Park on Hai Ba Trung Street
Opening hours: 1 pm – 8 pm
- Gỏi khô bò – 107 Nguyen Van Thu, Da Kao Ward, District 1, HCMC.
Opening hours: 1.30 pm – 6.30 pm
This soup is a local Vietnamese street dish that not every traveler knows of. Even so, it can be found in any local market in Vietnam. however, it does seem as it Southern residents love eating this more than those in the North, so Saigon would be the ideal location for you to try this soup. Crab soup is called sup cua in Vietnamese. It is not really a proper meal and is usually served in a small bowl/cup for taking away. The Vietnamese usually have it for breakfast or as an afternoon snack for a fun hang out with friends. The main ingredients of the soup are crab meat, quail eggs, pig brain and other toppings such as mushroom, coriander, green onions, shredded chicken, shrimp, and century eggs.
Where to eat:
- Súp cua Thảo – Ho Thi Ky flower market, alley 57, Ho Thi Ky Street, District 10, HCMC.
Opening hours: 2.30 pm – 6 pm
- Súp cua Dũng – 5 Nguyen Huu Hao, Ward 8, District 4, HCMC.
Opening hours: 4.30 pm – 10 pm
- Súp cua nhà thờ Đức Bà – 84 Nguyen Du, Ben Nghe Ward, District 1, HCMC.
Opening hours: 4 pm – 9 pm
- Súp cua Hạnh – 517 Su Van Hanh, Ward 12, District 10, HCMC.
Opening hours: 6.15 am – 10.30 pm
6.Che – Sweet soup
Vietnamese desserts stand out amongst most other sweet dishes worldwide because of the unique, out-of-the-box ingredients added in preparing them. Those having a sweet along with the desire to explore a variety of delicacies would find extreme delight in trying out the Che, a traditional name for any pudding, dessert soup and beverage in Vietnam, made from kidney beans, mung beans, cassava, taro, tapioca, jelly and much more. The south of Vietnam has 2 main seasons, rain and dry. Just like fruit, Che is seasonal and exceptional fresh. It’s a treat that might be bizarre at first for non-Vietnamese person but there’s no doubt that it will leave you wanting more.
Where to eat:
- Chè mâm Khánh Vy – 242B Su Van Hanh, District 10, HCMC.
Opening hours: 5 pm – 10.30 pm
- Chè Hà Ký – 138 Chau Van Liem, Ward 11, District 5, HCMC.
Opening hours: 2 pm – 11 pm
- Chè thập cẩm – at the corner of Nguyen Phi Khanh and Tran Quang Khai streets, 142 Nguyen Phi Khanh, Tan Dinh Ward, District 1, HCMC.
Opening hours: 11 am – 4 pm
- Bé Chè – Ben Thanh Market, stall No.1154-1130, District 1, HCMC.
Opening hours: 7 am – 5.30 pm
- Thạch chè Hiển Khánh – 718 Nguyen Dinh Chieu, Ward 1, District 3, HCMC.
Opening hours: 9 am – 12.30 pm, 2.30 pm – 10.30 pm