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6 Tasty Saigon Food Experiences

Saigon Vietnam is a city teeming with motorbikes, coffee and soup. At least that’s what we found during our two-week exploration of the Saigon food scene. Read on if you’re wondering what to eat in Saigon.

How To Eat in Saigon Food- A Ho Chi Minh City Food Guide

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With a population exceeding 8 million people, rapidly growing Saigon rumbles with activity on every corner like a machine with chainlike lines of never-ending scooters that streak through some of the busiest intersections in the world.

The Saigon food scene is for real. There’s literally great food on every block from Southern Vietnamese style Pho to what seems to be a million variations on bun or rice noodles.

Saigon vs. Ho Chi Minh City

Though the city’s official name is now Ho Chi Minh City, many in the electric city calls it Saigon. That’s what we call it too.

Regardless of whether you choose to use Saigon or Ho Chi Minh City, you’ll quickly notice that the city loves Banh Mi. You’ll find the Vietnamese submarine sandwiches everywhere – the Banh Mi was invented in Saigon after all. Northern specialties like Banh Cuon are also popular. You will never get bored eating Saigon food!

If that’s not enough, you can always enjoy a seafood celebration in one of the many seafood halls that seem to be everywhere. We encountered one seafood joint with a ginormous king crab lurking in a tank for all to see.

If you’re still wondering where to eat in Saigon – the answer is everywhere.

Saigon Food Experiences Not to Miss

Saigon is a great city to sample a wide selection of the best food in Vietnam. The city serves up local specialties like Pho on practically every street, but it’s also easy to find a wide selection of traditional Vietnamese food from all over the country.

But where should a tourist start? We won’t pretend to be Saigon cuisine experts after two weeks of eating our way through the city; however, we happily share our favorite ways of eating (and drinking coffee) in this Vietnamese mega-city here.

1. Take a Saigon Food Tour

Saigon Street Eats Food Tour
To us, the best part of the Saigon Street Eats food tour was the picnic lunch at a temple. Tour guide Vu assembled a variety of foods from the market for us to eat al fresco.

We have an ongoing love-hate relationship with food tours. We love the idea of taking food tours to learn about the culinary aspects of a city while bonding with local experts and like-minded travelers. At the same time, we hate dumbed-down tours that waste our time and bore our taste buds.

We gambled with Saigon Street Eats when we accepted their invitation for their Pho Trail morning food tour. Owned and managed by a food-loving Australian-Vietnamese couple, this tour company falls into the good category of food tours. Co-owner Vu guided us around a non-touristy Saigon neighborhood for pho, market food, sugar cane juice and a temple picnic.

During the tour, Vu shared food and food tips as we wandered with purpose, plus some valuable tips on how to cross the city’s busy streets. We won’t tell you exactly where we went as that would just ruin the fun when you take this Ho Chi Minh City food tour yourself.

Tour Tip

Click here to learn more about taking a Saigon street food tour with Saigon Street Eats.

2. Eat Saigon Street Food

Street Food Vendor in Saigon Vietnam
This street vendor cooks up a mean Bot Chien. We liked it so much that we came back for seconds.

Some cities like Paris and Tokyo demand an exploration of their fine dining scenes. Saigon is not one of them.

Sure, Saigon is a big city with its fair share fancy restaurants, but the best way to eat in Saigon is by taking it to the street. Each block in the city has multiple casual restaurants plus a myriad of vendors serving homespun food right on the sidewalk. Popular Vietnamese street food includes Banh Mi sandwiches and Bot Chien (pictured above).

Banh Canh in Saigon Vietnam
We found this bowl of Banh Canh on the sidewalk near Maison Marou. Loaded with seafood, wide noodles and mushrooms, it was well worth its cost of around $2 US.

There are tons of internet lists with recommended street food vendors, but we found our favorite Saigon street food vendors by following our eyes and noses.

Our preferred technique is to see where and what the local crowds are eating and then plop down on a little plastic chair to join them. The risk is low since prices are so reasonable, but the taste rewards are boundless.

3. Slurp Soup

Soup in Saigon Vietnam
Saigon is a soup city! This bowl includes meat, noodles and a ton of fresh herbs.

In many ways, Saigon serves as a “best of” for Vietnamese cuisine. If you look hard enough and research a Ho Chi Minh food blog or two, you can find all of the country’s specialties done with a Saigon twist.

Soup is no exception to this rule. Hanoi may be the original home for Pho, but Saigon does its own sweeter version. How about Bun Bo Hue? Yep, you can easily find this Central Vietnam favorite in Saigon too.

As an extra bonus, most Saigon soup shops provide copious amounts of fresh herbs like Thai Basil, Mint, Culantro (a heartier stemmed relative to cilantro) and Rice Paddy Herb. In Saigon, you can also add pickled garlic and a slew of condiments to the big bowls of soup.

Video Alert

Watch our Soup Night Video to see us eat soup in Saigon.

4. Graze through a Saigon Market

Vietnam is a country with more than its fair share of natural resources, and there’s no better place to check out the bounty of HCMC food options than at a local market. Ben Thanh Market is the city’s most famous market, but we found this huge central market to be touristic and expensive. Instead, we preferred the smaller neighborhood markets which can be found all over the city.

Seafood Market in Saigon Vietnam
Saigon markets have it all from produce, meat, prepared foods and seafood. Everything is fresh and is intended to be eaten that day.

Pro Tip

As fun as it is to shop at the city’s many markets, check out high-end Japanese department store Takashimaya. We shared a big platter of sushi and a tasty custard pastry in Takashimaya’s basement food court for very reasonable prices.

Ben Thanh Market is located at 32-30, 36-34-32-30 Bội Phan Châu, Bến Thành, Hồ Chí Minh, Vietnam.
Takashimaya is located at Saigon Centre, 65 Le Loi Street, Ben Nghe Ward, District1, Hồ Chí Minh, Vietnam.

5. Eat Breakfast

Banh Mi Op La in Saigon Vietnam
The breakfast at Banh Mi Op La may be the best food in Saigon.

Breakfast is a big deal in Saigon.

Many people eat this meal at their favorite Saigon restaurant on their way to work, often eating a big bowl of Pho or a quick Banh Mi sandwich on the go. Though we mostly ate Pho and Banh Cuon (stuffed noodle rolls) for breakfast in Saigon, our favorite Saigon breakfast is Banh Mi Op La at Banh Mi Hoa Ma.

Sitting on tiny plastic chairs with a view of the city traffic and the constant construction noise is the perfect way to enjoy Banh Mi Op La. This restaurant’s sparse menu includes Banh Mi sandwiches and Banh Mi Op La Du Thu.

We prefer the latter – platters of fried eggs and assorted meats served with pickled vegetables, paté and crispy baguettes. With the addition of a little hot sauce and two cups of ice coffee, this meal was our favorite Saigon breakfast and maybe even our favorite Saigon meal.

Bánh Mì Hoà Mã is located at 53 Cao Thắng, phường 17, Hồ Chí Minh, Vietnam.

6. Drink Specialty Coffee

Vietnamese Coffee in Saigon Vietnam
As much as we love traditional Vietnamese coffee, sometimes we crave a classic coffee beverage like this one at L’Usine.

As the biggest city in the world’s second largest coffee bean producing country, Saigon has a lot of coffee shops. And by a lot, we mean thousands if not more.

Locals drink coffee at all times of the day, usually iced and with a lot of condensed milk. Some coffee shops, like Aha Cafe in the bottom of our Airbnb apartment building, are simple spaces serving coffee and smoothies in a community setting. Liberally sprinkled throughout the city, small coffee shops like Aha fuel the city with endless cups of strong, sweet coffee.

The Workshop in Saigon Vietnam
The Workshop reminds us of our favorite coffee shops around the world with its cool workspace vibe and third wave drinks.

Saigon’s growing coffee shop trend, however, is more upscale with coffee shops like L’Usine and The Workshop, fitting with the city’s growing artisan food movement. L’Usine’s space includes a design shop and restaurant, adding up to an elegant coffee experience. Located on the third floor of an old industrial building, The Workshop provides a more streamlined space with sophisticated coffee drinks.

When we closed our eyes at these two modern coffee shops, we could have been anywhere in the world. We opened them and were happy to be sipping coffee in a Saigon cafe.

Aha Cafe has multiple locations. We drank at the one located at 92 Phạm Ngọc Thach, Phượng 6, Hồ Chí Minh, Vietnam.
L’Usine is located at 70A-70B-68 Lê Lợi, Bến Thành, quân 1, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.
The Workshop is located at 3 / F pq 1, 27 Ngô Đức kẻ, Bến Nghe, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.

Things To Do in Saigon

How much Pho can you can slurp in a day? Here are some ideas of what to do in Saigon between bowls:

Plan Your Saigon Stay

Are you ready to eat Saigon food? Click here to research the rates for hotels in Saigon.

Once you book your Saigon hotel room or Airbnb apartment, click here to arrange car service from the airport.

Stay Connected in Saigon

You’ll want WiFi on the go for mapping, ordering Grab cars, translating menus and posting Instagram stories. Click here to purchase a handheld WiFi device.

Click here for a Vietnamese SIM card that will be delivered to your Saigon hotel. This is a great option if your mobile phone is unlocked and you want to stay connected while you’re in Vietnam.

Get a Vietnam Visa

Don’t get stuck at the border when you travel to Vietnam!

We’ve personally used Vietnam-Visa three times to secure Vietnam visas and have been happy with their convenience and service.

Hungry for More Vietnamese Food?

Check out our Da Nang Food Guide if you’re headed to Central Vietnam. Or, check out our Hanoi Food Guide if you’re headed to the capital city.

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Pinterest image: two images of Saigon with caption reading 'Ho Chi Minh City Saigon Food Experiences'
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About the Authors

Daryl & Mindi Hirsch

Saveur Magazine’s BEST TRAVEL BLOG award winners Daryl and Mindi Hirsch share their culinary travel experiences and recipes on the 2foodtrippers website and YouTube. The married Food and Travel content creators live in Lisbon, Portugal.

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Disclosure

We update our articles regularly. Some updates are major while others are minor link changes and spelling corrections. Let us know if you see anything that needs to be updated in this article.

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Sea

Sunday 2nd of February 2020

Great post. Thank you so much, Do you have any information about the market in river in Vietnam?

Ichi Tokyo

Monday 9th of September 2019

It was helpful. Keep on posting!

Ha Nguyen

Monday 17th of December 2018

Thank you for introducing our local cuisine. However, Saigon is not the capital of Vietnam as you mentioned. Hanoi is Vietnam's capital city, while Saigon is economic center. Maybe you're already aware of that and it was a mistake of inattention while typing. Anyway, I love your website and your passion! Keep up with your work and welcome back to Vietnam again and again:)

Daryl and Mindi Hirsch

Monday 17th of December 2018

Thank you so much for bringing the typo to our attention! After spending over a month in Hanoi during two separate visits, we are well aware that it is Vietnam's capital. We love your country and look forward to our next visit.

Carol Colborn

Monday 24th of October 2016

I know and love Pho and its variations but I have never had Banh Mi since we Filipinos don't consider rice-less meals like sandwiches a meal. I may be missing a lot then. Plus I didn't know Vietnam is the second largest coffee producing country!

Charles McCool

Monday 24th of October 2016

Wow, I would love to visit Saigon and overdose on Banh Mi sandwiches. Vietnamese food is so visually tasty and often visually striking. I love it.