Vietnam’s Top 11 Dishes and Where to Eat Them in Ho Chi Minh City
These are my favorite dishes from Vietnam, and the ones I crave most after living there for 2 years. If you’re headed to Ho Chi Minh City/Saigon, I’ve also included the best places to try these unique and wonderful meals.
Vietnamese Noodle Soup
If you’re new to Vietnamese food it’s probably best to start here. This is Vietnam’s most widely recognized dish. Noodles in an incredibly flavourful broth with chicken or beef.
There are a ton of great pho places in Vietnam. By far, it’s the most widely eaten dish. If you go to a place that’s busy, you’ll probably have a great bowl, but for years the question of ‘who has the best pho in Saigon?’ has been asked. I can’t say for sure, but here are a couple that I enjoy.
2 locations! 303-304 Vo Van Tan, District 3 and 413 Nguyễn Trãi, District 5
Often called the best in all of Vietnam. The broth comes shining with beef fat (a good sign!). Some criticize them for using too much MSG, but I don’t know and don’t care.
323 Phạm Ngũ Lão, district 1
This is the first place I ever at pho in Saigon. Maybe that makes this selection a bit bias, but it was recommended to me by a little old lady that has been living down the street her whole life. Even though this little shop is right on the backpacker street, you’ll still find locals eating its amazing food. The prices are a bit higher here, but you’re only paying about $3 for a bowl of magic.
For a quick breakfast, stop at a banh mi stand and pick up one of these sandwiches. The bread is fresh and crusty, the egg is fried up on the spot, and the rest of banh mi’s fillings come together perfectly.
These crispy-on-the-outside, soft-on-the-inside sandwiches are all the rage now. The toppings come together to make a sweet-salt-sour combo that few sandwiches offer. For breakfast, an egg with pork belly really hits the spot, but don’t be afraid to try something different, like sardines or the Vietnamese version of the doner kebab.
Banh Mi Huynh Hoa
26 Lê Thị Riêng, district 1
Huynh Hoa packs a mean banh mi. While others are stingy on their toppings, this place will make a meal out of your sandwich. Their cha (Vietnam’s version of ham) is top-notch. The rumour is, the place is run by a family of transgendered people. I’m sure that’s just someone’s joke about their meaty sandwiches gone too far. They’re only open in the afternoon, so no breakfast sandwich here.
Banh Mi Hong Hoa
62 Nguyen Van Trang, district 1
Just around the corner from Huynh Hoa is this amazing sandwich place. They open early and serve both opla (sunnyside up eggs) and heo quay (roasted pork) — my kind of breakfast sandwich. They are cheaper, but use less fillings.
Vietnamese Beef Stew
Hunks of beef are slowly cooked in a rich flavourful broth with carrots, star anise, and lemongrass. It’s usually served with banh mi, steamed rice, or noodles.
This is a tough one to find. Vietnam’s beef isn’t great, and you’ll find a lot of places using grizzled cuts that require a mechanical jaw to make swallow-able. Fortunately, there are a few places that use quality cuts that stew to perfection. You can get this dish with noodles or a baguette. In the land of noodle soups, I always get the banh mi baguette for tearing and dipping.
323 Phạm Ngũ Lão
I already recommended this place for its pho, but it might be an even better option for its bo kho. I think the tourist prices (65,000 VND for a bowl) are worth it. The meat quality is better and more generous than other options in district 1.
Bò Kho Út Nhung
109/7 Nguyễn Thiện Thuật, district 3
This place is well known for its bo kho, but it doesn’t start serving it until 1pm. If you go in the morning, they serve some decent pho. The cost when I was there last was 35,000 VND. A great option if you’re up in district 3.
Vietnamese Sizzling Pancake
A savuory crepe filled with shrimp, pork, and vegetables. The batter is made with rice flour and tumeric. Bánh Xèo is usually eaten by tearing a piece off and wrapping it in rice paper along with some herbs and lettuce. It’s a cheap and delicious meal.
Don’t miss the opportunity to try this dish in Vietnam. It’s one of the more unique ones that is fun to eat and tastes incredible. The crepe comes with herbs and greens, and usually rice paper. You can take a piece of rice paper, wipe it with damp lettuce, then pack it with herbs, greens, and a hunk of the pancake, then roll it and dip it in the nuoc mam (a sweet sauce). If there is no rice paper, then wrap it in the lettuce instead.
Banh Xeo 46A
46A D Dinh Cong Trang
46A is no secret. Anthony Bourdain has shot here, it’s featured in the guide books, and you’ll probably see some westerners here. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t good. It does, however, mean you’ll pay a bit more for a giant crepe (75,000 VND). For that extra money, you get a more westernized banh xeo – shrimp heads removed, giant portion, maybe some English spoken.
Bun Bo Hue
Hue Style Beef Noodle Soup
A beef soup that’s spicier than pho, has a lemongrass infused broth, and uses thicker, round rice noodles. It usually contains slices of beef shank, and sometimes chunks of pig’s feet, congealed pork blood, and cha lua (Vietnamese pork loaf).
Once I heard Anthony Bourdain call this his favorite soup. I think I prefer a few others on this list, but this Hue specialty deserves to be sloppily slurped up on your trip to Vietnam.
Bun Bo Hue 31
31 Mac Dinh Chi Street, District 1
For 30,000 VND you can have a lunch that will give you a goofy smile on your face for the rest of the day. It’s close to the American embassy – convenient for Americans who want to renounce their citizenship so they can stay in Vietnam, where the bun bo Hue is plentiful.
Bún Bò Huế Gia Định
469 Bạch Đằng, District Binh Thanh
Not exactly convenient to the tourist area, but this place has to be on the list. It’s generous helpings of meat and flavorful broth, makes it an amazing option for bun bo Hue in southern Vietnam. They also have great pho.
Bun Rieu Cua
Vietnamese Crab Noodle Soup
Freshwater crabs and tomatoes make up this soup’s broth, then rice vermicelli noodles, pork, and tofu soak up the flavours.
This is like no other soup you’ve ever had. The broth is made with smashed up crabs, which are bubbled for hours, shell and all, before being filtered out and served with noodles, maybe some coagulated blood, and usually a hunk of pig’s foot.
Bún riêu Nguyễn Cảnh Chân
18/5 Nguyen Canh Chan, District 1
Amazing ingredients in a mind-blowing incredible broth. This place is close to everything and reasonably priced. It’s the only bun rieu place you need in Saigon.
Pork and Mushroom Meatball Soup
Pork paste is rolled with chopped mushrooms to make a delicious meatball that happily floats in a light broth with vermicelli rice noodles. Often served with a generous helping of cha lua (Vietnamese pork loaf).
Oh bun moc, an assortment of pig parts that can only be described as glorious. Since pig is the most delicious animal, I declare bun moc the most delicious soup in Vietnam. It’s packed with slices of cha lua, pigs foot, and moc-balls (pork and mushroom meatballs). Some vendors will include slices of roasted pork, or even deep-fried bits of pork skin. Oh my god! Yes!
Bún Mọc Thanh Mai
14 Trương Định
Conveniently located down the street from Ben Thanh Market, this joint is always packed with locals. It’s the only place I know that serves bun moc in district 1, and they do a pretty good job of it. A decent sized portion is 45,000 VND.
Bún Mọc Mây
14 Đường Số 31, district 4
Although it’s a bit hard to find and not really close to anything but other good food, May may be the best place for bun moc in the city. The atmosphere is pleasant. The price is fair (30,000 VND per bowl). The food is goooood. Note: it closes from 11:00am-4:00pm.
Bun Thit Nuong
Grilled Pork and Vermicelli
Vermicelli rice noodles with grilled pork, a spring roll, and various greens. Served with nuoc cham.
This might be the perfect meal. The flavors pop at the right times and are balanced. As are the textures. It’s filling, cheap, and pretty healthy. I love me some bun thit nuong.
195 Cô Giang, district 1
This is the go-to place. The location works, the price isn’t bad (45,000), and most importantly the food is yummmmy. Make sure you get the one with cha gio (spring rolls). Their spring rolls are made giant and with the traditional rice paper (rather than the easier wheat based wrappers). Note: if the menu says “khong cha gio” that means “no spring roll”.
Phnom Penh Noodle Soup
A hearty noodle soup filled with a variety of protein — pork, beef, seafood, etc.
There are 2 main kinds of hu tieu sold in Saigon: hu tieu Nam Vang and hu tieu My Tho. Nam Vang actually means Phnom Penh, the Cambodian capital. It usually has more pork in it. My Tho refers to a city in the Mekong Delta. Its version tends to have more seafood.
62 Tôn Thất Thiệp, district 1
For the My Tho version, you won’t find a more authentic version than this place. In fact, it was the first to do it in Saigon and has been around for over 70 years.
147 Trần Hưng đạo, district 1
The Nam Vang version isn’t hard to find in Saigon, but this place is great because it has a bit more variety. You can get your soup with wheat noodles (instead of rice noodles) and they have freshly made wantons (hoanh thanh) that take any ‘perfect 10’ soup and turn it up to 11.
Quang Style Noodles
Quảng Nam province is probably best known for its turmeric infused noodles. The protein in this dish varies but it’s almost always served with sesame rice crackers which provide a brilliant crunch.
This bowl of noodley goodness is brought to you by the food gods. I’ve often had this conversation:
“What do you want for lunch?”
“I don’t know. I’m not really in the mood for anything.”
“What about mi quang?”
“Good lord! YES! Let’s do it! I want it now!”
It’s probably the dish I crave most in Vietnam.
Mì Quảng Ăn Là Ghiền
15A Nguyễn Thị Minh Khai, district 1
A simple place with a great bowl of quang. To be honest, there aren’t a ton of options for this central Vietnam dish, but this place serves up a satisfying bowl in district 1. The prices are reasonable and there are a nice variety of proteins. Personally, I prefer the ‘suon’ (pork ribs), but the ‘tom’ (shrimp) is also a popular option.
Mì Quảng – Don Quỳnh Khương
409/5 Nguyễn Trọng Tuyển, district Tân Bình
Not the most convenient of locations, but arguably the most delicious. The ‘dac biet’ or ‘special’ is everything you’ve ever dreamed of in a bowl. For 50,000VND it might be the cheapest way to change your life forever.
Pork and Mushroom Stuffed Rice Rolls
Steamed rice noodle is rolled up with wood mushrooms and ground pork. Served with a sweet sauce and herbs.
To me, this is Vietnamese food like no-other. Steamed fermented liquid rice, made into a wrap and filled with pork and mushrooms. This is a northern Vietnamese dish, but it’s a must-try if you set foot anywhere in the country.
Banh Cuon Thien Huong
2 locations! 155 Nguyễn Thị Minh Khai, district 1 and 197 Ba Thang Hai, district 3
Hey look, I found a video of banh cuon being made at Thien Huong. You can try their variations on the dish (shrimp, egg, etc), but you can’t go wrong with the original recipe.
For a convenient walking tour that covers many of these dishes, check out my Top 10 Eats in Saigon Walkli map
MAP: The Best Dishes in Vietnam and Where to Find them in Saigon
Looking for more dishes to try? Have a look at THE ALTERNATIVE WAYS’ 10 Local Foods Not To Miss.