Ho Chi Minh City - Food and Dining Guide

Ho Chi Minh City - Food and Dining Guide

From an exciting street food scene to top-class international options, quirky coffee shops and fine regional cuisines, Saigon is Vietnam's culinary capital. Home to residents from all over the country, Saigon is the best place to sample all the regional cuisines and fresh flavours of Vietnam.

Although the most popular, regional cuisines don't represent the whole picture of Vietnam's dining scene. There are actually a large impressive collection of international restaurants in town, raging from French cuisine to Chinese, Thai, Japanese, among others. If you want to experience Saigon's international food offer, head to the expat enclave in District 2, which is around 15 minutes by cab from downtown, across the Saigon river. Fast becoming an important hub of international cuisine, this is a foodie's paradise where you will find some of the city's best dining options.

Here are some of the options you cannot miss:

Quan Ut Ut

Although it is actually an American barbecue joint whose name can be translated as "Restaurant Oink Oink", this is one of the most popular restaurants there. As you might have guessed given its name, this restaurant serves dishes centered in pork. These porcine creations are some of Vietnam's most loved dishes, which include bun cha (vermicelli noodles with grilled pork meatballs) and thit heo kho (caramelized pork). Despite being a very popular place, they don't take bookings, so you are going to have to queue.

Quan Ut Ut, 168 Vo Van Kiet Phuong Cay Ong Lanh, Q1, Ho Chi Minh City 70000 Vietnam; +84 839 144 500


Although this restaurant might look like a fine dining establishment and it offers world-class dishes, it's still a bargain. Here you can sample a large range of Southeast Asian cuisines such as Cambodian, Vietnamese, Burmese, Thai and Laotian. Don't miss out on the sweet port curry from Myanmar.

Monsoon Restaurant & Bar Saigon, No.1, Cao Ba Nha, Nguyen Cu Trinh ward, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City 84 Vietnam; +84 8 6290 8899

Cuc Gach Quan

Located on the outer limits of District 1, Cuc Gach Quan is the right place to sample Vietnamese dishes. Although the menu is quite lengthy, you can't miss out on are soft shell crab and red rice. They also offer a deliciously homemade tofu for vegetarians. Vietnamese through and through, this is a great place to eat amazing food if you are on a budget.

Cuc Gach Quan, 10 Dang Tat Ward Tan Dinh, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City Vietnam; +84 8 3848 0144

Banh Xeo 46A

If you visit Vietnam, you can't miss out on their scrumptious sizzling pancake - banh xeo. The batter is made out of rice flour, water, tumeric power and coconut milk. This batter is stuffed with stuffed with fatty pork, shrimp and bean sprouts. Then it's pan-fried and served with aromatic herbs dipped in nuoc cham - fish sauce thinned with water and lemon. One of the best places to try this delicacy is Banh Xeo 46A.

Banh Xeo 46A, 46A D Dinh Cong Trang District 3, Ho Chi Minh City Vietnam; +84 8 3827 1372

Ho Chi Minh's Street Food

Saigon abounds with street-side eateries that range from proper stalls to nothing more than a pushcart and some stools on a street corner. Offering ambience and atmosphere along with delicious varied Vietnamese food, these street vendors are the beating heart of Saigon. Eating food from a street vendor is more than a dining option, it's an experience and an ideal opportunity to soak in the local culture.

The best streets for street food are Van Kiep street (Phu Nhuan district), Su Van Hanh street (street 10), Vinh Khanh street (district 4), Phan Van Han street (Binh Thanh district), Co Giang street (district 1) and Tran Khac Chan street (district 1).

Here are some of the best dishes you can get from a street vendor:

Bánh cu?n

Originally from the north of the country, this disch consists of a ladle full of rice batter which steamed on top of a cloth stretched over a pot of boiling water. This process leads to a rice sheet which is filled with ground pork, mushroom and shallots and then it's rolled up and cut into mouthful pieces.

Bun bo Hue

Associated with the cooking style of the former royal court, this traditional Vietnamese noodle soup can be bought from street vendors in Saigon where it retains its royal flavour. This traditional soup is prepared with vermicelli, generous slices of beef shank and a broth made out of lemongrass and shrimp paste. The dish can be garnished with either basil leaves, banana leaves or diced green onion.

Ha Long Bay

Ha Long Bay

Situated in the North East of the country in the Quang Ninh Province, Ha Long Bay is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Vietnam. The 1,553 square kilometre area is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1994 and features some of the most breathtaking scenery in all of South East Asia.

Some of the most prominent features are the limestone karsts and islands, jutting straight out of the clear water, of which there are thousands. These were formed over 500 million years of geological formation through different weather conditions and environments. Each of the limestone islands is topped with thick jungle vegetation which makes an interesting and striking view, and some of these islands are hollow and have magnificent limestone caves such as the striking Thien Cung grotto to explore. There are four small fishing villages in the bay where roughly a total of 1600 people live in floating houses and sustain a lifestyle through fishing.

While you can stay in Halong City which is the main gateway to the bay, it is also possible to stay on an overnight cruise to experience the natural phenomenon. This is slightly more expensive, but well worth it, as you will immerse yourself in nature and remove yourself from the busy city. Many of these overnight cruises will stay away from the most visited bays and take you to the quieter, more remote and more peaceful locations, which also ensures that you have a unique experience.

Located in the bay is Cat Ba Island and Cat Ba National Park. This is an excellent place to witness the native vegetation and to complete some moderate and challenging hikes, including a challenging six hour 18km route to the top of one of the mountain summits. It is home to 32 types of mammal included the world's most endangered primate, the golden-headed langur. Guides are not essential, but are recommended so that you can listen to a local expert tell you all about the different vegetation, the history and the nature of the park, and they can be found at the park headquarters which are at Trung Trang, a short bus trip away from Cat Ba Town which is where you will land. There is also an easily accessible multi-chambered cave called Hang Trung Trang within the park to explore. If you do decide to visit this, ensure you have a flashlight with you and check with the park rangers that it is open. The Cat Ba Island Market, located in the town's harbour, is a great place to visit for local seafood and local culture.

One of the best views of the bay is from the Cannon Fort on Cat Ba Island. Only a short but steep 10 minute walk from the town will take you to the entrance, and from here the hike continues another 20 minutes or so to the fort at the top, following well signed pathways past underground tunnels and gun emplacements which were installed by the Japanese in the second world war.

For those who don't wish to spend the night, there are numerous cruises that leave from Halong City and from Hanoi. This is the quickest and easiest way to experience Ha Long Bay and will show you a cross section of the main bay. Prices range from as low as $40USD to around $100USD for single day trips depending on the size of the group, the quality of the food, how luxurious the cruise is, and indeed the company you use to book it.

Halong City itself is somewhat less remarkable, but is a good place for budget hotels, gambling and karaoke. It is one of the cheapest places to stay in all of Vietnam, and offers excellent access to the bay. For travelers on a very tight budget, it might be worth considering staying here and accessing the bay by day.

This beautiful attraction is highly recommended by every travel guide and travel agent, and although very popular, it is still possible to escape the crowds and to immerse yourself into something truly natural and amazing. Make sure to include Ha Long Bay in your itinerary for an unforgettable experience and to see one of the best places in Vietnam.

Good things to know before you go

Good things to know before you go

Every country operates a little differently, and sometimes it helps to know a little bit of what should be very basic information before you travel to a new location.

The official currency of Vietnam is the Vietnamese Dong, of which, roughly 22,000 converts to $1USD, depending on conversion rates at the time of exchange. The US dollar is also widely accepted all over Vietnam, and most touristic establishments will accept payment in both currencies. Some places will take credit or debit cards, but a lot of establishments will only accept cash, so make sure you have some with you before you leave.

Prices in Vietnam are often not fixed like they usually are in Europe or America, and so often the locals will inflate the price for tourists. There is no point in pretending you're a local unless you can speak fluent Vietnamese, so be prepared to haggle and to bargain prices, and always check that vendors give you the correct amount of change that they owe you after agreeing on a price.

When it comes to paying for transportation, make sure you purchase your tickets directly from the train station and not from an agent or a hotel as they tend to overcharge as they want to make a profit from your business. Vendors will often say anything to obtain your business, so even if they insist that it is the price of the ticket, it can be purchased at the train station for the actual price, regardless of what you are told.

In Vietnam, they drive on the right-hand side of the road, although roads, particularly in cities, can be very chaotic and often motorbikes and scooters can be seen darting between traffic in brave maneuvers from all directions. It seems like organized chaos, but the locals manage to navigate with ease, however you should consider whether you think you are capable of driving in such manic conditions before you hire a car. Once you are outside of the cities, things calm down considerably, but road conditions are not always great. Traffic accidents are the most frequent cause of tourist deaths in Vietnam, so if you are driving, be careful.

Most Vietnamese who work in the tourist industry will have a good enough grasp of the English language, however as you find yourself in more rural communities, you might struggle to find people who can understand English. These are some key words and phrases that you should learn in the local language of any country that you are travelling to as a show of respect, even if only to be dismissed and spoken to in English. Learning these will actually mean that you know more Vietnamese than 90% of the travelers in Vietnam. There is a pronunciation guide in brackets to help you say the phrases correctly.

chào b?n (te-ow ban)/alô! (ah-low) - Hello

t?m bi?t (tam bi-ey) - Bye

cám on (cam uhn) - Thanks

Obviously, you can go much further and learn entire phrases, but even just saying chào b?n will be well received by the locals and create a good impression.

Visas are often required by visitors, and you should check with the official websites before departing for Vietnam if you are required to purchase one. This is taken very seriously at the airports, and so make sure you check all your information matches up correctly, make sure you have an accommodation address to provide to the immigration officers, and make sure you treat them with respect.

Food poisoning is quite common for tourists in Vietnam, so make sure you eat at trustworthy sources. Soup can often be the cause as it has been sat for a long time, so ensure it is boiling when it arrives and if it is not, politely send it back. Busy restaurants have a larger turnover of customers and therefore have food prepared more frequently, and are slightly less risk than quieter restaurants.

Vietnam is a fairly safe country to travel but petit thieving is still quite common. Make sure you keep an eye on your belongings on trains and busses, particularly when travelling overnight. Don't leave your money or your phone on the table at restaurants.

Vietnam is actually quite a big country, and it takes longer to travel around than maybe you think before you start your trip.



Hanoi is the capital city of Vietnam, albeit only the second largest city by population in the country. Located in the North of the country, it is known for it's older architecture, it's rich cultural blend of Southeast Asian, Chinese and French heritage, and it's many small temples. The city is more than 1000 years old, and has been occupied by many different nations during it's life.

During a trip to Vietnam, it is quite hard to avoid the capital, and there is absolutely no reason to. There are many museums, parks, historical sights and things to keep you well occupied, and you will never be stuck for something to do. Here are some highlights, picked out of the many attractions that Hanoi has to offer.

The Imperial Citadel of Thang Long - Thang Long is one of the previous names of the city of Hanoi, and the citadel is an interesting relic of Vietnamese history. It has been granted the status of a UNESCO World Heritage Site in recognition of it's historical and cultural significance, and stands 40 meters high, representing the historical political centre of the city. Here, amongst the beautiful architecture, you can find many artefacts that date back as far as the sixth century, from many different locations all around Asia as this used to also be a trading centre

Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum - Ho Chi Minh is considered one of Vietnam's greatest leaders from history, and he has left a legacy that is celebrated throughout the country. The mausoleum is his final resting place, and has become one of the most visited attractions in Hanoi. This is a unique piece of history and an impressive piece of dominant granite architecture. Visitors should remember to dress modestly, so no shorts or short skirts, and be aware that security here is very strict and that bags and cameras will have to deposited upon entering. The mausoleum closes annually around October for the deceased leader's remains to be maintained, so do check that it is open before you go.

The Perfume Pagoda - This is a stunning temple complex, supposedly first built in the 15th century. They are built into a mountain range and have a complicated labyrinth of alleys carved out of the rocks, topped with thick forest and small trickling streams. This is a little trip out of Hanoi and into the Son Mountains, which requires a two hour journey followed by a board trip to the bottom of the mountains. There are lots of different pagodas to visit and some interesting geology to explore, as well as a beautiful temple. Between January and April, this site attracts even more visitors for the Huong festival.

The Old Quarter - This is a chaotic and bustling part of the city featuring many beautiful examples of colonial architecture along narrow and crowded streets. There are many Buddhist temples and pagodas, and this also functions as Hanoi's main commercial district. There are plenty of trendy cafes, bars and restaurants to keep you well fed as you explore around this historical part of the city.

The Temple of Literature - This is a really beautiful and picturesque building which has been preserved since 1070 when it was built. It is a really amazing example of classic Vietnamese architecture and offers an insight into a world of literature as well as peaceful courtyards, pavilions, passageways and the famous Well of Heavenly Clarity.

Ba Vi National Park - Ba Vi is just a short two hour drive away from the crowds and chaos of Hanoi city and into an area of outstanding natural beauty. In the centre of the national park is a three-peaked mountain amongst jungle and tropical rainforest. This is an excellent place for some hiking and to discover some of the natural side of Vietnam. There are also hot springs and a spa inside the park, panoramic views to discover, and mountains to climb.

Hanoi offers a plethora of different accommodation offers, from luxury hotels to more budget friendly shared accommodation in hostels and is often the starting or ending point for your Vietnam adventure. Most of the locals involved in the tourism industry will have a fair grasp of the English language which makes it very easy for you to navigate around. Whether you like history, culture, nature or sightseeing, there is something for everybody to enjoy.