Vietnamese Traditional Food 20 Must Eat Dishes In Saigon

1. Bánh mì (banh mi)

Bánh mì (banh mi)

If you’re even the slightest bit into Vietnamese food, you’ve probably eaten numerous banh mi sandwiches.
Along with pho, easily the most exported Vietnamese speciality is banh mi. Although banh mi can mean a variety of different things, and in Vietnamese it actually just means bread, sometimes the term can be used to refer to any type of the beautiful Vietnamese personal baguette sandwich.

Walking around Saigon you’ll see dozens of carts with signs selling banh mi – it’s actually hard to go more than a block without seeing one – so it’s never hard to find.

There are many different varieties of banh mi, and here’s a good resource for seeing the different types, but the basic sandwich starts with a crusty baguette that’s sliced in half (sometimes using a scissors) and stuffed with layers of pork, luncheon meats, shredded cured pork skin, pâté, mayonnaise, Vietnamese radish and carrot pickles, a handful of sliced cucumbers, sprigs of coriander (cilantro), and last but not least, an optional, yet in my opinion necessary, scoop of fresh pounded chilies.

The sum of these ingredients together is what really makes banh mi such a glorious sandwich. Coming from Bangkok, where I can’t remember the last time I ate bread or a sandwich for that matter, I was pretty happy to devour as many banh mi as I could when I was in Vietnam.
Where to try
Bánh mì Huỳnh Hoa
Address: 26 Lê Thị Riêng, Ben Thanh, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City
Open hours: About 3:30 pm – midnight daily
Price: 30,000 VND ($1.40), more expensive than others, but worth it for the amount of meat
Bánh Mì Hồng Hoa
Address: 62 Nguyễn Văn Tráng, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City
Open hours: I think open in the morning, I arrived at 8 am, and they seemed to be at their peak serving, so good place for breakfast
Price: 17,000 VND ($0.80)

Banh Mi 37 Nguyen Trai
Address: 37 Nguyễn Trãi, Ho Chi Minh City (though the address is 37, it’s right at Hem 39)
Open hours: From around 4:30 pm – 7:30 pm each day
Price: 16,000 VND ($0.75)

2. Phở (pho)

No matter if you’ve been to Vietnam before or not, you’ve likely heard of pho, if not already eaten it many times before.
The noodle soup didn’t become so famous for nothing – it really is one of the most common dishes in throughout the country, and it makes the Vietnamese food menu at nearly every sit-down restaurant too.
Pho is the combination of soft rice noodles in a soup broth, normally prepared with either bo (beef) or ga (chicken) – both of which can be extremely delicious, but I’m normally more of a beef kind of guy.
The noodles are flash boiled until soft, topped with your choice of meat, and often finished with a sprinkle of chopped green onions and sometimes sweet onions as well.
But what I really love most about eating pho in Vietnam is the fresh plate of herbs, typically including sawtooth herb, mint, and Vietnamese coriander, along with house-made chili sauce, that’s on your table for self-service when you eat it.
While I did enjoy a bowl of pho from time to time when I was in Vietnam, I think pho is sort of the pad thai of Vietnamese cuisine, in that, yes it’s very good, however there are also so many other delicious dishes to try – perhaps it has a little undeserved fame, when compared to so many other delicious Vietnamese dishes?
Where to try

Phở số 01 Hà Nội
Address: 25 Nguyễn Thị Minh Khai, Saigon, Vietnam
Open hours: All day and night – they are open 24 hours
Prices: 28,000 VND ($1.29) for a bow

Phở Phượng 25
Address: 25 Hoàng Sa, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City (it’s located very close to the famous Lunch Lady of Saigon)
Open hours: 6 am – 9 pm daily – great for any meal
Prices: 40,000 VND ($1.85) for a bowl
Phở Hòa Pasteur
Address: 260 Pastuer, District 3
Open hours: 6 am – 9 pm daily – great for any meal
Prices: 40,000 VND ($1.85) for a bowl

3. Bún riêu (bun rieu)

Vietnam is a land of noodle soups, and many enjoy at least one bowl of noodles a day, some, maybe even a few.
After trying many different types of Vietnamese noodle soups during my stay in Saigon, I “think – and I say that because I change my food mind quite often” I can say my favorite is bun rieu.
The broth is made from a crab base stock, and another key ingredient are tomatoes, which create a broth that’s slightly seafood tasting, yet has a beautiful natural sweet and tartness from the tomatoes. I think there’s also often some rice vinegar included in the recipe to give it a lovely sour and well-rounded flavor.
Along with the wonderfully flavorful broth in a bowl of bun rieu, the noodles are often similar in shape and size to spaghetti noodles, except soft rice noodles.
Topping the noodles are pieces of golden fried tofu, sometimes meatballs, hearty chunks of pork, squares of congealed pig’s blood, and finally a slab of rich crab paste.
The dish reminded me of a few similar Thai dishes like northern Thai nam ngiao, a tomato stew.
To eat bun rieu, you normally garnish it with shrimp paste or crab paste, then load it up with chili sauce, a squeeze (or I like multiple squeezes) of lime juice, and then devour it with a small mountain of herbs and shredded vegetables.
For noodle soup in Vietnam, I really think it can’t get much better than a steaming hot bowl of bun rieu cua
Where to try
Bún riêu Nguyễn Cảnh Chân
Address: 18/5 Nguyễn Cảnh Chân, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City
Open hours: 11 am – 7 pm daily
Prices: 45,000 VND ($2.08)
Bún Ốc Riêu Cua Thanh Hải
Address: 14/12 Kỳ Đồng, District 3, Ho Chi Minh City
Prices: 66,000 VND ($3.0)

4. Bún mắm (bun mam)

Graham Holliday, an author and expert on Vietnamese food labels bun mam, despite its pungent smell, as his wholly favorite Vietnamese noodle dish.
Bun mam is specifically a southern Vietnamese dish, and just like most other noodle soups, you’ll find it at both sit down restaurants and portable street food stalls around town – though it’s not nearly as common to spot as some other noodle dishes on this blog.
The base of any bowl of bun mam (bún mắm) is a dark colored broth prepared with fermented fish sauce (which I believe is similar to Thai pla ra).
The fermented fish sauce gives the soup broth a well rounded, balanced flavor, and it’s honestly not nearly as fishy as it might sound or smell.
Along with the broth, bun, or rice vermicelli noodles, are loaded into the bottom of the bowl, before the entire assortment of meats like squid, prawns, and pork are all scattered on top of the noodles.
Finally, a slice or two of eggplant, which soaks up all the broth, is another essential component of a bowl of southern Vietnamese bun mam.
In addition to the glorious fish flavor, the broth of a bowl of bun mam is usually sweetened with tamarind juice and sugar.
Although bun mam was honestly a little too sweet of a flavor for me (I’d go with a bowl of bun rieu most of the time), it is widely popular, and it’s a Vietnamese food you definitely need to try when you’re in the city.
Where to try
Bún Mắm Phan Bội Châu
Address: 22 Phan Bội Châu, across from Ben Thanh market, Saigon
Open hours: Not sure exactly, but they are open for breakfast, lunch and throughout the afternoon
Price: 65,000 VND ($3) per bowl

6.Bún bò Huế (bun bo Hue)

Probably one of the dishes most mentioned that many of you suggested I should eat in Vietnam was bun bo Hue (I think there’s an entire Vietnamese culture surrounding this dish, and it may be gaining some traction against pho)!
Alright, bun bo Hue is not actually from Saigon, it originates in Hue – a city on the coast of central Vietnam, which unfortunately I haven’t been able to visit yet – but I included it on this Vietnamese street food guide because it’s one of the most beloved noodle soups in Saigon as well. Bun bo Hue is beef based, and in Vietnam it’s known for being spicy and flavorful.
The broth, which if made to specification, should be full of beef bone flavor, and fragrant with lemongrass, has a wonderful taste, like a citrusy beef soup.
The noodles are normally rice vermicelli noodles, of the sphagetti size, and a bowl of bun bo Hue is often served with slices of beef, a hunk of either ox tail or pork knuckle, cha lua (Vietnamese sausage and ham), and a handful of green and sweet onions.
Again just like every other noodle dish, the extra herbs, flash boiled vegetables, and chilies, give bun bo Hue an added dimension of deliciousness.
i am a food blog calls bun bo Hue, a dish “you never knew you loved,” and that was true for myself, having never had it before going to Vietnam, but I loved it (by the way, check out her amazing recipe for the dish).
For myself, after bun rieu, bun bo Hue is probably my next favorite Vietnamese soup, and I haven’t even been to Hue yet.
Where to try
Bún bò Chú Há
Address: 300 Võ Văn Tần, District 3, Ho Chi Minh City
Open hours: 6 am – 10 pm daily
Price: 60,000 VND ($2.77) per bowl, a bit expensive, but extremely generous on the meat

Bún bò Đông Ba
Address: 110A Nguyen Du, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City
Open hours: 6 am – 10 pm daily
Price: 50,000 VND ($2.5) per bowl

7. Hủ tiếu Nam Vang (Hu tieu Nam Vang)

Yet another dish, that has a huge following of Vietnamese cuisine lovers, is Hu tieu Nam Vang.
Nam Vang, as I understand, is the Vietnamese word for Phnom Penh in Cambodia, and Hủ Tieu has connections to Teochew in China.
So what does that have to do with this Vietnamese favorite food?
As I’ve read, Hủ Tieu Nam Vang is a Cambodian and Chinese pork based noodle soup, that contains slices of all sorts of organs, and a shrimp or few, plus an assortment of other additions.
Hủ Tieu Nam Vang was a little on the plain side for my personal taste buds, but I did like it when spiced up with some chili paste, loaded with chilies, and combined with that huge fresh plate of herbs and vegetables that it’s always served with.
I often saw local Vietnamese season their Hủ Tieu Nam Vang with the transparent looking chili sauce and dark soy sauce as well.
Where to try
Hu Tieu Nam Vang on the street
Address: It’s on Cao Thang road just past Nguyen Dinh Chieu
Open hours: Open for lunch for sure from about 10 am – 2 pm or so
Price: 22,000 VND ($1) – it’s pretty cheap but didn’t include much meat
Hủ tiếu Nam Vang Nhân Quán
Address: I think there are a number of different location, but I ate at the branch on 72 Nguyễn Thượng Hiền
Open hours: About 5 pm – 10 pm
Price: 65,000 VND ($3)

8. Bún chả (bun cha)

Bun cha ha ni
Just like bun bo Hue, another dish on this list that’s not from Saigon, but this time rather from Hanoi, is bun cha.
The reason I included it on this Saigon food article is because I simply love it – if there’s ever a restaurant with a country wide Vietnamese food menu, I would probably jump at bun cha.
When I visited Hanoi, years ago back in 2010 or so, I had bun cha at one of the most well known spots, and it blew my mind with how good it was.
For years I dreamed about another bowl of bun cha, until finally I returned to Vietnam this time-round, and I needed to satisfy my craving.
Bun cha is a dish that uses bun, fresh rice vermicelli noodles, the same noodles used in bun thit nuong, which are soft and easy to chew.
The next component of bun cha, are little seasoned pork patties (kind of like pork sliders), that are grilled over charcoal.
A plate of bun is served alongside a bowl of grilled pork patties, which after being grilled, are served in a smokey sour soup, and finally a plate of herbs and green vegetables are served to accompany everything.
The main way I saw most Vietnamese eating bun cha, was to add a bit of rice vermicelli to the pork patty soup, garnish with garlic, chilies, and herbs, and then repeat.
Bun cha is an absolute sensational dish, and if you don’t visit Hanoi, even though that’s definitely where the best is, you can still try it in Saigon.
Where to try
Bún Chả Ánh Hồng Hà Nội
Address: 140b Lý Chính Thắng, District 3, Ho Chi Minh City
Open hours: 6:30 am – 8 pm daily
Prices: bowls of normal sized bun cha combinations are 38,000 VND ($1.75)
Bún chả Hoa Đông
Address: 121 Ly Tu Trong, District 1, Ho Chi Minh city, Vietnam
Open hours: 6:30 am – 8 pm daily

9. Bánh canh cua (banh canh cua)

Banh canh cua

Banh canh, according to Wikipedia, actually means soup cake in Vietnamese, that’s the literal translation.
That’s likely because the noodles are so hearty and so thick.
Banh canh is quite similar to Japanese udon noodles, except I thought the noodles, which are typically made with a combination of rice and tapioca starch, were more sticky and a little chewier than udon, which are typically made with wheat flour.
Although there are a few different versions of banh canh, the one I ate, and fully enjoyed was banh canh cua, the thick starchy noodles with crab.
Instead of being a typical noodle soup with a thin stock, banh canh cua is more like a hearty stew, the broth is thickened like gravy, almost like Thai cuisine style radna.
The gravy normally has quite a mellow crab flavor, but what’s really impressive are the nuggets of crab meat that come in a bowl, and the toppings, including chilies and limes.
If you’re a crab lover like I am, this is a Vietnamese dish for you.
Where to try
Bánh Canh Cua Trần Khắc Chân
Address: 87 Trần Khắc Chân, Ho Chi Minh City
Open hours: 2 pm – 9:30 pm daily
Prices: 35,000 VND ($1.62) per bowl, and then I had a plate of Chinese donuts for just – 3,000 VND, good price for great food
Bánh canh cua Võ Văn Tần
Address: 320 Võ Văn Tần, District 3.
Open hours: 2 pm – 9:30 pm daily
Prices: 35,000 VND ($1.62) per bowl.

10.Bún thịt nướng (bun thit nuong)

Vietnamese cuisine is brilliant for combining a contrast of flavors and textures into a single dish, and I think bun thit nuong, or better yet bun thit nuong cha gio, is a great example of this.

The dish normally begins with a handful of chopped up herbs and lettuce at the bottom of a bowl, then in goes fresh rice vermicelli noodles (similar to Thai khanom jeen noodles), then a few skewers of grilled pork are layered on that, and finally a sweet and salty fish sauce, and a scoop of oily chives and green onions, and pickles are all added on top.
If you get the bun thit nuong cha gio, in addition to everything already mentioned, you’ll also get a fried spring or two chopped up on top, which bumps the delicious-meter up another notch.
The noodles are soft and silky, the pork is tender, salty, and sweet, and the egg rolls (cha gio) add a beautiful crunch to everything.
When I was in Vietnam, I enjoyed dousing my bowl of bun thit nuong with a few scoops of freshly ground chili (which should usually be on your table) to balance out the sweetness and make it fiery.
Bun thit nuong is a dish you should for sure not miss when you’re eating in Saigon.

Where to try
Chị Thông Bún Thịt Nướng
Address: 195 Cô Giang, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City
Open hours: 7 am – 10 pm daily
Prices: 40,000 VND ($1.85)