Follow My Foodsteps in Vietnam!

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Most foodies enjoy travelling. Food and travel seem to come hand in hand. This correlation does not come as a surprise for most of us since a good holiday is often accompanied by amazing food. Travelling and food also share other similarities like the excitement of trying something new!

Today I will share some of the things I have tried on my last trip to Ho Chi Minh city. The locations are also listed for adventurous travellers who want to experience it for themselves.

My list is not exhaustive and does not reflect the best of Vietnamese cuisine. I was in Vietnam for a very short period so I am only able to cover what I have tried. Some of them were a hit and miss but overall it was a great experience.

For those of you who have yet to try Vietnamese cuisine, I highly recommend it! It is quite difficult to find authentic Vietnamese food in Malaysia although Thai food is abundant. Even though both Vietnamese and Thai cuisine utilises similar ingredients, I find that the flavours are rather different.

For more than half a century, the French occupied and colonised Vietnam. As a result, Vietnam has a lot of French influence. Like the French cuisine, Vietnamese food is more subtle in flavour. The flavours of the main ingredient tends to play an important role in determining the taste of the dish. Therefore, it is not uncommon to find very few ingredients in your bowl.

Location: One of the streets, Backpacker Street, Phạm Ngũ Lão, Ho Chi Minh City, Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam.

The first thing to try is bánh mì which is basically bread stuffed with luncheon meat, ham and vegetables. You will literally find at least one store selling this on every street that you walk on. For illustration, I have included one of the stores that I visited at Phạm Ngũ Lão otherwise known as the Backpacker’s District.

What makes this bread so special? Vietnam has inherited the French recipe for baguettes. Although they have adapted the recipe by incorporating rice flour, the texture of bánh mì is generally good. It is normally crispy on the outside and chewy on the inside which is how baguettes are classically supposed to taste. There are some stores that sell better bánh mì than others but I have yet to try one that I absolutely hate. I would advice you to at least pick up a couple on your trip there. The best bánh mì stores will have long queues in the morning because that is when the bread is fresh. A bánh mì normally costs around RM3-5 and it will look like a 6″ Subway sandwich.

Location: Quán Ăn 5 Muội, p. 6, ベトナム, 5 Lê Quý Đôn, Hồ Chí Minh, Vietnam.

The next thing that you should try is the Vietnamese coffee. There are a lot of famous brands in Vietnam like Trung Nguyen or Highland’s Coffee but they are seriously overrated. Think of these as the Vietnam equivalent of Starbucks. I tried the coffee at a few of the local coffee stores for about half the price and they tasted about the same. The Vietnamese coffee is made using a drip or phin in Vietnamese which is very similar to the French press.

First and foremost, I am not a coffee drinker. Given a choice, I always opt for tea. I normally dislike the aftertaste of coffee which always reminds me of licking charcoal. No, I have never licked charcoal but if I did, I imagine this is how it would taste. However, I have heard about how good Vietnamese coffee is and I made it my personal mission to try the coffee at several places.

Indeed, the Vietnamese coffee deserves its praise. Based on the picture, you can see that Vietnamese iced coffee is thick. I would describe their coffee as very strong and fragrant. The best part is that their coffee does not leave a lasting aftertaste! It saved me the trouble of having to soak my tongue in water to rinse out the charcoal-ie aftertaste! They do make their coffee with sweetened condensed milk so if you are like me and you prefer your drinks less sweet, you will have to remind them to reduce the amount of milk.

Spring rolls
A variety of spring rolls.

Location: 62 Hai Bà Trưng, Bến Nghé, Quận 1, Hồ Chí Minh, Vietnam.

Vietnamese spring rolls are quite popular. We ordered a couple of different ones at Wrap & Roll, a Vietnamese casual dining restaurant. Although they had a good variety, I was quite disappointed by the quality of their spring rolls. The rice paper was not well soaked. A large part of it felt like chewing on uncooked vermicelli noodles. The pricing is also quite expensive and it was not worth the money.

The noodle finished as quickly as it came because my hungry boyfriend could wait no longer, so there is no picture. The taste of the noodle was good but I had equally great noodles elsewhere for about a third of the price. The service here was not satisfactory either. When we were there, the manager spent a lot of time talking to half of the staff, therefore, there was almost no one waiting on us. The restaurant was quite vacant but they seated us upstairs, in a corner, where no one could see us.

I would advice that you get your spring rolls elsewhere. There were a couple old ladies selling them on sidewalks and the spring rolls are made on the spot! I did not get the opportunity to eat any of them. We were too full. We also did not come across many stalls selling spring rolls in Ho Chi Minh but I will be sure to get them on my next trip to Vietnam.

Location: Off the corner of the street near 177 Lý Tự Trọng, Bến Thành, Quận 1, Hồ Chí Minh, Vietnam.

Joan and I lucked out because the bún bò huế that was situated one or two streets away from our hotel was really good! The lady was also very friendly. As you can see, she gave us a generous amount of meat.

Another famous dish is the phở. There are so many variations of these that I do not know where to begin. I do not have any pictures to document the different ones that we tried but most of them were tasty. A couple had overcooked noodles which made it less enjoyable but the broth was always amazing! In my experience, the street stalls or hawkers always sell better products that anything you can get in a restaurant. Unless you are extremely picky about the source and cleanliness of your food, try the hawkers.

Vietnam Pizza
Vietnam Pizza.

Location: Somewhere between Vincom and Saigon Shopping Centre, one of the intersections.

This was a unique snack. I could not find it anywhere else. At night, this lady sets up her stall at one of the major intersections near Rex Hotel or Vincom Centre. On the surface, it looks very plain but it has an interesting mix of flavours. If you love junk food, you should try this.

First, she heats up the rice paper on a mini-grill. Then, she cracks a quail egg onto it. After that, she adds some minced pork and condiments before rolling it up. I thought it was rather pricey at RM4.50 each but it was worth it. In fact, I loved it so much that I roamed the streets and hunted her down the next night for another one.

Location: Near the War Museum.

This was a random encounter while we were walking to some of the attractions. I saw a lady ordering a bunch of snacks and it reminded me of ‘lor bak’. I asked a passerby to help me order a couple to try. These skewered snacks taste very much like ‘lor bak’. It is basically deep-fried fish, meats, chicken and dried shrimp wrapped in various ways. The only difference lies in the condiments. Most of the sauces were spicy and those that weren’t tasted like seafood. They did not taste great but they were fairly inexpensive. I ordered about 4-5 skewers and the damage was about RM8.

Location: Đường Lê Lợi, Cửa Nam Chợ Bến Thành, Bến Thành, Quận 1, Hồ Chí Minh, Vietnam.

Bến Thành market sells various things in the morning and is a tourist hotspot so beware of the sellers. Everything there is overpriced and I would suggest that you buy your goods elsewhere. The sellers are constantly harassing tourists to buy things. Just turn a blind eye and keep walking. If they grab your hand, run away. That was my survival tactic. If it persisted, I might have gone with kung fu.

At night, it turns into an outdoor night market. Stalls are set up outside the original marketplace. The food stalls sell various types of grilled seafood and they are all well-patronised. It was impossible for us to find a seat so we did not eat there. Nevertheless, the smell of food coming from the grill was excellent. I do not know the pricing but you can expect to pay quite a hefty sum at Bến Thành market.

If you decide to visit Ho Chi Minh, be prepared to cross the road blindfolded. The traffic never stops and it’s like crossing the road with a herd of buffaloes charging. Whether the traffic light is green, yellow or red, you can expect the bikers to continue coming. The really crazy thing about it is that they know how to swerve away from you so you just have to have faith in their judgment and walk. Joan was truly brave, he guided me across nearly everywhere. I literally crossed roads while closing my eyes because I was too afraid to face the oncoming traffic!

Be very wary of anyone offering to polish shoes, sell you coconut drinks and most peddlers in general. Do not buy anything unless you know the exact price. Be extra careful of the sellers who can speak English.

Honest sellers tend to be those who cannot haggle with you so they speak zero English but they are normally very happy to serve customers. If you ask them for the price, they will write it down or punch it in a calculator without any hesitation!

There are various convenience stores available along every street. I saw a lot of Circle-K stores which I visited quite frequently to get drinks and other items. Most of their drinks are around RM1-2 which is fairly reasonable when it feels like an oven outside and you have walked 2km.

Good luck in your travels and I wish you all the best!

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Authored by Lynn