Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam’s largest and most bustling, may not be top of mind when it comes to a getaway from Singapore for some Singaporeans, but it’s slowly converting travellers with its amazing food spots, scenic landscapes, and deep history.
If you’ve finally decided to put the city into your travel plans and don’t know where to start with Vietnamese food (aside from pho), we’ve rounded up 10 Ho Chi Minh City food spots for you to check off. Remember to watch for traffic and motorbikes when you’re getting around.
1. Pho Thin by Sol
45 Nguyen Truong To, Phuong 12, Quan 4, Thanh pho Ho Chi Minh
Open: Monday to Sunday (6.30am to 9.30pm)
Pho is a must-have when you’re in Vietnam, but instead of going for the usual noodles in a bowl of broth, spice things up at Pho Thin by Sol. The restaurant serves different kinds of pho such as pho with stir-fried beef, wine stew beef pho, pho in a hot stone bowl, and even pho that’s been deep-fried into a puffy snack.
It has a few outlets around Ho Chi Minh City, so you’ll be able to get your pho fix at Pho Thin by Sol pretty easily.
What to order: Flaming stir-fried beef pho (VND68,000 or S$4.10), pho chien phong — puffy fried pho noodles with stir-fried beef and vegetables (VND118,000)
2. Co Ba Vung Tau
216 Pham Thai Buong, Tan Phong, Quan 7, Thanh pho Ho Chi Minh
Open: Monday to Sunday (9am to 9pm)
Hailing originally from Vung Tau, a port city in southern Vietnam, Co Ba Vung Tau is well-known for its take on banh xeo, a crispy Vietnamese crepe that comes with seafood, meat and bean sprouts, and many other toppings. It’s also famous for banh khot, a mini savoury pancake with assorted toppings.
Located in the city’s District 7, Co Ba Vung Tau has airy outdoor seating for you to enjoy your Vietnamese feast at — make sure you’ve got mosquito repellent on to keep those pesky bugs at bay.
What to order: Banh xeo tom thit gia — crepe with shrimp, meat and bean sprouts (VND100,000), banh khot thap cam — an assortment of mini savoury pancakes (VND95,000)
Crescent Residence 1, 103 Ton Dat Tien, CR1, Tan Phu, Quan 7, Thanh pho Ho Chi Minh
Open: Monday to Sunday (11am to 9pm)
Also located within District 7 is Veganizta, a new fully vegan eatery that’s been a hot Ho Chi Minh City food spot for its inventive take on vegan cuisine. The restaurant prides itself on serving vegan food that looks good and tastes good, and delivers dishes with different styles primarily inspired by Southeast Asian flavours.
You’ll find Vietnamese staples such as pho and spring rolls, as well as veganised dishes from around the region such as larb, a Laotian meat salad. There are also laksa and Western mains such as toast and yoghurt.
What to order: 24-hour slow-cooked forest mushroom pho (VND135,000), summer platter to share — grilled bread, dips, vegetables, dumplings, and spring rolls (VND250,000)
4. Banh Canh Cua 14
221 Tran Binh Trong, Phuong 3, Quan 5, Thanh pho Ho Chi Minh
Open: Monday to Sunday (6.30am to 10pm)
The first time I had banh canh cua, a steaming hot bowl of crab and tapioca noodles in soup, in Ho Chi Minh City, I wondered why it took me so long to learn of this dish. If there’s anywhere you should get your first taste of banh canh cua, it’s Banh Canh Cua 14, a busy eatery in District 5 popular among locals and tourists.
The crab broth is fresh and flavourful. Coupled with the chewy texture of tapioca noodles, it makes an incredibly comforting treat for the senses. You’ll probably finish every drop of your soup — yes, it’s that good.
What to order: Banh canh cua (VND48,000), dac biet tom cang xanh — noodles with crayfish (VND65,000)
5. Bun Thit Nuong Anh Ba
126 Le Van Sy, Phuong 10, Phu Nhuan, Thanh pho Ho Chi Minh
Open: Monday to Sunday (7am to 11pm)
Bun Thit Nuong Anh Ba specialises in bun thit nuong, a dish of vermicelli noodles topped with grilled meat (usually pork), fried spring rolls and some herbs, and finished off with a sweet, salty sauce called nuoc mam. Aside from bun thit nuong, we love that it also serves good banh hoi, a dish comprising vermicelli woven and bundled together and presented as flat rectangular sheets.
The shop is a small outfit and located at a busy intersection, so it can get quite crowded. But thankfully, service is fairly quick and you’ll be able to weave in and out pretty fast.
What to order: Bun thit nuong (VND59,000), banh hoi (VND59,000)
6. Bun Dau Mam Tom – Hem Dau
140e Ly Chinh Thang, Phuong 14, Quan 3, Thanh pho Ho Chi Minh
Open: Monday to Sunday (10am to 10pm)
The first thing that strikes you when you come to Bun Dau Mam Tom – Hem Dau is how incredibly narrow this restaurant is. It’s because it was set up in an alley by a bunch of enterprising young people who love bun dau mam tom, a vermicelli dish originating from the north of Vietnam that comprises tofu, shrimp and other ingredients.
Food aside, the restaurant’s location in itself is a reason to visit — how often do you get to dine in an alley converted into a restaurant? We must warn you, though, that the shrimp sauce can be quite pungent and strong if you’re trying it for the first time.
What to order: Bun dau thap cam — vermicelli, beans, meat, spring rolls, shrimp rolls, and vegetables (VND49,000), nuoc sau — dracontomelon juice (VND15,000)
7. Com Ga 142
142 Ba Dinh, Phuong 10, Quan 8, Thanh pho Ho Chi Minh
Open: Monday to Sunday (10am to 11pm)
I know what you’re thinking: You didn’t go all the way to Vietnam to have a Singapore staple of chicken rice, but hear me out. Hidden in District 8 is Com Ga 142, a shop that stood relatively unknown for a decade until food delivery apps shot this store to popularity.
The double-fried chicken Com Ga 142 serves up is incredibly juicy and crispy. Its signature dish com ga mam toi, fried chicken with a garlicky fish sauce, is the perfect blend of sweet, savoury and crunchy. The crowd of delivery riders outside Com Ga 142 bears testament to how popular it is, and we’d recommend ordering if you don’t want to travel all the way out to District 8 and wait. But if you prefer your chicken piping hot, then Com Ga 142 is well worth the trip.
What to order: Com ga xoi mo — fried-chicken rice (VND43,000), com ga mam toi — fried-chicken rice with garlic fish sauce glaze (VND43,000)
8. Banh Mi Huynh Hoa
26 Le Thi Rieng, Phuong Pham Ngu Lao, Quan 1, Thanh pho Ho Chi Minh
Open: Monday to Sunday (11am to 9pm)
Besides pho, you’ve probably had your fair share of banh mi even before visiting Vietnam — for good reason. Banh mi is a convenient and accessible dish that’s filling and packs good flavour. But you really haven’t had banh mi till you’ve gone to Banh Mi Huynh Hoa.
The restaurant is a hot favourite among locals and tourists. And be warned: The lines can get long. Nevertheless, you won’t regret waiting your turn the moment you lay your hands on a freshly baked baguette packed to the brim with flavourful toppings, especially the liver pate.
There are no seats at the restaurant, so we recommend getting a banh mi or two, and popping by Tao Dan Park nearby to have your sandwich. The restaurant provides an extra bag of salad, herbs and pickles, wet wipes and plastic gloves, so you’re all set for a picnic lunch. I’d grab a cup of ice-cold Vietnamese coffee, too, if I were you.
What to order: Banh mi dac biet huynh hoa (VND59,000)
9. Secret Garden
158 Pasteur, Ben Nghe, Quan 1, Thanh pho Ho Chi Minh
Open: Monday to Sunday (11am to 10pm)
Secret Garden is a rustic-style restaurant located on a rooftop in the heart of District 1 that serves up Vietnamese staples. It’s a four-storey climb up a flight of stairs, but don’t let that deter you because you’ll be rewarded with good views and hearty homecooked-style Vietnamese food.
A little tip: When reserving, request a table around the edge of the rooftop for a view of Ho Chi Minh City’s skyline as you dine.
What to order: Com chien toi — fried garlic rice (VND85,000), cha gio — fried spring rolls (VND116,000)
10. Cuc Gach Quan
10 Dang Tat, Tan Dinh, Quan 1, Thanh pho Ho Chi Minh
Open: Monday to Sunday (9am to 11.30pm)
Cuc Gach Quan is a perennial favourite and prices can be steep here, compared with what you’ll pay in the rest of Ho Chi Minh City.
But it’s well worth the dining experience, given its quaint French colonial setting, variety of food and hospitable service. We hear Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt dined there a decade ago when visiting Vietnam, so that should provide an indication of the quality of the place.
The menu is extremely extensive and can be intimidating for anyone new to the restaurant or Vietnamese cuisine. Speak to the friendly wait staff and ask for their recommendations before you make your order.
What to order: Barbecued pork (VND130,000), sauteed morning glory with garlic (VND100,000)