While no Saigon native would regard the array of food available five minutes from their doorstep as news anymore, the USD$1 gourmet meals have made the city a dream destination for the rest of the world. A survey by Booking.com, one of the world’s top travel firms, ranks Saigon as the sixth best place for local foods. Just last year, Saigon was also named one of the best food destinations by Caterwings, a European food ordering service.
The dirt cheap price is only a small reason why you cannot beat eating out in this city. Residing in the intersection between Chinese, Khmer, and Muslim worlds, you can find almost anything in Saigon: from Vietnamese dishes like com tam (broken rice), banh mi, Khmer inspired hu tieu, to Chinese favourites like fun gou, jiaozi (dumplings), or pha lau (offal in spiced stocks), as well as an admirable amount of Halal food, including Halal pho. Just one ingredient like snails can spawn a rich culture: roasted with butter, stir fried in coconut milk, oven baked with cheese, or onions and shacha sauce, enjoyed as full meals with friends and families. The constant stream of seafood from nearby coastal towns like Phan Thiet and Vung Tau means there’s never shortage in creativity.
As the hub for migration in Vietnam, people from all over bring with them their hometown specialties, such as Hanoi’s bun cha in Phu Nhuan District, Hue’s clam rice and noodles or Bac Lieu’s soy noodles in D3. Che, a sweet dessert of a pudding consisting of coconut milk and various toppings, is priced at 22 cents per serving in Go Vap.
Sounds hard to believe? Venture out of the touristy districts and see for yourself. An auntie in a conical hat with her stall on any street corner might just be the great culinary artist you never knew existed.