Not sure where to eat in Ho Chi Minh City?
Well, here are five places you really ought to try when you’re in Vietnam’s biggest city.
So what are you waiting for?
Get yourself on a motorbike and hit the streets!
1. The Bun Rieu Lady (219 Tuy Ly Vuong St., District 8)
This is an absolute banger of a bun rieu.
But what’s bun rieu?
In short, it’s a traditional Vietnamese soup with a variety of meats – some of them mysterious – and rice vermicelli.
A highlight in this dish are the ground crab fish cakes.
Typically the broth is ‘tomatoey’ but it can be made spicy with the addition of chilis.
Here at the Bun Rieu Lady (she has no shopfront or fixed address) sit – literally – on the side of a quiet residential street in the shade and chat to the lovely locals who are curious as to why there’s a stranger eating there.
Getting there is perhaps better suited to people living in Ho Chi Minh City and who have a motorbike, as there aren’t any notable tourist attractions nearby to keep you in the area.
Although the Ben Binh Dong floating flower market is something to see in the lead up to Tet (Lunar New Year) each year.
A bowl of the good stuff will set you back just VND30,000.
It’s an amazing lunch with homemade mam tom that will knock your flip flops off.
Get there for lunch.
2. TIen Phat Diem Tam Hong Kong (18 Ky Hoa St., District 5)
This is an all-time favourite dim sum joint in Ho Chi Minh City that’s an institution in District 5 – the ‘Chinatown’ neighbourhood of the city also known as Cho Lon.
It’s multiple floors of steamed heaven that serves up all your dim sum favourites in a typical no-fuss manner of dim sum restaurants the world over.
The staff are very accommodating for non-Vietnamese speakers and do their best to take your order.
Tien Phat is the ideal way to end a walking tour of the District 5 temples close by.
This extremely popular eatery is always packed with locals getting their ha cao and xiu mai fix for the day, so get their early before midday.
Parking is right across the street in the elementary school.
3. Bun Ca Loc Chau Doc (124 Vo Thi Sau St., District 3)
Just down from the intersection of Vo Thi Sau and Hai Ba Trung Sts. in District 3 and a short walk from the ‘Insta-famous’ pink Tan Dinh Church around the corner, is this little treasure.
Here they specialise in bun ca, which is a rice noodle dish with fish – usually snakehead – a variety seen as vermin in other parts of the world, but as a tasty snack in Vietnam.
Their soup is a nice balance of sweet and sour, but for a more spicy and savoury taste, throw in some freshly cut herbs and chilis, including some of their uber-fragrant pickled chilis with lemongrass.
The dish truly becomes stellar once you load up on the shredded banana blossom and bean sprouts.
Prices are slightly steeper here for a bowl of the good stuff at VND50,000 but it’s understandable given its popularity and its proximity to perhaps one of Saigon’s most popular landmarks among the selfie-seeking throngs looking to tick-off Tan Dinh Church from their ‘Insta-worthy’ bucket lists.
4. Thanh Xuan (62 Ton That Thiep St., District 1)
Here’s a great little lunch spot for you right in the thick of things in town where they serve up a selection of tasty noodle dishes.
But come here to try their hu tieu My Tho and another of their dac biet (specialty) hu tieu tom cua (prawn crab).
Hu tieu is a rice noodle soup with its roots in Khmer cuisine and it’s a delicious reminder of the significant Khmer community that are the ancestors of the people who lived here when present-day Ho Chi Minh City was once part of the Khmer Empire and known as Prey Nokor.
Meanwhile, My Tho is a small city in the Mekong Delta approximately 70km south of Saigon and is one of the towns travellers visit on a one-day Mekong Delta “experience” from Ho Chi Minh City.
Find this little hole in the wall joint just a block from Nguyen Hue St., pull up a plastic stool on the pavement and spend VND60,000 for a lunch that will hit the spot.
5. Mi Chu Thon (44 Tran Hung Dao St., District 5)
This highly-recommended mi hoanh thanh eatery serves up some of the best wonton noodle soups (sup mi hoanh thanh) in the city.
Sure, if you live on the opposite side of the city, it’s a bit of a hike, but it’s well worth it.
For tourists, it’s an easily accessible location close to all the action of Chinatown, or what’s also known as Cho Lon.
The reason behind why this place gets such a favourable nod is that their wheat egg noodles and wontons are hand-made pretty much on-the-go which gives the dish such a fresh, clean taste.
The wontons might seem a little small compared to other places you’ve come across, but at VND46,000 a bowl, just order another one.
Next time you’re in the area checking out the temples, pop in here and give it a try.
Expect to wait.
All photos [except for feature photo] & video taken on Matt’s Samsung A10s
Words by Matt Cowan. Matt founded The Bureau and is always on the lookout for great street snacks. Follow him on Instagram at @mattcowansaigon