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Discover the hidden gems of Saigon’s food culture!

Nguyen Phi Quan
Saigon’s culinary scene is a mix of Vietnamese, Chinese and French influences. The city is famous for its street food culture and has a wide variety of dishes to offer. The street food vendors are located all over the city and offer affordable and delicious food. The restaurants in Saigon offer a more upscale dining experience and serve a variety of international cuisines

Saigon is a city that is known for its rich and diverse food culture. The city has many signature dishes that are unique to the region. In fact, Saigon’s food culture is so important that it has become a major tourist attraction for travelers from all over the world. In this blog post, we will explore some of the signature dishes in Saigon and where to find them.

History of Saigon food's culture

Tracing the history of a street food dish in Saigon is no easy feat; the city attracts people from so many different provinces and countries that it’s nearly impossible to pinpoint the exact history of a meal. However, Saigon’s food culture has been influenced by many different cultures over the years. The city was once part of French Indochina, which had a significant impact on the local cuisine. French dishes such as baguettes and coffee have become staples in Saigon.

Signature dishes in Saigon

Hu Tieu

One of the most common dishes which is served for breakfast is Hu Tieu. Hu tieu became popular in the 1960s in Southern Vietnam, especially in Saigon. The dish is a Cambodian-Chinese concoction that Saigoneers have ‘borrowed’ and changed to suit their tastes. The main difference between the two dishes are the noodles. Although both come from rice, ‘hu tieu’ noodles are thinner and chewier.

hutieu Saigon.jpg
hutieu Saigon.jpg

Hu Tieu has a sweet broth made from pork bones, onion, daikon, and dried shrimp. The broth is often made of pork bones, dried squid and dried shrimp. For Hu Tieu made in Southern Vietnam, the broth is made to be a little sweet to match with Southern Vietnamese’s taste. The noodles are usually made from tapioca flour and rice flour. The toppings can vary but usually include pork slices, shrimp, squid, fish cake slices, and quail eggs.

Hu Tieu has a soft texture and is slightly chewy. The broth is sweet and savory with a hint of umami flavor from the dried shrimp and squid. The toppings add different textures and flavors to the dish.

Banh Mi

Banh Mi is a Vietnamese sandwich that originated in Saigon. The modern Banh Mi as we know it today is believed to have been born in Saigon. Banh Mi usually consider as sandwich which is made with a baguette that is crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. It is then filled with various meats such as pork belly, pate, and ham. It is also filled with pickled vegetables such as carrots and daikon radish. The sandwich is then topped with cilantro and chili peppers. The special topping of Banh Mi is Cilantro which might be hard to eat for some people. However, this ingredient would boost the taste of Banh Mi to the new level.

banh mi Saigon.jpg
banh mi Saigon.jpg

Com Tam

Com Tam is a dish that originated in the south of Vietnam. It was created during the French colonial period when broken rice was considered to be inferior to whole grains. The dish was originally served to the working class as it was an affordable and filling meal. Over time, Com Tam has become a popular dish throughout Vietnam. It is now considered to be a signature dish of Saigon and is enjoyed by people from all walks of life.

Com tam Saigon.gif
Com tam Saigon.gif

Com Tam typically consists of broken rice, chargrilled pork chops, and shredded pork skin. Other ingredients include egg meatloaf and fish sauce. The ingredient makes Com Tam become special called "Nuoc Mam" which is a traditional sauce of Viet Nam. Pouring this sauce on broken rice made Com Tam taste both sweet and salty. Moreover, adding a bit spicy by chillies on "Nuoc Mam" made broken rice and chargrilled pork chops carry an attractive savour. Nevertheless, not everywhere sells delicious Nuoc Nam and finding the delicious is hard to the tourists. Therefore, travel with a local tour guide will support tourists finding easier.

Banh Xeo

Banh xeo is a Vietnamese savory pancake made of rice flour, water, turmeric powder, stuffed with slivers of fatty pork, shrimp, diced green onion, and bean sprouts. It is served with lettuce leaves and herbs and dipped in a sweet and sour diluted fish sauce.

Banhxeo Saigon .jpg
Banhxeo Saigon .jpg

To eat Banh Xeo, you should cut it into small pieces with scissors and wrap it in lettuce leaves with herbs such as mint and basil. Then dip it in fish sauce before eating. When eating Banh Xeo, you will feel the crispy taste of the cake and the sweetness of the coconut milk. When combined with raw vegetables and dipping sauce, you will have a delicious and nutritious dish.

Because of the commercial and development nature, there are many restaurants springing up and serving the same dishes. However, in big cities like Saigon, it is very difficult to find a restaurant with the right taste. So, to discover true Saigon cuisine, don't forget to always go with a gourmet local friend.

Explore Saigon's culinary with Local Buddy

Local Buddy in Saigon is a great way to experience the city’s signature food. They are more than just tour guides; they are interpreters, translators, content creators and much more. They will show you the hidden gems that cannot be found in mass media and customize your itinerary. They can take you to the best local restaurants and street food vendors that serve authentic Vietnamese cuisine. You can try the famous “Banh Mi” sandwich, “Com Tam” broken rice. The local buddies are friendly and knowledgeable about the city’s culture and history. They can also help you with transportation and other travel arrangements.


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