For all the foodies & travelers out there, I hope this blog piece will inspire you to pack your case and take an immediate trip to South East Asia to understand what true, authentic Vietnamese cooking is all about.
Vietnam has been on the bucket list for afew years now so it was time to get a two week trip booked around the country with my other half. And most importantly, update you all on where’s good to eat because life’s too short for bad food! Especially when you’re on holiday and there’s no time for a bad experience.
Starting in the South of Ho Chi Minh City (AKA Saigon City), I soon came across my top 5 restaurants in District One. Please note down the following so that every Asian food lover out there will never EVER miss out. ✌️
1. Hoa Tuc
Jumping straight into my first and favourite restaurant in Ho Chi Minh City, say hello to Hoa Tuc – situated just off Times Square, in District One.
Assembling Vietnamese ingredients in a fresh new way, this restaurant is uniquely situation in a historical locationwithin Saigon.
The restaurant was built, designed and furnished locally with custom made wrought iron furniture, cast iron lamps and pergolas; we sat in the outside terrace and thoroughly enjoyed the surroundings.
Greeted by a charismatic waiter, it was soon clear that the high standards of service across hospitality apply throughout the country; we were soon advised to order the mixed platter of Hoa Tuc starters.
The starters consisted of Shrimp & Bentanh rolls and Hoa Tuc spring rolls – the combination of starters gives your palette a real burst of fresh Vietnamese flavours; fragrant and very moreish.
Beef was on the specials and so we ordered the barbecued lemongrass beef with rice noodle nest, fresh herbs & rice paper. You know a meal’s good when it doesn’t even need sauce, and so the condiments were simply a bonus to the dish.
Although my winning choice from the menu had to be the charcoal-grilled sea bass with lemongrass, pickled shallot and green pepper. All meat was cooked to perfection and left us feeling very satisfied and excited for what other restaurants there were to explore in Saigon City.
2. Secret Garden
The Secret Garden was a really special restaurant which consisted of authentic decor which was exactly what I’d imagine Vietnam restaurants to be like – an outside terrace with beautiful and colourful lanterns surrounding the venue.
The food pics below speak for themselves…
Half fried beef in cabbage rolls, grilled pork rolls with lemongrass, Secret Garden’s deep-fried sticky rice, and barbecued prawns in tamarind sauce along with grilled squid; all washed down with fresh watermelon juice!
The climb up five flights of stairs is sure worth the effort for the view across Saigon’s old and new skyline.
3. Nha Hang Ngon
Now for one of the more popular hot spots to go for dining out in Ho Chi Minh City, Nha Hang Ngon Restaurant.
Set in a leafy garden ringed by food stalls, the chefs in this restaurant each create a specialised traditional dish, consisting of authentic tastes of Vietnamese, Thai, Japanese and also Chinese cuisine.
Nha Hang Ngon restaurant stands out because not only does it offer a wide array of food acting as a real crowd-pleaser, the restaurant itself is housed in a charming French villa that has been restored to its former glory and painted a canary yellow (image above). We sat out in the courtyard which was surrounded by twinkling fairy lights.
No time for pictures as we were that hungry! We went for the popular Vietnamese dishes; i.e. fresh spring rolls, minced prawn on bamboo and of course, vermicelli noodles. With each meal there are also delicious dipping sauces made with fish sauce, garlic, lemon and chilli.
So dining out at this place won’t be the most authentic dinner of your stay in Ho Chi Minh due to the popularity of the place amongst tourists, but most definitely a great place to still enjoy Vietnamese cuisine in a Vietnamese setting.
4. Bep Me In
Always on a search for local street food, we came across a ‘safe’ place in terms of fresh ingredients, and had an incredibleexperience at this street food cafe we happened to find by chance through a peaceful alley.
Two local beers ordered and we were soon enjoying Vietnamese pizza, Asian infused meatballs and a whole lot of love from the friendliest waitress.
Even the menu was super cute…
Bep Me In (AKA Mama’s Kitchen with a twist) is a real must stop place for highly affordable and tasty authentic food served with the best local beer I’ve ever had. This was my most enjoyable & unique dining out experience and by far the cheapest for those on a budget!
5. Hum Cafe
Finally, one for all the vegetarians out there, Hum Cafe.
Serving only the freshest ingredients for a culinary experience that is not only delicious and fulfilling, but also nourishes the soul with peace, healthfulness, and grace.
As a meat lover, I was hesitant to come here and can honestly say I am completely converted to acknowledging vegetarian food can be just as satisfying as meals which include meat.
For starters we had the square deep fried spring rolls, and with each food option on the menu came an individual description; this one was a ‘great source of protein for a healthy heart.’
For mains, I had a vege Pad Thai which proved with that dishes with true flavour, meat is not always necessary!! We also tried the red Thai curry served in a coconut which added to the creamy & mild flavour, accompanied with a tasty vegetable skewer and all washed down with a bottle of white wine.
And finally for dessert, we shared (yes, shared!) the black glutinous rice yoghurt which came with rice and was recommended as an ideal choice for the digestive system.
So there you have it – the top 5 recommended places to eat in Ho Chi Minh City.
And remember to explore the markets in the city (District One being the main area) – our market we kept visiting had to be Bentanh Street Food Market for the traditional Banh Xeo savoury pancake dish, which is made of rice flour, water and turmeric powder. Delicious 💃🍴