Ho Chi Minh City is a metropolitan city with plenty of local and foreign dining establishments. It’s even more international than Hanoi, the capital city of Vietnam. In Ho Chi Minh City, you’ll be able to find all sorts of cuisine, from Indian to Turkish, French and Sri Lankan. While all of this sounds tempting, local delicacies will open your mind and your heart to the Vietnamese culture one bite at a time.
First get from the airport to the city center
From Tan Son Nhat International Airport to the city center it will take you about 20 – 40 minutes commute. The airport is only 8 kilometers away, but keep in mind that traffic might get in the way. Once you’re out of customs you have various options – taking the bus, a taxi, a Grab car or a private transfer. Each of these have their pros and cons. For example, the bus could be very unreliable and slow. A taxi often charges premium prices and with hailing a Grab car, your language barrier could come in the way.
To avoid all this hassle and more of negotiating prices, locating your driver, and potentially getting lost in the way, just pre-arrange your transport to the hotel. You’ll find a knowledgeable and caring driver who will get you to the city center in the smoothest way possible.
Home Finest Saigon
Home Finest Saigon is part of a restaurant trio – the other two being Home Hanoi Restaurant and Home Hoi An Restaurant. An ideal place to have a top-notch dining experience, Home Finest takes traditional food to the next level and serves those seeking to stray away from typical street food. The restaurant is located in a renovated art deco style villa, every corner looks elegant and sleek, with dark, earthy tones. With balconies, terraces, intimate dining areas beside water features and lush greenery, you’ll be able to find and claim a spot to dine comfortably for an hour or two.
Adding to that is the excellent menu and service. Besides the must-try traditional Vietnamese dishes such as pho (beef noodle soup), goi cuon (spring rolls), and bun rieu (crab noodles), you’ll be able to find other dishes that are prepared with a twist. Try the fried mushroom, beef made on a hot stone, and the grilled squid. You really can’t go wrong with any dish. Moreover, you can get away with a bill of about $25.00 USD.
Address: 252 Dien Bien Phu, District 3, HCMC
Opening hours: 11 am – 2 pm | 6 pm – 10:30 pm
Price range: 200,000 – 600,000 VND
Secret House is another popular restaurant to indulge in some authentic Vietnamese cuisine. It is the newest member to join the “secret” family, the other being Secret Garden. Both are among the highest-ranked restaurants in Ho Chi Minh City and make a perfect choice whether you are seeking an intimate dining experience or one with a large group of friends. At Secret House you’ll want to order family-style. This means ordering a bunch of dishes to share over some drinks and laughter.
The restaurant is located near Ben Thanh Market, which makes the Secret House a great place to go to after an afternoon of shopping. With a peaceful atmosphere created by the simple bamboo decoration and furniture, the restaurant is made to look like a traditional Vietnamese home. It’s almost as if you are in someone’s house enjoying a delicious home-cooked meal.
Try the grilled pork ribs with salt and chili, the stir-fried tonk flowers with garlic, and the fried spring rolls. Remember to end your meal with some homemade yogurt! Be sure to book your table in advance, as thanks to its popularity, the restaurant gets quite busy. Despite the popularity of the restaurant, prices remain extremely humble and two people will be able to get away with eating a meal for about $15 USD.
Address: 55/2 Le Thi Hong Gam, District 1, HCMC
Opening hours: 10 am – 10 pm
Price range: 60,000 – 150,000 VND
Going vegetarian while in Ho Chi Minh City is very easy thanks to restaurants like Hum. Here you will be able to find plant-based versions of many Vietnamese favorites, without a sacrifice to the taste or dropping the unique flavors of Vietnamese culinary culture.
The dining space is very zen and cozy, with ambient lighting and Buddhist-inspired decor. You’ll find all sorts of diners – friends catching up, couples having a romantic dinner, businessmen and businesswomen discussing their new ventures, and families with children having some time away from home.
You can either order a la carte or a large spread of dishes to share – we recommend the latter. Definitely order the brown rice in lotus leaf and the steamed mushrooms in coconut, but try some other dishes too. You may even not go back to eating meat after trying these because they taste pretty darn good!
Address: 32 Vo Van Tan, District 3, HCMC
Opening hours: 10 am – 10 pm
Price range: 100,000 – 300,000 VND
Com Tam Ba Ghien
Com tam (broken rice) is a specialty Ho Chi Minh City is known for. This is an everyday dish that locals love no matter the time of day. It is made from broken rice grains that normally get tossed out in the rice-making process. Along with the broken rice, you will be served a grilled pork cutlet, some caramelized veggies, egg cake, fried pig skin, and some greens.
While you can find this dish served literally on almost every corner, what makes Com Tam Ba Ghien worth trying is its grilled pork chop, which has absolutely no competition. Plus you will be served huge portions for the normal price. At the cart, you can choose your own toppings if you prefer to stray away from the typical serving.
Just point your way through what intrigues you behind the glass – chicken drumsticks, fried fish, sunny side up eggs, etc. Whichever you choose, just know that you’ll be getting a high-quality food for barely any loss to your wallet.
Address: 84 Dang Van Ngu, Phu Nhuan District, HCMC
Opening hours: 7 am – 9:15 pm
Price range: 40,000 – 50,000 VND
Oc Xuyen – Ban Co Market
For true street food lovers, eating sea snails while in Ho Chi Minh City is a must. A quick Google search will give you some popular options to try this delicacy, however, we recommend you stray away from the well-known names for a lack of authenticity in their servings. Head over to Oc Xuyen – less touristy, which means the flavor is not altered for foreign tastes. This stall is located in Ban Co market known for selling second-hand items.
Dishes are freshly made right after you order in an open kitchen so you can even see how your meal is prepared. The downside is that the menu is in Vietnamese, but don’t fret, we’re going to guide you through exactly how to order.
Step 1: Choose the snails you want. Just point at what you want to try.
Step 2: Decide the size of the portion you want to eat. Use your fingers to signal how many snails you want.
Step 3: Choose the way it is cooked. There are 3 typical ways: grilled with cheese or scallion (mostly for oysters, big kinds of clam), stir-fried with tamarind sauce, and stir-fried with coconut milk. These are the special flavors that Ho Chi Minh City’s sea snail dishes are known for.
Step 4: Simple. Eat.
If you’re seeking a recommendation, then try these: so duong nuong mo hanh (grilled elongated cockle with scallion), oc toi nuong muoi (grilled Japanese bonnet shell with salt), hau nuong pho mai (grilled oyster with cheese), oc mo xao me (winkle shell with tamarind sauce), and ngeu hap sa (clam with lemongrass).
Address: 174/43 Nguyen Thien Thuat, District 3, HCMC
Opening hours: 12 pm – 10 pm
Price range: 80,000 – 120,000 VND
The dishes found in these restaurants will add a delicious note to your journey. Make sure you take the time to enjoy your food, and really savor the different flavors and textures the Vietnamese love to incorporate into their cooking. We don’t blame you if you decide to visit Vietnam time and time again, just for the food.