Comprised of dense green rice paddies and lazy, winding rivers, the Mekong Delta is like no other region in Vietnam. Whether firmly on land or floating with the river current, this region is flush with wildlife, historical sights, and incredible landscapes. The River of Nine Dragons, as locals know the area, is where the Mekong splinters into nine separate branches, crisscrossing low landscapes before reaching the sea. Life moves much more slowly here and is often surrounded by water. You'll find even homes, farms, and markets take on an aquatic adaptation in the Mekong Delta.
Vibrating with energy, innovation and traffic – lots of traffic – Ho Chi Minh City, formerly known as Saigon, is the economic heart of Vietnam and the main hub of the southern region. A freewheeling, cosmopolitan metropolis, HCMC's dynamic cityscape draws together old and new Vietnam in the most compact of spaces, representing the city’s past as well as its future.
The best Ho Chi Minh City dishes are well regarded as nutritious, savoury, and hearty delights that can be enjoyed at any time of the day. Some of the defining traits in Vietnamese cuisine include rice, noodles, seafood, pork and beef, as well as various fresh herbs and spices, all of which result in robust flavours and unique interpretations. Although the city is evolving into a cosmopolitan landscape with sprawling shopping malls, fine-dining restaurants and luxury hotels, you can still find plenty of roadside eateries, vibrant street market, and street food carts to satisfy your appetite for authentic Vietnamese delicacies. Dining in Ho Chi Minh is not just limited to Vietnamese pho and coffee, as you can also enjoy fresh seafood, noodles, rice, spring rolls, and meats prepared with an array of cooking methods. Also great for travellers on a tight budget, some of these top must-try foods in Ho Chi Minh City are not only hearty and filling, but also cost less than VND 40,000 per dish. This is what to eat in Ho Chi Minh for a real taste of the city and Vietnam.
There are some dishes so synonymous with a country, so entwined in the national identity, that to visit and not sample a plate or bowl or stick means your visit was incomplete. Isn’t it on everyone’s ‘to do’ list to eat a juicy burger in America, a stone-baked pizza in Italy, or freshly sliced sushi in Japan? Well in Vietnam, the dish that must be tried over all others is their most popular noodle dish called pho (pronounced ‘fur’). Pho is eaten for breakfast, lunch or dinner; from the highest tables in the land to street vendors with makeshift plastic tables. The chewy, white rice noodles and clear broth are garnished with chopped scallions, green herbs, and additional condiments such as segments of lime, chilli and garlic. Although pho is originally a northern Vietnamese dish, it is now a ubiquitous part of Vietnam’s rich culinary experience. The meat in pho can vary but it is usually either beef or chicken. Finding the best pho in Ho Chi Minh can be a real challenge so here are our five favourite places:
This section of Ho Chi Minh City restaurants caters to just about any traveller, comprising decades-old food stalls, quaint coffee shops, sophisticated restaurants, and expat-owned bistros. One of the most visited cities in Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh City’s culinary scene has grown exponentially with stylish dining venues serving international flavours such as French, Indian, Mexican, Italian, Japanese, Thai and Chinese. Of course, no trip to this vibrant city is complete without savouring local delicacies such as banh mi (French baguette) pho noodles, spring rolls, and banh xeo (savoury rice-flour crepe), all of which are easily available in local markets, roadside stalls and even high-end hotels. Arranged alphabetically for your convenience, read on for our handy guide on where and what to eat in Ho Chi Minh City.
Trois Pommes Restaurant offers French cuisine in a luxurious setting. Located in the five-star Tajmasago Castle Hotel, you will be able to taste some of the finest dishes while being served in style. Their black and white interior design gives a real feeling of luxury and truly ads to the ambiance.
Cafe Cardinal Saigon offers an extensive selection of continental cuisine by day and contemporary French dishes by night. Located on the sixth floor of five-star hotel The Reverie Saigon, this all-day restaurant is open, bright and breathes a real feeling of chic, attracting expats and travellers looking to splurge on a satisfying meal in Ho Chi Minh City. Interior-wise, Café Cardinal Saigon is fitted with luxury fixtures and furnishing imported from Italy, marble pillars and flooring, as well floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the Nguyen Hue walking promenade. For breakfast, you can enjoy its extensive buffet and à la carte menus - standouts include the buttermilk pancakes with maple syrup, black cod with chorizo, and wok-fried lobster with black peppercorn.
Tram’s Cookery Restaurant & Bar is an upscale place, set next to the Saigon River, where you can enjoy traditional Vietnamese and western cuisine in a relaxing atmosphere or just have some drinks in tranquillity. It is part of the beautiful An Lam Riverside resort and a favourite of Saigon’s ‘elite’ community and expats living in Vietnam. Either by speedboat or taxi it will respectively take roughly 20 or 35 minutes to get there from the city centre.
La Brasserie is a seafood buffet restaurant located in the Nikko Hotel Saigon, and is one of the most recommended places in the city for seafood lovers. Their buffet is well known for its lobster, oysters, sashimi, shrimp, crab and more. During dinner you will be accompanied by live music which gives the place that a touch of sophistication. Forget images of pushly lines of diners all clambering for the freshest plates of food; the atmosphere at La Brasserie is classy and has a homely feel to it thanks to its interior and hospitality.
Hideaway Cafe Saigon is one of the most attractive coffee shops in Ho Chi Minh. Housed in a canary yellow French villa, it’s the kind of place you would never know was there if you didn’t look for it. The coffee shop is located a small alley on Pham Ngoc Thach Street, which is about a five-minute walk from the Turtle Lake roundabout in District 3. You enter Hideaway Café Saigon through a gate and into a central courtyard. Either side, there are period buildings with high ceilings and small opulent touches redolent of the French colonial period. We recommend tables in the house at the front (even though this is the restaurant section).