Eat Your Way Through Saigon
View of the Saigon River
Chances of experiencing the tastiest meals in a foreign country would be very high if you just walk on the street and enjoy not only the smells but also witness their way of life. I believe street food, is a reflection of peoples’ daily lives who are the actual heartbeat of the city and what they cook, would be just a small glimpse into their world. The plethora of taste, colour and variety which is on show in some cities of the world just burst into something bigger than the city itself.
I have always believed that each city has something to give to food explorers, a workout for your senses!
The Opera House
I was looking forward to the street food of Vietnam , as I had heard bits and pieces about it and I knew very little about Vietnamese street food and cuisine apart from the famous pho or bahm mi which are the most exported dishes around the world.
Saigon has a sorrowful historic past and now there is a certain calm over the city inspite of the bustling traffic and crowded markets. The vibrancy and the kindness people generate is much to be talked about.
Walking from the Opera House into the Old Market ,we were introduced to Street food by none other than the Pho., one of the many noodle soups of Vietnam..refers to the noodles in the soup and not the soup actually is by far the most popular dish that Saigon offers...it’s in every nook an corner..costing you maybe a little over $1.
You have to experience a Pho when in Saigon!It is usually prepared with Beef or Chicken..Pho Ga or chicken pho and beef pho , or Pho Bo. The Broth..flavourful, with glassy flash boiled noodles, beansprouts , lime wedges, the essential greens (basil, mint, cilantro, and onions), and the necessary accompaniments of house -chili sauce and fish sauce to heighten the spice level as per your taste. In Saigon , the pho has more sauces added to it than the clearer one in the North , say in Hoi An . I loved the various herbs and greens added to the broth.
Grilled Chicken with Sticky Rice with Spring onions on the side was mildly flavourful but tasty nevertheless.
The Shrimp Green Papaya Salad topped with peanuts and thai basil , served with a sweet chilli was prepared fresh in front of us...with tons of julienned green papaya with her.Some delicious parcels of shrimp were kept on the side ready to be served. This is Goi Coun , a very famous kind of spring roll in the region which are translucent packed with either minced meat or shrimps with greens and coriander.Always dunked in rich peanut sauce
Gorgeous Shrimp Steamed Dumplings at the stall dipped in red vinegar and soy sauce.The skin is gelatine like made of rice flour and tapioca.
A thirst quencher...with a musty and tropical flavour sugar cane juice straight out of the churning machine, is cheap and popular amongst the locals.It can be mixed with a citrus fruit called the calamansi much like the mandarin. Sip and enjoy!
That's Fu, our guide
Fetal Duck eggs (hột vịt lộn) are a very popular street food. Yes! You have to get over the look and focus on the taste which is amazing.The eggs are a cheap road side snack, a favourite amongst Vietnamese children, is kept fertilized for around two weeks until the fetus gets partially developed and then boiled and consumed. I think it's better to eat it before you know what it is to enjoy the juicy taste of the eggs as one can get put off by its appearance.The top of the egg is tapped open and the entire egg is eaten with a spoon, accompanied with a bit of lime and red chillies, on a bed of peppery leaves called Vietnamese coriander called rau ram. It is much meatier than a chicken egg and the accompaniments give it a real twist.
That's Fu , our guide
Walking through the Market ......
Next, I was introduced to a steamed banana cake which is sold wrapped in leaves. It has a unique flavour balanced with coconut mixed with peanuts and sesame. I personally did not enjoy this dessert.
The Bah mi is Vietnamese answer to the hot dog. The French may have introduced them to the baguette, but they have made a sandwich that is packed with delicious flavours and colours.It may contain eggs, sausages, pickles, vegetables, cheese, cold cuts and cilantro.
Visit the DoQuang Dao Street in District 1 for great Bah Mi’s!
Delicious and creamy ice cream is a perfect way to battle a humid evening.I chose a mango and coffee ice cream ...available at street corners in big freezers as you explore the city ..
As the sun set ..the Saigon River illuminated much like its soul ....a city with lots of soul and worth every bite!
There can be no trip complete without experiencing the perfect cup of Coffee in Vietnam. Ho Chi Minh had beautiful cafes, lining the streets of District 1 and we decided to try out The Workshop, a cafe located in the heart of Dong Kho street.High up in a quirky building , it sure was beautiful...high ceilings, lots of natural light pouring in through large windows , bar seating and simple straightforward ways to brew a fine cup.
Pour over is a traditional drip method of slowly pouring near boiled water over ground coffee in various cone drippers.Be it a V60, Kalita Wave Chemex, Kone or a Woodneck, one can be assured of a perfect brew here.I chose the beans from the Dalat region of Vietnam, from Son’s Farm which had a light floral chocolate , green apple taste and a smooth and caramel finish.
My perfect brew...smooth with a hint of chocolate!
Food walk courtesy: Fu was our guide ..ask for him...he was fantastic! Urban Adventures, Ho Chi Minh City.
Ho Chi Minh or Saigon as its local prefer to call it, with a rich past and culture, a bustling and vibrant metropolis with abundant street food and beautiful cafes, it shines among the various capital cities of South East Asia blending the old with the new.