I recently returned from an amazing trip to Southeast Asia. Vietnam had been on my “to see” list for a long time so, after trekking and schlepping halfway around the world to Bangkok and spending a few days there, I decided it would be ludicrous not to take the short one hour flight from Bangkok to Ho Chi Minh City.
And I’m so glad I did.
Our hotel, The Grand Silverland Hotel & Spa, was in a great location in district one in Ho Chi Minh, within walking distance to basically all the major sites and attractions. We shopped at the Ben Thanh street market, crossed the crazy streets of the city and managed to avoid getting hit by one of the thousands of scooters buzzing about, visited the famous Saigon post office, the War Remnants Museum, and tried to take in as much as we could of the sites, people, culture, and of course the food, as we walked around Ho Chi Minh.
Gosh, you guys, the food. Thailand is famous for it’s incredible food, and for good reason. The food is the best. Love me some pad see ew or moo ping or som tum. I could go on and on about Thai food. But Vietnamese food is underrated or maybe, just not as well known. It’s gained popularity in recent years in the States in the form of pho, but still relatively under the radar and it really needs to steal the limelight for a bit. The street food in Ho Chi Minh is something to rave about. And it’s not just the Vietnamese food that’s so delicious, although that’s, of course, phenomenal.
Ben Thanh Street Food Market was one of our favorite places to visit. It’s an outdoor market and relatively small but jam packed with tons of food carts selling all sorts of global cuisine at an affordable price. There are benches and tables to sit at and it’s usually crowded, which is always a good sign. Sometimes they even have live music. The atmosphere is fun and lively and the food is just delicious. We, of course, tried a few varieties of banh mis and pho but we also enjoyed some channa masala, garlic naan, mangoes and sticky rice and a Nutella banana pizza. From oyster bars to pizza carts and Asian barbecue, this place has it all. The only difficult part is choosing which carts to order from.
We were starving after a day of walking around Ho Chi Minh and, on our way to the War Remants Museum, stumbled upon a little street cafe. The menu had very little English on it and our waitress spoke even less so I just wound up pointing to something under the “noodle” section of the menu and hoping it would be good. It was honestly one of my favorite things I ate on this particular trip to Southeast Asia. I don’t know what it was called or if it even had an official name, but if you ever happen to be in Ho Chi Minh and see something resembling noodles stir fried with beef, I suggest you try it.
Like most people, I enjoy a bowl of pho. The salty broth, the freshness of the scallions, the thinly sliced meat, and of course slurping up those noodles. It’s all delicious. And we had our fair share in Ho Chi Minh. But, what I love even more than pho (gasp!), is the banh mi, aka the Vietnamese sandwich, although technically, it just means bread.
There are many different types of banh mi sandwiches but the most popular one is typically stuffed with seasoned, grilled pork meat, pickled veggies (like carrots and daikon), cilantro, cucumber slices and spicy chili sauce. We sampled as many as we could while we were there and the street banh mis are awesome. But, if you want to try banh mis with the volume turned up, with a little flair, you’ll want to check out My Banh Mi, a small bistro across from the Notre Dame Cathedral and the famous Post Office. The menu offers a variety of things to try, including a lot of East meets West fusion dishes, but what most of the menu is dedicated to and what they are famous for are their banh mis (duh). My favorite was the traditional, but really enjoyed the Ho Chi Minh (almost like a chicken salad) and the Korean version, which came topped with kimchi and spicy garlic sauce, as well. I only wish we could have tried them all. If you love banh mis, this a must try in Ho Chi Minh.
I loved a lot about Ho Chi Minh, but if I had to pick my favorite aspect of the city, it would have to be the food. Surprise, surprise.