Ho Chi Minh City, or Saigon, is definitely a food paradise. From street food like Banh Mi to fancy rooftop bars, the city has something for everyone. Many people travel to Vietnam for the food, and I assure you that you will not be disappointed.
Let’s explore Saigon in 24 hours of local Vietnamese food! Eating from day to night is the way many people travel. If you are into cafes and coffee, Saigon is the place for you!
Breakfast: Phở Hòa Pasteur
When in Saigon, the thing you have to eat is pho! Pho is the Vietnamese noodle soup, usually served with beef. If you don’t take beef, I would recommend chicken. This pho place is a beloved shop by the locals of Vietnam.
The noodles is soft yet firm, the broth is solid with flavor. When your pho arrives, you will also get a basket of fresh vegetables. Take the leaves of your favourite vegetables and mix it with your pho. It is fresh and adds a certain flavor to your noodle soup! Other than pho, they also serve other local Vietnamese food and dessert. They usually bring some starters or food to your table. They are not complimentary.
Service is lower than average. But in a local shop like this, you should not expect good service. They recently added an English menu, otherwise you can point to the picture of your chosen pho. I prefer the raw beef compared to the rest.
They open early till late, so it is a great place for breakfast or late-night snack.
Pho is a signature Vietnamese dish. It is made with a clear broth of soup with fresh raw beef, lots of fresh vegetables and white noodles. You can find them everywhere in Vietnam, from road side stalls to fancy restaurants and homes of Vietnamese. This is one of the most famous Vietnamese dish known to the world.
Phở Hòa Pasteur Information
Address: 260C Pasteur, phường 8, Quận 3, Hồ Chí Minh, Vietnam
Operating Hours: 6am-12am, daily
Best for: breakfast, late night snack
Coffee Break: Shin coffee
After your delicious breakfast, you need to head for some delicious coffee. The coffee culture is very strong in the Vietnamese culture. After all, Vietnamese coffee is something you can find in many hipster cafes around the world.
There are hundreds, if not thousands, of cafes in Vietnam. Some even only serve coffee and nothing else. One of my favourite coffee places is Shin Coffee. Not only do they have a range of roasted coffee beans from around the world, they also have many fancy preparation methods. The coffee bar is also where you can watch how your coffee is made. Other than coffee, they have some cakes and tea.
The service is great. People speak English, they are polite and helpful. There are many outlets around, but my faouvite is the outlet in the city centre.
Coffee culture is real in Vietnam. You see a coffee shop around every corner in Vietnam. I dare say that there is more coffee shop than pho shops in Saigon! The Vietnamese love their coffee – strong black coffee with lots of sugar. The culture has also evolved to other types of coffee beans and various preparation styles. You can get coffee from as low as 15,000 VND (US$0.60) from the road side stalls. However, I would recommend you to drink coffee from reputable cafes and shops for the sake of your heath.
Shin Coffee Information
Address: 13 Nguyễn Thiệp, Bến Nghé, Hồ Chí Minh, Vietnam
Operating Hours: 7.30am-11pm, daily
Best for: coffee break
Lunch: Cơm Tấm Bụi Sài Gòn
If you asked me what my favourite Vietnamese food is, I would not say pho, but it would be com tam. Com Tam means “broken rice” and it is usually served with grilled pork chop. It is my ultimate favourite Vietnamese food.
The dish comes with grilled meat, some preserved vegetables and broken rice, drizzled with sauce. The rice is broken, but sweet and tasty. It pairs very well with the dish. You can get add-ons like fried egg (my favourite), more rice or more meat.
The best time to visit is lunch, because by dinner, the meat are usually sold out. It is also a very local place, so you don’t see many tourists. That being said, the menu is all in Vietnamese. You can either use a translator to translate the menu, or tell them “com tam” and point to the meat you want. That works for me. Service is average, but food is honestly so good. It’s actually my favourite food place in Saigon.
Why Com Tam?
As mentioned, com tam means broken rice. Vietnam farms rice, and they usually export the best rice abroad. Hence, they means that they are left with lower quality rice like this broken rice. They consume this lower quality rice, and it is now a signature dish for them. I love it!
Cơm Tấm Bụi Sài Gòn Information
Address: 100 Thạch Thị Thanh, Tân Định, Quận 1, Tân Định Quận 1 Hồ Chí Minh, Vietnam
Operating Hours: 8am-10pm, daily
Best for: lunch
Café Time: Une Journée à Paris
If you met me in Vietnam, I will be talking about cake ALL DAY LONG. Good pastry and cake is difficult to find in Vietnam, in my experience. After 3 months of hunting for pastry, I finally found the best chocolate tart!
Solid tart crust with thick rich chocolate in the middle. When you get a bite of the tart, the buttery crust mixes with the quality dark chocolate. It is the best chocolate tart I have ever had.
The owner is French, and people speak French there. Although it was located at a very touristy place (Ben Thanh market), you see more locals and French-locals than tourists. We were there literally every other day in Vietnam, once we found this place. We tried many things on the menu, but I have to say the chocolate tart is the best and the only thing I recommend.
The cashier is a lady that speaks French, Vietnamese and English. They have other staff too, mainly speaking Vietnamese and basic English. The menu is in English, or ordering is not a problem. The cakes on the menu are not always available, but just order the tart and forget about everything else. The owner is very personable – as many customers are regulars, he often has a little chat with them. It’s lovely.
The French occupied Vietnam for years. That is why some old places are filled with the French architecture, like the Notre Dame in Saigon. The older generation speaks French, and that is why the French culture is still subtly in the Vietnamese culture. To embrace the French culture, enjoy une journée à Paris with chocolate tart at the heart of Saigon.
Address: 234 Lê Thánh Tôn, Bến Thành, Hồ Chí Minh, Vietnam
Operating Hours: 7am-7.30pm daily
Best for: tea time and snacks
Dinner: Secret Garden Restaurant
This place is hidden within an old building. It is difficult to find the stairs entrance and you have to climb up 5 levels. But upon reaching the top, you will find a lovely rooftop. The place is well decorated with colorful lanterns and lights.
The secret garden restaurant is home cooked food served on a rooftop in an local apartment. It is like going home and eating something your mother cooks. The food is delicious, and the atmosphere is very authentic. I would recommend lemongrass meat, braised pork pot and baby back ribs.
The price is slightly higher compared to other similar shops, but the location is unique and worth that extra bucks. The menu is in English and the staff also speak good English. The food might take a long time to arrive, so bare with it. The place is also getting really popular, so you might have to be there earlier, before the dinner crowd arrives.
Why Secret Garden Restaurant?
- It is true local authentic Vietnamese cooking.
- The adorable thing about Saigon is its hidden gems in apartment buildings. On the outside, it looks like you are visiting your local Vietnamese friend. You actually pass by apartments as you make your way to the roof. And BAM! An entire business is operating above. It is the hidden gems that makes Saigon so different.
Vietnamese Dinner Information
Address: Top Floor, 158 Pasteur, Bến Nghé, Quận 1, Bến Nghé, Ho Chi Minh City, Hồ Chí Minh, Vietnam
Operating Hours: 11am-10pm, daily
Best for: dinner
Rooftop: Hotel des Arts Saigon MGallery
This is my favourite rooftop bar in Saigon. I first went there when they just opened and the staff were all new. Going back many times now, everyone is so well-trained and professional! The alcohol range has also increased, so that’s a bonus.
You get to see Saigon from above, and it is a lovely view. The countless bikes on the streets, honking at each other. There is also a pool and a pool bar. There is a bar area, sofa area by the edge and standing tables for small groups. If you want a nice view, you should reserve in advance. Read more: Best Rooftop Bar in Saigon
As the city continues to develop, you have more skyscrapers and rooftop bars. Rooftop is quite a signature of modern cities, and you can see the city layout from above. There are many rooftop bars in Saigon, it is turning into a classic thing to do when in Saigon!
Hotel des Arts Saigon Information
Address: 76-78 Nguyen Thi Minh Khai, District 3, 722413 Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
Operating Hours: 5.30pm-2.30am, daily
Contact Number: +84 8 3989 8888
Best for: sunset, drinks
Do comment on your favourite food place to visit in Saigon!
Trevellers is my way to change the world. Through my stories, tips and lessons learnt, I truly hope to inspire you to get out of your comfort zone, see the world and see who you truly are. Travel is more than just taking a selfie at beautiful destinations. Travel is an adventure, where you can truly become who you are, give you the time to reflect and grow to become the person you’ve always dreamt of.