Saigon in 3 hours!

Ốc xào ớt sa tế – Escargots in satay chili

Challenge accepted! I had only 3 hours to spend in Ho Chi Minh City and was set to explore the best street food of this vibrant city (no this was not my first time visiting HCMC). Like it’s not difficult enough, many shops were closed as it was still the 6th day of Tet. Although it took a considerable amount of my tight time budget to travel to my usual favourite eateries which were all closed, the circumstance led me to new amazing places. 

  • One small note about southern cuisine: food in the south is generally sweet, as opposed to mild north and spicy central. Just like any other commercial capitals, there is a collection of dishes from many other places, making HCMC cuisine very diverse and interesting. Besides, cost is relatively higher than the rest of the country.

Ok let’s jump right to the discoveries.

1. Bún mắm (245 Võ Văn Tần, District 3, HCMC)

I was first drawn to this dish years ago by its familiar name “bún mắm” which happened to be my absolute favourite dish of Da Nang. However, the southern version of bún mắm is totally different: a sweet and sour noodle soup with seafood, pork and fish cake, while Danang’s is more like dried noodle salad with pork and anchovy fish sauce. I’m a big fan of both versions! 
This southern dish is believed to originate from the Mekong delta region of Vietnam. Some may find it quite sweet for a main dish, but the rich sweet and sour flavour easily won me over. 
Normally you should have no problem finding bún mắm at the night Ben Thanh market. That day I traveled around the city to 3 different shops which were all closed, then finally settled down on a random stall and it was amazing. Never give up, especially on food!
(Southern) bún mắm
2. Snails/escargots (Ốc Đào – 132 Nguyễn Thái Học, District 1, HCMC)

My must-have in Saigon! This locally ubiquitous food is basically various types of escargots cooked in different styles (stir-fry, simmer, grill, steam…) and mouth-watering sauces (coconut milk, satay chili, tamarind sauce...). We ordered 4 different dishes and fell in love with all of them, especially the stir-fried in satay chili one (first photo above).  Spicy, incredible taste. I’d recommend this iconic Saigon dish to any daring travelers out there.  
Ốc hương rang muối ớt – Roasted escargots in chili salt 
Ốc mỡ xào me – Escargots stirfried in tamarind sauce

3. L’uisine cafe (151 Đồng Khởi, Bến Nghé Ward, District 1, HCMC)

Running out of time, we finally settled down at a nice cafe after giving up on the ridiculous queue at the newly-opened Starbucks. The entrance to L’uisine is very humble but the cafe itself on the second floor is actually very spacious. Great ambience with western-style decor and menu. There is a shop on the first floor which sells various unique craft products. A great place to relax and wait for our flight to another street food heaven: Bangkok!

Post By Summer Le (139 Posts)

Summer created in 2010 to share her eating experience in her hometown Da Nang. Follow her on Instagram, Facebook and Youtube @danangcuisine for daily updates. If you're in Danang, sign up for her popular street food tours

Website: → Summer's Danang Food Tour


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