Indeed, Saigon’s history is a storied one. First, it began as a small peaceful fishing village in Vietnam. Then, the solace would be broken with a series of notorious wars and foreign colonization. But sure enough, Saigon would reclaim the independence it deserved. Fast forward to the 21st century and the city has never been busier—rife with slices of life and unending activity in every corner. In Saigon, it’s one against a stream of a million scooters and throngs of people (and we say that quite literally). Nevertheless, brave all of these and you’re sure to reap the rewards. Hold on to your horses, ladies and gents, because the food scene here is worth the adventure.The best part? You don’t need to do fancy diners, their small side street nooks and crannies—often makeshift ones with low stools—can be your oyster!
1For Breakfast: Egg Coffee + Pho
This combo definitely can’t be beat when in Saigon. Egg coffee might scare even the boldest of caffeine lovers out there, but fear not. We tried it ourselves and the concoction tastes surprisingly good. It was during the French war, when Vietnam had a shortage of milk, that egg yolks were used as a substitute for dairy. And now, it’s got serious rep. We suggest you pair it with a steaming bowl of pho. Made Southern style, the delightful broth packs a sweeter punch than its Northern counterpart. They usually serve it with a portion of crunchy baguette and a serving of generous amounts of basil, cilantro, and mint. Now, that is breakfast.
2For Midday Refreshments: Koi’s Matcha Latte
Grant yourself a much deserved pick-me-up after those long walks in the sun with a cold refreshing dose of this popular matcha latte drink. Imagine soaking your tastebuds in those earthy green tea notes cloaked in sweet milk—plus, you can even add some pearls in to add texture to your drink. What’s not to love, right? The brand originated in Singapore, with the founder heavily inspired by his dream of traveling the world and bringing his cup of tea wherever his feet led him. And Saigon’s locals love it and have made a beeline for it since.
3For Lunch: A feast at Ben Thanh Street Food Market
When the clock strikes noon and you feel hunger pangs build in your stomach after an intense round of bargaining at Ben Thanh Market, you know it’s high time to power through with a heavy meal. But then, it strikes you—you can’t exactly pinpoint what to get to resume your Viet street food experience. Well, you don’t have to look far and wide to get your fill. Just look across Ben Thanh Market and you’ll see this colorful trendy food hall created specifically for tourists, as it seeks to give one a glimpse of their no-fuss gastronomy. From spring rolls to Thịt bò nướng lá lốt (grilled beef wrapped in betel leaves) to Banh Xeo (Vietnamese crepes), and many more, they’ve literally got it all for you. Down it with a cold can of Saigon beer while you’re at it.
4For PM Snacks: Iced Coffee + Banh Mi
It’s hard not to love coffee in Saigon, especially when it’s developed a life of its own down here. Add to this the fact that it’s in a country renowned for producing coffee beans (second in the world, to be exact). Be one with the locals who are collectively head over heels with robust brews doused in condensed milk. Make sure you pair it with their classic banh mi. This is not your regular sandwich, but rather a testament of how the best things in life require only simplicity. Here in the South, you’ll find the telltale crunchy baguette with a plethora of more taste profiles by way of cheese, cold cuts, pickled veggies, fresh cilantro, fried egg, protein, and chili sauce. Believe it or not, street side eateries are all you really need to get the best of this pairing.
5For Dinner: Grilled everything!
When the night falls, you’d want a pre-game type of meal that’s easy to eat but packs on the flavor. May we suggest getting a platter of grilled eats as you continue to bask in the beautiful chaos of Saigon and its people? Be it enoki wrapped in smoky bacon or savory kebab or anything grilled in between, you’ll find yourself going for seconds or thirds (and we don’t blame you for it). Some diners serve it with basil too—clearly, the Vietnamese have a penchant for this herb.
6For that Night Cap: Craft Beers at Ong Cao
The craft beer scene in Saigon is an emerging sight—and there’s no better time to celebrate its growth in this side of the globe but now. If you find yourself in Bui Vien street, let the good times roll at Ong Cao brewery, the charming neighborhood newbie. It’s been around for only about a year but its already got a solid line-up of brews, and loyal patrons to match. It’s best to start with their samplers, in which you can choose four of your preferred brews served in a decent sampler sizes. Go ahead and celebrate! Raise your glasses for a day well spent in this food town!
Want some fine hole-in-the wall diners for your next hangout? This next story is for you.