Saturday, February 24, 2018

Street Food and Street Dining in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

The street food and street dining scene in Ho Chi Minh City aka Saigon is surely hands-down impressive! Wow. Yep, people are out and dining on the streets and Vietnamese food is my favourite.

Street dining in Saigon / HCMC.

I am super excited these days because 2 months from now I will be flying back to Asia again, this time to Shanghai, China, and Hong Kong (and New Zealand as well!) and I can’t wait to check out the street food scene there. So while waiting for this trip to happen, let me dig some of the pictures I have on street food and street dining in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.

I was in Ho Chi Minh City aka Saigon or HCMC with family in December 2016. Our family holiday trip was during the week between Christmas and New Years. Although Vietnam is predominantly a Buddhist (and Atheist I guess?) country and it celebrates the Lunar Year as well, there was quite some Christmas spirit in the city with preparations for the New Year.

[To read the rest of the post and see more pictures, click the READ MORE link below]

The Banh Mi is everywhere in HCMC. It's one of the typically French things that the French left in the country, their most loved and iconic baguette, in Vietnamese interpretation of course.

Cooked snails by the cup.

Growing up as a kid I have always been told not to buy food on the streets because you don’t know how they were cooked and that they might have germs. I would like to think that a huge part of this mentality came from having very protective parents from a conservative culture. I have to admit though that the germ thing can be between baloney and truth. You never know, haha.

But why is it that street food has its own compelling allure? Why are we drawn to it? Especially during my travels to Asia, to a new country or city, I am just so fascinated about food being sold on the streets. It is as if the smoke and the smell are mesmerizing potions gently wheedling my system away and preparing my tastebuds to take that first bite. It’s a mystery. Perhaps not.

Food is my weakness but luckily I am, well, these days though, able to control my craving and appetite. The secret? I try to eat small portions (and I run weekly). I have no choice anyway since I do not think I have an accommodating and mammoth of a stomach.

Every time I visit a new city, especially in Asia because the street food scene is nowhere so great as in this continent, I always regret not trying a few food items. But it’s alright. My regret usually comes after, not when I was there anyway. It is mostly the case when I am looking back at past travel pictures preparing to blog and I say, “I would have wanted to try that one as well! Why didn’t I?” *scratches head*

Ho Chi Minh City was not an exception. There was street food stuff I have wanted to dig my teeth and hands on especially the seafood galore.

The medium that gets me all the street food I crave for =). Ho Chi Minh on every note.

But there’s more to this in the city. The streets in District 1 are not just filled with the ubiquitous motorbikes and street food fares, there is festive street dining happening on the streets as well. It is like there is a "Happy Hour" on the streets every night in Saigon.

Ben Thanh market and its side streets, for example, becomes an open dining restaurant in the evening. Check this post here: Ben Thanh Night Market

In the nearby streets as well, you could see rows of outdoor cafes and restaurants with tiny low tables and chairs line up on the pedestrian sidewalks reminding me of my kindergarten classroom in the 1970s. Maybe the Vietnamese chose for these tiny tables and chairs because they are cheap, easy to stack up and store? Just a hunch.

Nevertheless, this street dining in HCMC is not to be missed.

Let me post the pictures of the street food I have encountered and the street dining everywhere scenes in District 1 (the place to be if you are a first-timer in HCMC).

Behold, the photo gallery:

This "Ca Bo Vien Chien" does sure looks yummy. This is on my regrets list for being able to taste this. You just cannot have all the street food, huh.

Many of the lady street fruit vendors are still dressed up traditionally, in Vietnamese pajama style clothes accompanied with a conical straw hat.

The lively street dining scene in District 1 of HCMC/Saigon.

Take a table. Take your seat. On the streets =)

The number of travel agencies in Ben Thanh area is endless. Rule of thumb for international travelers: Do not book your tours abroad. Book them in Vietnam. Just come to BenThanh area and you will see hundreds of them here.

The family went gaga over the jackfruits! They were sweet but not notoriously too sweet and they were firm and chunky. We loved them to bits and we bought several packs. And then another time a few more packs. Good thing we have a fridge in our hotel room.

This Street Food Market is not really a real street food place, but its open and has the ambiance of street dining. Many of the dishes they sell are not really street food style.

Cool drink names: Saigon fix it all / Hit the jackpot / No pain, no gain =)

Quite a busy Street Food Market.

My mom was so intrigued so we did buy from the guy with the caramelized donut bread. They were a bit hard though but quite tasty I have to say.

Muc Chien is calamari. Well, this food bike is selling dried squid which is then toasted/grilled on the fire. I am very familiar with this growing up. It is a favorite of mine. 

Banh Trang Nuong is Vietnamese pizza lightly grilled on top of an open fire on the street.

One of the many remnants of the French occupation, beautiful buildings left in ruins. These would for sure require a lot of money for restoration and upkeep. Vietnam definitely needs some international funding for the preservation of its art, architecture and history.

So easy to just make bread and grill on the streets of Vietnam.

Please have a seat and try one of these shellfishes. I was really tempted to eat them but I was worried what it might do to my stomach if I eat them late at night. Interestingly, the seafood galore options on the streets only come out late at night. Why is that?

Pop-up roadside restaurants. Yes, they pop-up only in the evening, on the streets.

The streets come to life in the evening in Ho Chi Minh City (District 1)!

In Ben Thanh area you can find a lot of jewelry shops as well selling the real stones. My mom could not resist, she had to buy. 

Sugarcane crushed and juiced while you wait. This lady motorist is a fruit and food vendor on the move looking assertively for customers.

Dining on the streets of Ho Chi Minh City.

Travel Period: December 2016
Destination: Ho Chi Minh City (Southeast), Vietnam

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Happy Travels! Enjoy Life =)

All pictures were taken by a point and shoot pocket camera or a smartphone.

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