Vietnam is widely known for its amazing cuisine and colourful dishes. The freshest of ingredients are bought daily, prepared passionately and served with Vietnamese flair. Vietnam is a country of financial variations and this is true of the food scene too. From street food vendors to upmarket restaurants, we explored everything Ho Chi Minh had to offer. It also helped that we had received a few solid tips of hidden hotspots from a local that Richard worked with in Australia, before we left. We had some of the most memorable food experiences on this trip and I am excited to share some tips and special treasures with you in this post.
Casual dining options you won’t want to miss!
The Ben Thanh Street Food Market
We stumbled across this little gem on our first night in Ho Chi Minh as we explored the streets of the city. This was an amazing find and offered everything we wanted for our night out; a great selection of food, a bar with local beers, cocktails and soft drinks and live music on stage. It was casual and laid back and would be the perfect way to finish a busy day of exploring as there is no need to get all dressed up for a dinner here.
We tried a variety of dishes from the food market including delicious fresh spring rolls made to order and the amazing traditional Vietnamese pancakes that are a must! There were numerous dessert options too but the savoury temptations were more than we could get through so will have to leave room in our dessert tummies next time!
Rat Hue (Truly Hue)
This was one of the restaurants recommended to us by Richard’s work colleague and boy were we glad he did! We loved this place so much that we returned a couple of times and were blown away on each visit with the quality of the food.
The location of this restaurant is perfect if you are exploring in the city near the Ben Thanh Markets as it is tucked away in a backstreet not far from the markets. This is certainly not a restaurant you would just stumble across as it is located at the end of a narrow laneway behind the much busier markets. In fact, on our first attempt to find it, we wandered part way down the lane and second guessed ourselves…but continue passed the nail salons and pokey little shops to find this hidden treasure.
This restaurant is a hotspot for locals so if you happen to go at lunch time be prepared to wait for a table. There is also an upstairs to the venue but it has traditional seating…so if sitting crossed-legged on the floor isn’t your thing, try and get in before the rush to secure a table on the ground floor.
We tried many different traditional dishes on this menu and were delighted with each and every dish we got. It was also very reasonably priced and the service was quick. For casual dining, I think we could safely say this was our favourite venue on the entire trip!
This was certainly another great find. The restaurant itself was quite large and bustling with customers when we arrived. We didn’t have to wait for a table though and were ushered straight through to the centre of the beautifully decorated venue. The menu itself was huge with a great selection of traditional dishes as well as other cuisines such as Thai, Chinese and Japanese.
The restaurant was laid out in a very unique and quirky manner. The kitchen was made up of several different preparation and cooking stations which were visible from the restaurant floor. This gave a cosy feel to the experience and made for interesting watching as we waiting for our meals. The service was very good and the wait for food and drinks minimal which was a pleasant surprise considering how busy the restaurant was. A restaurant we would highly recommend for a traditional meal and funky atmosphere!
A little more upmarket
This beautiful restaurant was the perfect local for a special dinner on one of our last nights in the city. Centrally located and housed in one of the last heritage buildings in the city, this restaurant echoes charm and sophistication as soon as you enter. The menu is made up of the many influences that helped create the city itself; Vietnamese, Chinese, Indian and French. And not only is this reflected in the beautiful food options but also in the extensive wine menu!
The service was impeccable and the food flawless and we felt the atmosphere was perfect for a special dinner date. We sat in the balcony area of the restaurant and as it was on the second floor of the building, we could see the twinkling lights below. This area only had a couple of small tables in it which also added to the romantic feel of the whole experience.
This amazing restaurant was recommended by our hotel and I can certainly see why! There was the option to dine inside or out and it was suggested we book if we intended to have dinner there. We did book and were glad we did as the restaurant was completely full on the evening we went.
The menu had a beautiful selection of traditional Vietnamese dishes, cooked and presented in the most incredible manner. Our favourite entrée was without a doubt the rice coconut milk mini pancakes with shrimp, green papaya and spring onion. Even if you have already tried the traditional Vietnamese pancakes, this twist on the original will leave you wanting more!
The atmosphere of this venue was also extremely warm and inviting, so much so that we decided to return later in our trip to take part in their cooking classes. This experience is one I would highly recommend to anyone and catered to cooks of all levels; me a complete amateur and Richard a chef. We were taken through a number of different traditional Vietnamese dishes, step-by-step, each ingredient and process explained to us as we worked. We created some beautiful savoury dishes in an intimate setting with a professional chef. There was only one other person participating in the class with us so we had all the support and assistance we could have needed.
After the class, we could chill out in the venue and enjoy our tasty treats at our leisure. We also got a cookbook to take home with us with the recipes we made during the lesson plus additional ones to try too. This definitely was a worthwhile activity and we thoroughly enjoyed our afternoon in this beautiful setting.
Rex Rooftop Garden at Rex Hotel Saigon
This is a true hot spot for tourists that shouldn’t be missed when visiting the city of Ho Chi Minh. Located only 5 stories above ground level, this rooftop bar shouldn’t be overlooked in terms of the beautiful views it offers of the city and buildings such as the Saigon Opera House. It is a hive of activity most days of the week with the evenings becoming very busy due to the great ‘happy hour’ deals they run daily between 5pm and 7pm.
This rooftop bar became famous during the Vietnam War as it was the chosen location of the American military command’s daily briefings. The occurrences of these broadcasts each afternoon lead to the nickname ‘5 o’clock Follies’, used by unimpressed journalists at the choice of venue.
So whether you are interested in the historical significance of this famous hotel, the views from the rooftop bar or the daily drink deals, this is certainly a place that should be on everyone’s ‘To Do’ list when in this city.
And on that note, all this talk of delicious food and tasty drinks has me needing a lunch break! I hope you enjoyed reading this post and perhaps even found some places you might like to try if visiting Ho Chi Minh in the future.
Thank you for taking the time to stop in and read our post. If you would like to learn more about different activities to do while in this part of the world, drop by next weekend for our instalment on the best things to see and do.
But for now…
All our best,
Richard and Michelle.