Ben Thanh market was a must-visit attraction in Saigon (Ho Chi Minh city). It has been the iconic symbol of the city for a long time thanks to its beautiful architecture and typical characteristics which reflect the unique local culture. Coming to the market, travelers do not only have a chance to admire the architecture, learn more about local life but also enjoy a wide range of delicious Vietnamese foods. I have been on a Saigon food tour in Ben Thanh day market and totally satisfied with the foods there. Let’s me tell you about my experience at the market with my local guide.
1. Pan fried scrambled egg rice cake (Bột chiên)
Firstly I tasted Pan fried scrambled egg rice cake at a corner which was in the opposite of East Gate of Ben Thanh market. The stall was open from 7:00 to 17:00. In my opinion, this food was simple but worth trying. It was made by frying egg and pieces of boiled rice flour dough in a big flat round pan until crispy. The cake was always cooked right after it was ordered so that it was incredibly crispy. The cake was sticky inside and crispy outside. I was interested in looking at the vendor cooking the cake skillfully. However, the sweet-sour thin green papaya strips and the sweet and sour soybean sauce are highlights of the food. My guide taught me how to ate the cake. I used a pair of chopsticks to dip a piece of Pan fried scrambled egg rice cake and some papaya strips into the sauce and tuck in. For more information, price of a portion was 35,000 VND.
2. Mixed Hue cakes (Bánh Huế thập cẩm)
At the West Gate and East Gate of Ben Thanh market, there are some stalls serving Mixed Hue cakes. We chose a stall and ordered a portion of Mixed Hue cakes. A waitress brought us a plate consisting of Bloating-fern shaped cake, Clear tapioca dumplings with shrimp and pork, Rice flour cake with shrimp and pork, Glutinous rice flour dumplings with shrimp and pork, Vietnamese pork roll, minced dried shrimp, coriander. The sweet-sour dipping fish sauce was the soul of the cake. Each cake had its own taste and made me satisfied. Bloating-fern shaped cake looked similar to bloating fern. It was made from rice flour and had a soft, smooth texture. The cake was topped with minced dried shrimp. Clear tapioca dumplings with shrimp and pork’s crust was made from tapioca powder so that it was chewy and sticky outside. Its filling was made from shrimp and pork. Vietnamese pork roll was crunchy and sweet-tasty. When eating, I poured the sauce onto the cakes and used a spoon to eat the cakes. For more information, price of a portion was 35,000 VND.
3. Rice noodle soup with fermented fish (Bún mắm)
Pan fried scrambled egg rice cake and Mixed Hue cakes won my heart and make me want to eat more. However, the third food left a deep impression on me. It was called Rice noodle soup with fermented fish. The food consisted of rice noodles, the broth cooked from pork bone and fermented fish, various toppings such as shrimps, roasted pork, squids, meatballs, eggplant and many strange vegetables including waterlily stems, morning glory, common knotgrass, banana blossom, etc. Fermented fish is a favorite food of Vietnamese people although it has a very bad smell and most of the foreigners are aware of it. Fishes and salt are stored in jars turn more tender, salty, and stinking after a few months. These fishes are called fermented fishes (Mắm). It can be eaten raw with steamed rice (or rice noodles) and vegetables. Vietnamese people use it to make Braised fermented fish or Rice noodle soup with fermented fish. The broth of Rice noodle soup with fermented fish is not as stinking but distinctly flavorful and smelling. The guide didn’t tell me about Mắm – the secret ingredient for this noodle soup until I have finished the portion. She told me that vegetables which were served with the food are specialties of Mekong Delta. The food stall that served the noodle soup has been open for over 50 years. It was located at the opposite of East Gate of Ben Thanh market. The address was 22 Phan Boi Chau Street, District 1, HCMC. Open time: 6:00 – 19:00. We paid 65,000 VND for a portion of Rice noodle soup with fermented fish.
4. Vietnamese sweet soup (Chè)
I ended my tour with a glass of refreshing, sweet, greasy Vietnamese sweet soup at Bé Chè stall, which is near Gate 7 of Ben Thanh market. According to my guide, the sweet soup stall has been open for over 40 years old. The sweet soup stall was open from 7:30 – 16:30. The stall was full of big glass bowl consisting of mung beans sweet soup, agar agar, grass jellies, cendols, young green sticky rice sweet soup, lotus root sweet soup, mock pomegranate seeds, corn sweet soup, coconut milk sauce, taro sweet soup, tapioca pearl, etc. I tasted a portion of “Chè sương sa hột lựu” which consisted of chewy mock pomegranate seeds, crunchy grass jellies, sweet, buttery and smooth mung bean sweet soup, greasy coconut milk sauce, and shaved ice. It has been one of the most delicious desserts I have ever eaten. The price was reasonable, a portion of “Chè sương sa hột lựu” costed 25,000 VND (1 USD).
I have started the tour at 2:00 and ended it at 17:00. I returned to my hotel with a full stomach.