Saigon Food Culture
If you love foods and culture, Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) must be your next destination. This city’s culture is very rich with lots of unique cultural parts including food culture. Followings are special characteristics of Saigon food culture:
1. Foods at local markets
Modern supermarkets have been in Vietnam for a long time and become more and more popular among us. However, Vietnamese people are still familiar with buying products at local markets. Women usually go to local markets every morning so that they can buy freshest ingredients for family meals. Food stalls at local markets are favorite spots to eat delicious foods not only in the morning but in the afternoon and at night. Most of the markets in Saigon have food areas where a wide range of delicious dishes is sold. Although food stalls at local markets are not spacious, eating or buying prepared foods at local markets are still our favorite hobbies. Foods at local markets have become a part of Saigon food culture. Famous and old Ben Thanh day and night market and Tan Dinh market in District 1 are worth visiting to enjoy some Vietnamese foods. If you would like to troll into other local markets far from the city center to see more local life and eat foods there, you could join a motorbike tour.
Vietnamese people sit on inox chair at a food stall in Tan Dinh market. There are a wide range of traditional Vietnamese foods such as Quang style noodle soup, Hue beef noodle soup, clear rice noodle soup, rice noodle soup with bamboo shoot, crab soup cake, cellophane noodle soup with chicken, rice noodles with grilled pork… for customer’s choice.
2. Drinking beer
Vietnam is one of the countries consuming the highest amount of beer in the world. Saigon people usually drink beer while eating peanuts, seafood, snail, and barbecue. In Saigon, friends, partners, and families in Saigon prefer drinking beer at restaurants or street food stalls on the street to drinking beer at home. Weaving around the city at night, you can see hundreds of people sitting, eating and drinking while talking to each other on street food streets, street food areas, beer clubs or beer restaurants. It’s a big chance to drink some beer, see others around you cheer up “1, 2, 3, dzo” and immerse into local life. Red Saigon and Green Saigon are recommended local beers. Drinking beer is an important part of Saigon food culture which any food lover should try on his trip to this drinking city.
Gathering to eat and drink beer at night is popular in Saigon
3. Snail and seafood
Snail is a Saigon specialty which wins the heart of millions of people in this crowded city. Snail and seafood are brilliant and unique gems of Saigon food culture. There are not less than 20 kinds of snail used to cook delicious dishes. Each kind of snail can be cooked in many different methods depends on customer preferences. For example, coconut snail can be boiled with salt, stir-fried with salt or stir-fried with butter. Some of the popular snail dishes are stir-fried mud-creeper with coconut milk, grilled garlic snail with salt and chili, stir-fried nail snail with various dipping sauce… Snails are cooked right after being ordered to make sure the dish is hot and tasty. People usually use a toothpick to get snail meat out of its shell. It’s better to eat snail dishes with herbs, cucumber slices, pickled mango, and pickled ambarella. Many kinds of dips such as mustard dip, salt and lime dip, chili paste, sweet and sour fish sauce dip couldn’t be missed to serve with snail dishes. At snail stalls and snail restaurants, they also serve toasted ocean crab leg, fertilized duck egg, scallop dishes. Are you dare of eating this strange food? Just try and understand why all of Vietnamese love snail dishes.
Attractive snail dishes and dry stir-fried ocean crab leg at Khanh snail restaurant owned by a famous comedy actress in Saigon
In Saigon, if anyone would like to grill barbecue himself without preparing anything, they can come to barbecue restaurants or barbecue stall. They will bring a small charcoal stove, broiler and some skewers of marinated pork, beef, frog, octopus, squid, and goat… so that dinner can cook and serve himself. Saigon people usually go to eat barbecue in group. While waiting for grilled foods to be well-done, people in the group have time to share their stories and will be close to each other. Coming to barbecue restaurants, you can see smoke overwhelming the space and hear the sound of people talking and cheering. The night is a perfect time to sit under the star in cool air to eat barbecue and drink beer.
Grilled octopus and chicken leg at Panda BBQ, Saigon
5. Street vendors
Scenes of street food shoulder poles and food rolling carts have been very familiar with Saigon people for a long time. Street food vendors go around the city to sell their foods, they can stop at parks, schools, office building and anywhere customer ask to buy the foods. Old women often bring charcoal, all ingredients to make Vietnamese traditional cakes (bird nest cake, fried banana cake, fried sweet sesame donut) to make the cakes and sell them on the way. Rolling carts with Vietnamese bread (banh mi), orange cake, pigskin cake, cow cake are everywhere around Saigon. Clear rice noodle soup, crab noodle soup are also sold on rolling carts. Fruits, mixed rice paper are sold on motorbikes or bicycles. Saigon is moving all of the time and foods also are moved around the city all of the time. That’s real Saigon!
Mixed rice paper salad sold on a motorbike in China Town Saigon
Eating Saigon is a great thing to do on your trip. How to eat the city to its fullest? It is easy to eat at fine dining restaurants which are for rich people and tourists. However, the real Saigon is at local restaurants which are favorite places of many Saigon people. Reaching the local restaurants outside of District 1 sometimes is difficult for foreigners. A Saigon Food Tour is a great choice to immerse yourself into the city life, enjoy all the exotic foods with your tour guides as friends.