Saigon Street Food in the Past

Tracing the past of Ho Chi Minh City (formerly named Saigon), we found some photos of this city in the 20th century. Saigon in the past was not only gentle but also splendid with beautiful girls in ao dai, street food shoulder poles, delicious street foods and drinks. These things have been beautiful memories of many generations of Saigon people and made Saigon unique.

Ao Dai Ho Chi Minh Food Tour - Saigon Food Tour by motorbike

In those years, there weren’t many kinds of street foods. Saigon wasn’t as crowded as it is today. But in the following photos, we can feel how the “Pearl of Far East” luxuriant and flourish was. Those days there are many street food shoulder poles and rolling metal food carts that got around Saigon streets all day.
Shoulder poles that were put on the pavements were the “store” of vendors. Children, adults, and elders came there to buy and bring home or eat right on the streets on small chairs beside the shoulder poles. Many special dishes of Saigon street foods have been sold until today.


market Saigon

Fruit shoulder pole


A noodle soup shoulder pole


A snack shoulder pole

A shoulder pole in Bui Vien street in the past

A shoulder pole in Bui Vien street in the past

Besides street food shoulder poles, rolling food carts are also popular in the city those days. Vendor pushed their “mobile restaurant” around the street for selling street foods.

Saigon Street Food in the Past

Vendors were pushing their rolling food cart on Saigon street


A rolling food cart which sold Chinese sweet soup


A vendor is waiting for customers at rolling food cart with dried squid

The national costume “ao dai” was most commonly worn by women. Saigon gentlemen and ladies in fashionable dresses stopped for street foods on the pavements and enjoy the dishes on the street.

Saigon Street Food in the Past

Two Saigon girls were walking around a market


Two ladies in ao dai were buying snacks at a shoulder pole

 fashing  banhngot


Fashionable ladies were enjoying street food at shoulder poles on Saigon street

Talking about “hot” dishes, you could find both in restaurants or at street food stalls on the streets. Pho Con Voi (Elephent) was famous for the special recipe.


Saigon people were buying Chinese sausage and toast pork


Stewed beef and pork organs


Ellaphent Pho (Pho Con Voi)


A Chinese noodle soup stall


A vendor was rolling popiah


Congee with duck


Steamed rice on Nguyen Hue Street

Banh Mi Saigon (Saigon Bread) shouldn’t be miss in this blog. For a long time, bread was a big present that any children in the countryside would like to receive when their relatives came back home from Saigon. The Saigon bread was crispy, smelling and big.



Saigon Bread

Chopped sugar cane was the most popular snack for Saigon people in the past. These days, cool chopped sugar cane and other local fresh fruits are sold on rolling metal cart everywhere in the city. That’s a unique part of Saigon street food. Sugar cane was peeled by a sharp knife, then chopped into pieces. These pieces were pinned with a bamboo stick or put in a freezer box and served cold.

Saigon in history

Two children vendors were preparing  mia ghim (chopped sugar cane pinned with bamboo stick)

Saigon Street Food in the Past

Mia ghim (chopped sugar cane pinned with bamboo stick) – characteristic of Saigon food on 20th century

With hot weather of Saigon, there was no better choice than a cool drink. Besides sugarcane juice, soda “Ba Con Cop ” (Three Tigers) and fruit smoothie are also a favorite drink of Sagon residents.

Simple sugar cane juice stall

A smoothie stall


A soda stall

Saigon Street Food in the Past
Simple sugar cane juice stall


Simple sugar cane juice stall


A drink stall with various bottled drink, tea, fresh coconut

Let have a look at Saigon markets in the past


A stall that sold cigarettes


A medicine store and a drink store


A newspaper store


A store that sold imported infant formula and wine


A fashion store


Watermelon in the market


Commodities were sold at an outdoor market

Children were eating at a market

Above are some things to understand more about Saigon street food in the past. In my mind, either in the past or present, Saigon has its own beauty and soul. And the important thing is that Vietnamese people or foreigner visitors, we all love Saigon as it is.

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.


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