Saigon street food guides: Foods cost you less than $1 and where to find them

Saigon street food guides: Foods cost you less than $1 and where to find them

Unlike Hanoi, where the local cuisine (read my guide about Hanoi food here) is oriented around traditional foods from complicated recipes, Saigon is better known for its simple street food, which is made up of a combination of the best dishes from 3 regions,  leading to it being called  the “Heaven of Vietnamese street food” by CNN. The perks of enjoying the Saigon street food lie not only in satisfying your stomach, but also offers you the chance to discover hidden gems while exploring small alleyways or big streets. As a local I am big sucker for street foods, and this is my street food guide, revealing some very nice dishes (with prices are lower than $1) and where they can be found.

Bánh tráng trộn (Rice paper salad)

This affordable dish is made from a few simple ingredients, including sliced rice paper, dried shrimp, sliced mango, quail eggs, peanuts and herbs all stirred together. The combination of ingredients in the rice paper salad brings your pallet a wonderful mix of sour, salty and spicy flavours, resulting in an explosive taste in your mouth. It’s not recommended by a nutritionist because of low nutrition, but this dish is the first thing that comes to mind if you ask the Saigonese what their go to street food is, especially favored by students.

saigon street food

Súp cua (Crab soup)

This snack is frequently enjoyed by almost everyone in Saigon, thanks to its high nutrition and stomach friendliness. Crab soup is made of crab, chicken, quail eggs, mushroom, sweetcorn, herbs, adding some soy sauce and chili to spice up the flavour. It’s best to be eaten on a cool, windy or rainy afternoon.

saigon street food
Image courtesy of Instagram @xiapingtl

Xoài lắc (Mango shake)

This drink has only recently been invented due to its unorthodox mix of ingredients, but this tempting snack has taken the young Saigonese by storm, making it a very popular drink among students. The recipe combines mango, sugar, fish sauce and chilli salt together in one cup, before being shaken by the vendor to provide a delicious cocktail, hence its name, a mango shake.  The taste of mango shake will confuse you taste buds, but I find the sour and sweet of the mango complements the salty and spiciness of the chilli powder which when mixed up all together, make quite addictive drink for a snack lover (like myself).

saigon street food
Image courtesy of Instagram @nhu_lamm

Bột chiên (Fried rice flour cake)

Originating from Chinese-Vietnamese families, fried rice flour cake quickly became a popular dish of the Saigonese because of the interesting flavours from the eggs, manioca and rice flour.

A dish of fried flour usually consists of pieces of deep fried rice flour cake, mixed with fried eggs, topped with pickles, sliced papaya, green onion and eaten with fish sauce. In order to find true authentic fried flour, you must visit a shop run by a Chinese family.

saigon street food
Image courtesy of Instagram @minth26

Hủ tiếu gõ (knocking noodle)

Knocking noodle is a term, referring to a popular selling method of noodles that is used in Saigon. The noodles are usually sold on bikes or tuk tuks, moving one place another to serve customers instead of having a fixed store. Sellers usually use two wooden bars, knocking together to make noise to grab people’s attention, so called the knocking noodle. Customers usually buy and eat right next to the vendor or take away.

A typical bowl of knocking noodle will have white noodle, thin sliced lean pork, fried onion, bean sprouts, chives and crackling. This dish is not sold in the morning, but from afternoon til midnight and a highlight of Saigon cuisine since it’s delicious yet the price is very affordable, a very popular dish among the working class and students.

saigon street food
Image courtesy of Instagram @beta.ann

Chè chuối nướng (Baked banana with coconut sauce)

Baked banana with coconut sauce is one of the most well known snacks of southern people though its recipe is extremely simple. The ripe banana is covered by a rice layer, create an irresistible scent when baked on stove. The banana is served with lots of coconut milk, adding some copra, peanuts and cassava. The dish is quite sweet and will be very appealing to those with a sweet tooth.

saigon street food
Image courtesy of Instagram @peequee1804

Bắp xào (Stir fried corn)

For students and young people on the go, stir-fried sweet corn is a tasty quick snack which can keep you full until dinner time. This is a perfect alternative to other popular street food such as broken rice or bread. The corn offers similar levels of energy as other street food dishes, whilst also offering variation for your taste buds, to satisfy your foodie needs!

Each vendor has their own unique recipe to make their dish stand out. A typical serving will have corn (lots of corn) stir fried with butter, with some dried shrimp and shrimp paste to spice it up, topped with chilli sauce and green onion. This infusion of different ingredients takes your tongue on a journey from sweet, to spicy and salty. If you ask me what is the perfect snack for a late afternoon, which everyone can enjoy, this is definitely the first thing that comes to mind.

saigon street food
Image courtesy of Instagram @kngan.ltkn

saigon street food

Bottom Line:If you’re afraid of street food hygiene or still confused with the location pointed out above, it’s better to accompany yourself with a local friend on your journey exploring Saigon street food. A local can bring you to the best street food alleyway, suggest you some yummy food with “sell-to-local” prices and tell you some insightful stories about the food culture in Saigon. Ho Chi Minh City food experience by Inspitrip offers a number of personalised journeys, depending on local insider’s suggestions and your travel preferences to give you an insight into what its like to eat like the Saigonese. So make sure you don’t miss the chance to immerse yourself in the biggest street food city in Vietnam.

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