Foreigner friendly fare
Le Loi, District 1
When most people think about Ben Thanh market, they think about shopping. And while the market is a great spot to find souvenirs, it also happens to be a great spot to grab a bite to eat. If you’re planning on a visit to Ben Thanh, and you happen to be hungry, here’s where to go.
From the main entrance of Ben Thanh, a quick walk to the market’s back left corner will put you right in thick of what would best be described as a food court. Here you will find dozens of stalls offering a wide range of Vietnamese dishes.
Stalls toward the middle of the market specialise in drinks, from standard cold bottled drinks through to drinks more commonly in demand on the streets of HCMC, like smoothies and Vietnamese coffee. Ben Thanh is a particularly good spot to try a Vietnamese smoothie because menus are available in English and there are plenty of fake fruits on display for you to point at.
Past the drink stands, a search through the rows of food vendors could lead you to almost any Vietnamese dish. It’s easy to find some of the classics, like pho and banh mi, but those up for an adventure can choose from a variety of lesser known options, such as soups, like bun bo hue and canh bun, rice dishes, with both regular and broken rice, and more exotic southern specialties, such as banh xeo and summer rolls.
Ben Thanh is a good spot to introduce yourself to Saigon street food for a few reasons. Vendors are more accustomed to tourists, so while they charge a bit more, menus will be in English, displays are clean and things are well marked. The food is similar in quality to what you’d find on Saigon’s streets and even with higher prices, you won’t be breaking the bank. Expect most plates of food to run around 50,000 VND and most drinks to cost around 20,000 VND.
After dark, when the market officially closes, Ben Thanh is still a good option for food, as the surrounding streets turn into a night market. At the night market, you won’t find much by way of street food — a few xoi vendors lurk about the entrances — but you’ll be able to grab a seat at one of the many temporary restaurants that set up nightly. Food at the night market is more expensive than what you’ll find during the day, with plates more commonly around the 100,000 VND pricepoint, but the food is of higher quality again.
If you’re not ready to jump into the market’s street food-style stalls, the area just outside also has some quality options. You’ll probably notice the Pho 2000 across the street with its big ‘pho for the president sign’ but you’re also a short walk from a good number of decent restaurants. Both Tokyo Deli and the Sushi Bar are a short distance away, if you’re in the mood for sushi and you’re also not too far from Barbecue Garden if you’re up for doing your own grilling.
By Max Murta
Last updated on 6th July, 2014.