Grab it at the market.
I’ve mentioned before that I think the greatest thing about my city is the food and the best food is usually on the street. Obviously, I talk a lot about street food but honestly I get most of my “street food” from markets. The problem is that besides Ben Thanh Market, and maybe Binh Tay, most people don’t know many good markets to hit in order to get their food fix. Here are a few of my favourites, most of which aren’t in District 1, that you should visit if you want a true taste of Saigon.
Le Van Sy, in District 3, is the home to one of my personal haunts, Nguyen Van Troi market. I used to live close to here so I was a regular of sorts, and I even have a drink lady who recognises me. This is a good place for breakfast, lunch, or early dinner; in the morning this place is crazy. Most of the food is in the back, on the right hand side, next to where they sell the meat, under the covered area. At lunch the covered area closes and the food moves out under umbrellas. You can get pretty much everything here, but I’d recommend the bun thit nuong.
Just outside of District 3, in Phu Nhaun district on Phan Dinh Phung, is where you can find Phu Nhaun market, another great market spot. Unlike Nguyen Van Trio market, which is a flat spread out market, this market is a two-storey affair. The food is on the ground floor, completely covered, making it a good spot to eat if it happens to be raining. Even if it’s not coming down outside, this is another good spot for breakfast or lunch and, even after the market closes, some street vendors set up outside for dinner. You’ll find almost everything here but one of the stalls makes a great banh cuon.
If you’re staying on Pham Ngu Lao and can’t seem to find your way out, you’re still in luck because there is a pretty sweet market for street food right in your back yard. Located at the end of Pham Ngu Lao and Cong Quynh, right next to the Long Guesthouse and Saigon Backpackers Hostel, Thai Binh market is a good spot to search for a bit of street grub. Thai Binh seems to have more going on for it all day, with plenty of carts selling food late into the night, probably because of all the late night activities in the area. Prices here will be a little higher than the other markets I mentioned, around 10,000 VND more per dish, but the convenience of being in Pham Ngu Lao is hard to beat. If you’re looking for a late night snack, this is where I go for some bun bo hue or pho.
Maybe it’s because they deal with Westerners less frequently than on the street, or because prices are more commonly advertised, but I haven’t felt a need to check in advance on prices for food at markets. If you’re worried remember your market shopping etiquette and you’ll be fine. Also, be prepared for more what-are-you-doing-here stares, as some of these markets don’t get many visits from foreigners. So now that you know where to go, head over to a market near you and experience some great food for yourself!
By Angela Schonberg
Last updated on 23rd October, 2014.