One of my favourite things to do in Ho Chi Minh is eat! You can’t get much better than the variety and flavours you’ll find in HCM. In fact, it’s so good I recommend devoting an entire day to eating… try this little food tour around District 1, I guarantee you’ll love it.
12pm – Lunch time!
Head to 26 Lê Thị Riêng road and you’ll find Bánh Mì Huỳnh Hoa (1). You’ll probably see the commotion of motorbikes outside and sometimes a line out the door, this is because this is the best Bánh Mì in HCM.
Haven’t had Bánh Mì before? It’s kind of like the Vietnamese answer to Subway and waaaaay tastier! You probably won’t get to pick your fillings (unless you speak Vietnamese) but just point and smile and they’ll grab a fresh baguette, stuff it with the works: several types of meat (usually sliced pork, pork belly or ham), pâté, carrot, cucumber and coriander. Say “cum urn” (thank you) and hand over 33,000VDN ($1.50US) then head over to the central park to enjoy your sandwich. In the park you’ll often find students who are keen to practice their English while you eat your lunch. It’s a great chance to give back a little and learn a few new Vietnamese words yourself!
3pm – Afternoon tea
Now we’re ready for the next stop on our food tour: head over to the other side of the park, to Phạm Ngũ Lão (2) and be on the lookout for metal and glass cabinets selling white fluffy looking things. These are Bánh Bao (steamed buns). You may have guessed by now that Bánh means bread, and the Vietnamese are quite fond of it, largely thanks to the French influence pre 1950’s. What’s inside these little parcels of deliciousness can sometimes be a bit of a surprise but in Vietnam they typically contain pork mince and a boiled quails egg. Take a wander along Phạm Ngũ Lão until you spot the best-looking buns. You can expect to pay about 10,000Dong (about 40c).
4pm – Happy Hour!
Feeling full and a little tired? What better way to pass a few hours until our next food stop than to sit in one of the bars overlooking the busy backpacker strip on Đề Thám (3), just off Phạm Ngũ Lão, sipping a Bia Saigon. Bia Saigon is light in colour and body making it a refreshing drink on a hot afternoon.
6pm – Time for a traditional dinner
After a couple of beers head down Đề Thám towards Crazy Buffalo and take a right onto Bùi Viện. We’re off to Five Oysters Restaurant (4), famous for delicious seafood and cheap beer! Five Oysters is 100% Vietnamese owned and run with excellent customer service. I can personally recommend their Tôm Rang Me (grilled prawns with tamarind sauce 80,000VND, $3.60US), the Rau Muống Luộc (steamed morning glory, a popular Vietnamese green vegetable similar to spinach or pak choi 33,000VND, $1.50US) and their Phở gà (chicken noodle soup, 35,000 VND – $1.60US).
8pm – Dessert (because even when you’re full, there’s always a second stomach for dessert!)
You’re pretty full by now but stay with me, this last one is a bit of a guilty pleasure of mine and not technically Vietnamese. Take a short walk back towards Crazy Buffalo then take a right and another right and you’ll come across Thế Giới Donut (5), which is as you’ve probably suspected, a donut shop, but not just any donut shop, this shop has the most fabulous range of intricately designed donuts along with some tasty bubble teas and frappes.
After all this you’ll most definitely have a food coma and be fit only for bed. But I don’t apologise and neither should you. I hope you’ve eaten your way through a fantastic day and you can always go for a run tomorrow.