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On the surface, Ho Chi Minh City may appear to be full to the brim only with local cuisine. But, delve a little deeper and you’ll discover a smorgasbord of tasty delicacies with global influences.
Obviously, Ho Chi Minh City has a plethora of traditional Vietnamese cuisine. However, it really can’t be banded together in one category because it comes in so many different forms, be it at sophisticated restaurants like Temple Club or popular streetside joints like the many that line Van Kiep Street. Unsurprisingly, there’s an endless choice of local eats in Saigon, but you’ll experience an entirely different atmosphere and flavour, depending on where you go.
As Vietnam was once part of French-Indochina, French influences can be seen in local cuisine; the crusty bánh mì baguette, for instance, or phở bò, somewhat reminiscent of French onion soup. As well as these subtle nuances of flavour, there are also a number of French restaurants and eateries throughout Ho Chi Minh City. A couple of well-known favourites are Une Journèe à Paris, a delicious bakery, and the delightful La Villa French Restaurant.
Perhaps more surprising is the amount of veggie food on offer in Saigon. Although very few locals tend to be vegetarian, there are plenty of people who still appreciate a tasty, meat-free meal. Hum Vegetarian Café and Restaurant is a hit among the younger crowd, while Secret Garden Home-Cooked Vietnamese Food is popular with those looking for an up-market dining experience.
One of the most exciting things on the Saigonese culinary scene right now is fusion cuisine. Blazing a trail in this area, Ho Chi Minh City’s innovative restaurants aren’t afraid to step away from traditionality and try something new. Both street food and more formal eateries can be seen taking a turn toward modernisation, with twists on age-old favourites and combinations of multiple cuisines. For a taste of the best Vietnamese fusion food, head to Bloom Saigon, which serves tasty dishes and does good things, training disadvantaged youths to work in the food industry. Or, for something entirely different, head to Pizza 4P’s for a unique combination of Japanese and Italian flavours.
While there may not be a huge number of Indian restaurants in Ho Chi Minh City, the few that do exist are worth the hype. And, although many of the city’s eateries offer vegetarian options, the best choice is arguably found at Indian restaurants, which offer a number of vegetable and cheese dishes, much like the authentic cuisine. Baba’s Kitchen and Tandoor are two standouts that shouldn’t be missed.