For foodies, Saigon Vietnam would be the perfect destination to taste local Vietnamese dishes. The locals like to blend spicy, sweet, and salty flavours and add a variety of textures for dishes that dance on the palette like the colours in a kaleidoscope. Here are five delicious traditional local dishes you must try when travelling to the Vietnamese Capital.
1. Saigon-style Broken Rice with Grilled Pork (Com tam suon)
Com tam suon also known as Broken Rice with Grilled Pork is one of Saigon’s most popular meals in street food stalls and restaurants. Vietnam is one of the world’s top rice producers. Broken rice is technically a by-product of milling some of the more expensive rice types; the grains that get broken are set aside. These broken rice grains are sold at a much lower price hence making them affordable and an important part of Vietnamese food staple.
For com tam suon, the rice is served piping hot. Grilled pork, often in the form of a sweetly grilled pork chop accompanied by scallion oil mixture is placed on top of the rice and served with a sweet & sour fish sauce(nuoc cham). Sweet and sour pickles (daikon and carrot) are sometimes added to balance the oiliness of the meat. Heavy eater can go for a special combination dish comprised of multiple toppings such as grilled pork chop, shredded pork skin, and pork paste(Com tam suon bi cha).
2. Grilled pork Vermicelli (Bun thit nuong)
Bun thit nuong is a simple local dish. It is basically a rice noodle salad made of two of Vietnam’s favourite foods: grilled meat (in this case, always pork) and vermicelli noodles made of rice flour (bun). The dish is generally topped with pickled daikon radish & carrots, fresh basil, chopped cucumber, fresh mint, bean sprouts, chopped spring rolls, fried shallot and roasted peanuts, and dressed with nuoc cham.
3. Vietnamese noodle soup (Pho)
Pho is a popular rice noodle soup dish that can be commonly found on the streets of Saigon. Chicken and/or beef are two protein options commonly added to the vegetable and noodle (banh pho) base. The beef in Vietnamese beef noodle is typically sliced rare, and the heat from the soup broth cooks it all the way through.
Onions and ginger are some of the few ingredients that go into the broth which hs been slow-simmered with chicken or beef bones for hours. The noodle soup is served alongside a plate of fresh vegetables and herbs, usually including scallions, basil (the Thai, or Asian, variety), cilantro, bean sprouts, and chilli peppers.
The Saigon variety of pho is generally a sweeter version of its northern cousin. They also provide greater variety in the plate of fresh garnish than in the rest of Vietnam. Some Saigon chefs may also use the thinner hu tieu noodles instead of the banh pho.
4. Vietnamese spring roll (Goi cuon)
The traditional Vietnamese spring roll (or summer roll) is made with rice paper (banh trang). Common ingredients that are rolled within it include shrimp, pork, vegetables, and vermicelli. Unlike Chinese spring rolls or their Chinese-American cousin, egg rolls, Vietnamese spring rolls are not fried. Goi cuon are served fresh at room temperature. These delicious spring rolls may be served with a side of tuong dau (hoisin sauce), peanut sauce, and/or nuoc cham.
5. Sizzling cake (Banh xeo)
Banh xeo is called “sizzling cake” because of the sound it makes when it hits the hot pan. The cake is basically a savoury variation on the pancake or crepe, in this case, made with rice flour, wheat flour and turmeric powder. It is filled with savoury fillings which may include pork, baby shrimp, scallions, green pea/bean, jicama, and bean sprouts. The dish is served hot and crispy where you would use a mustard green’s leave as a wrapper to roll and dip in the sweet fish sauce.
We hope you enjoyed our recommendations of the 5 Vietnamese dishes you must try when travelling to Saigon, Vietnam. Do share your experience in the comments section below too!