For food lovers, a trip to Saigon Vietnam will be like a trip to foodie heaven. Vietnamese 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 dishes you must try when travelling to the Vietnamese Capital.
1. Saigon-style Broken Rice with Grilled Pork (Com tam suon)
Com tam suon 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. The broken rice grains are sold at a discount, and the low price makes broken rice a ubiquitous Vietnamese food staple.
In a dish of com tam suon, the rice is served piping hot. Grilled pork, often in the form of a sweetly grilled pork chop, top with scallion-oil mixture and served with a sweet & sour fish sauce(nuoc cham). Sweet and sour pickles (daikon and carrot) are sometimes used to help balance the oiliness of the meat. For the heavy eater, a special combination dish comprised of multiple toppings such as grilled pork chop, shredded pork skin, and pork paste(Com tam suon bi cha) is sure to fill any hungry stomach.
2. Grilled pork Vermicelli (Bun thit nuong)
Bun thit nuong is another simple dish, 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). It’s 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 hot rice noodle soup popular all over Vietnam. 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 just a few of the plant ingredients that go into the broth, along with slow-simmered chicken or beef bones. 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 variation than its northern cousin. The plate of fresh herbs is also more varied in Saigon than in the rest of Vietnam, and Saigon chefs may use hu tieu noodles (thinner) rather than the banh pho.
4. Vietnamese spring roll (Goi cuon)
The traditional Vietnamese spring rolls (or summer roll) is rolled inside rice paper (banh trang). Common ingredients include shrimp, pork, vegetables, and vermicelli. Unlike Chinese spring rolls or their Chinese-American cousin, egg rolls, they are not fried. Goi cuon are served fresh at room temperature. The dipping sauces that usually go with it are 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. Sizzling cake is essentially a savoury variation on the pancake or crepe, in this case, made with rice flour, wheat flour and turmeric powder. It’s filled with savoury fillings that 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!