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Where Do Locals Eat in Ho Chi Minh City?

where do the locals eat in ho chi minh city as Fredrick grills up bbq at a local bbq restaurant

You have arrived at the Pearl of the Orient, a.k.a. Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam and want to eat like a local! Hey, that’s an understandable feeling, and I felt exactly the same way when I first got here, too. I’ve built a business around doing that with my food tours here in Ho Chi Minh City. So, where do locals eat in Ho Chi Minh City?

Local Vietnamese have a few different styles of restaurants and vendors that they patron regularly. Small street food vendors that sell from carts are located on sidewalks and in alleyways throughout the city, with small tables and stools set up nearby. Tiny shop houses with a food cart set up in the front of the shop with seating in their home behind the food cart. Beer restaurants which are typically very large locations to accommodate many patrons and a lot of noise. And then your typical small or large restaurant designed to have its own vibe and theme built around it’s unique menu.

I’ll dive into a recommendation for each of these styles of local restaurants and shops here in Ho Chi Minh City to give you more of an idea of how you can eat like a local! You can also check out my food guide for Saigon that provides my current favorite restaurant recommendations.

Ho Chi Minh Street Food Vendors

These are located everywhere in Saigon and are probably the most romanticized part of traveling abroad for foodies. Everyone wants the Anthony Bourdain-style experience of a small seat at a small table eating a dish you are very unfamiliar with. I’ve been doing this for years, and I completely understand this desire. If you eat like this, you can experience local Vietnamese food for a low price and find some real gems during your travels.

I’ll give you one recommendation that isn’t far from the city center, and I know the food is safe. It is a vendor that I have taken my customers to in the past, and I can recommend it with confidence.

Banh Mi Hoa Ma – 53 Cao Thang

One of the best breakfasts in HCMC

This small food vendor has been selling a famous breakfast on the streets of Ho Chi Minh for a long time! The breakfast itself is known as Banh Mi Chao, which refers to a pan that is filled with eggs and pate with a crispy Vietnamese baguette on the side. Banh Mi Hoa Ma goes further with some lovely pork sausages in the pan and a plate full of pickles on the side. Don’t miss this spot if you are looking for a nice breakfast spot during your stay in Ho Chi Minh City.

Tiny Shop House Restaurant Saigon

When I’m choosing vendors for my afternoon food tour known as the big eats small seat this is usually the type of restaurant I will put on the tour. It’s a level up above a street food vendor in regard to health, but it’s still extremely local, and it’s going to give you that real-deal experience you are craving!

I’m going to recommend a very southern style dish that may not be for everyone but if you are feeling adventurous and want to try something you will either hate or love then give this Bun Mam a try!

Bun Mam 144 – 144 Khanh Hoi, D4

What food is ho chi minh known for?

This Bun Mam is delicious! This is one of those Vietnamese dishes that as a foreigner it gets a bit hit or miss from me because of the fermented flavor that comes from the fermented fish base used in the broth. I think the broth on this Bun Mam is subtle in regards to the fermented flavor but still there giving you that umami flavor in your mouth that makes the dish feel complete. Use the tamarind dipping sauce on the side to dip all of your goodies from the soup!

Beer Restaurants/Nhau Restaurants in Saigon

Nhau is the Vietnamese word for drinking and eating which is an extremely popular way to spend time with friends and coworkers in Vietnam. These restaurants are usually very loud and open air to allow for a bit of a dinner party atmosphere. The idea is that you’ll order food and slowly eat it as you spend time drinking and talking with your friends. From that description, this might be something that is totally up your alley as it is mine!

I’ll recommend this spot because I think its suitable for travellers with no real experience in Vietnam. Its not in the city center but just a little bit outside in District 7. I’ve never had an issue with the food safety and the atmosphere is fun while being comfortable.

Quan Bia Set – 2 Nguyen Huu Tho

quan bia set where do the locals eat in ho chi minh city

The menu will be vast, and if I recall, it’s all in Vietnamese. If you do come here, I believe the restaurant will have someone who works there who speaks enough English to help you navigate the menu. Everything will be shared plates, so order 4-5 dishes for a group of 3 or more. Enjoy your beers as you sit back and spend a few hours eating and drinking some beers! I guarantee some locals nearby will teach you how to Vietnamese cheers as well!

If your group is diverse in tastes, requirements, and aversions then a restaurant like this is great as well because of the variety on the menu. The styles of restaurants mentioned in this post earlier do not have variety they typically only serve one dish. If you are travelling with vegetarians or vegans in Ho Chi Minh City then this restaurant will have at least a couple of suitable options on the menu.

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