Saigon Street Eats

Finally, I met Barbara Adam of Saigon Street Eats! We’ve been living here for 5 years but honestly, I haven’t really walked the streets of Saigon a whole lot. So it was a real treat to finally go on a tour by Barbara (you can also read more about her in her blog, The Dropout Diaries). Barbara and her husband, Vu host foodie tours in Saigon.

Barbara also took with her, her four year old daughter Poppy. Sam and Poppy became fast friends with Poppy “hosting” as well. 🙂

We met Barbara, Poppy, and Ynna (from NZ) at the Saigon Opera House early in the morning and our first stop was to have breakfast at a local pho restaurant.

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This little establishment along one of Binh Thanh’s busy hems has been in the business for some 30 years. The original owners have left but their pho recipe lives on. If you want authentic pho ga or pho bo, then this is the pho to be.
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And it was great that they offer smaller bowls for children. Ynna tried the ca phe sua da while I tried their passion fruit juice! Both are highly recommended!

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After a filling breakfast, we walked to the nearby bakery, where the kids chose 2 cakes to take with them till the end of the tour. The cake that still resembles a cake by the end of the tour wins. Sam brought home a blob if you wanna know.

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It was an awesome bakery! They’ve got cakes for every zodiac sign. It was incredible! And they also bake huge breads!
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Barbara introduced us to the way of life of the Vietnamese by talking about food.  It was difficult not to stop and just try everything. The pork barbecue at Com Tam Long Xuyen smelled enticing.

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Around the corner was Com Tam Chay with all their savory viands ready for all to see.

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A few meters ahead, another was barbecuing too. Argh. I get week-kneed when I smell a barbecue.

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We also stopped to buy some sweet potato and bananas from this lady for our mini picnic for lunch. This supposedly “poor man’s breakfast” is actually pretty good and healthy! I remember a certain Filipino celebrity who would diet and just eat sweet potato all day. 😛

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We ducked into another hem to visit the a family temple which is a place of worship for the family’s ancestors.

 photo IMG_2432_zpsd9fefe59.jpgThere was a “mountain” in the middle of the garden. Mountains are one of the more popular symbols in Buddhism. Ancestor veneration is not uncommon in Vietnam and is actually an influence by the Chinese. I kinda understand it. Your ancestors must have a direct line to Heaven, so why not talk to them?

 photo IMG_2441_zps505261f2.jpgChi Pauline — one of the elders of the family, opened their doors to us and we were astounded by their temple.

 photo IMG_2444_zps56f04883.jpgThey had a whole room —

 photo IMG_2447_zpscc2f5e7e.jpgThey’ve even managed to keep really old Buddhist manuscripts.

 photo IMG_2445_zps29bf8625.jpgTo continue our history lesson, we visited a textile shop for ao dai — the Vietnamese traditional dress.

 photo IMG_2458_zps0a98303e.jpgIt was wonderful! I love textile and how I wish I’ve gotten to see this shop before I had my first ao dai made!

 photo IMG_2459_zpsee1bad31.jpgSeriously, I am not too keen with our PH national dresses as they’re voluminous, hot, and itchy (The itchier it is, the more expensive it is. I kid you not!). I love how beautiful ao dais are made and yes, you wear pants! I love pants!!!

 photo IMG_2460_zpsfa75e9d4.jpgNext stop was the Cho Ba Chieu! I have only been to a few markets in the city and Cho Ba Chieu is easily my favorite or maybe we just didn’t get there early enough and there wasn’t much traffic compared to Cho Binh Tay where people bump into you a whole lot.

 photo IMG_2465_zpsc76c053b.jpgIt was interesting to learn that it’s not uncommon for locals to do 2 or 3 trips to the market in a day just to make sure that they’re cooking the freshest meal. Cho Ba Chieu is designed in such a way that motorbikes can easily go round the market and make stops to buy fresh produce.

On our way, we stopped by a betel vendor. I knew that this is illegal in some countries, but apparently, it’s not illegal in Vietnam.

 photo IMG_2470_zps56d54773.jpgA vendor selling paper money and incense for the temple —

 photo IMG_2472_zps63f031bf.jpgThe Banh Mi vendor for our lunch —If you love Subway, this is way better! I smile when I see expats put chili or sweet chili in their Subway sandwiches, it’s very Vietnamese.

 photo IMG_2476_zpsaef7eabb.jpgRice cakes. I bought the banh bo which tasted just like our Filipino puto — which is Sam’s favorite.

 photo IMG_2483_zps5798c608.jpgAnd sugar cane juice. This is actually the first time I’ve tried sugar cane juice with a dash lemon. It’s actually pretty good! Been wanting to try this for a long time but wasn’t quite too sure.

 photo IMG_2491_zps4c2dd107.jpgWe then went inside the market to see the dried fish section. Here, Barbara told us the different ways that the Vietnamese preserved their food pre-refrigeration time. I just couldn’t resist that I just had to buy the dried squid for breakfast. 😛

 photo IMG_2506_zps2230f6ac.jpgWe tried the sweetened dried crabs too for lunch and it went well with our banh mi! So good!

 photo IMG_2505_zpscff57f1a.jpgOutside, we checked out the seafood. Sam couldn’t stop talking about the daddy, mommy, and baby eels — and the big frogs! Ribbit!

 photo IMG_2538_zps443b3322.jpgWe stopped for a bit to get coconut juice and try the banh flan.

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In the Philippines, we call this “leche flan”. And no, we don’t put ice on it. But this is a good way to dilute the sweetness a bit.

 photo IMG_2553_zpsc3771cae.jpgThis part of the market where you can get a bite to eat is not free from motorists. As we ate, motorbikes zipped by behind us.

 photo IMG_2556_zps88db3c25.jpgAfter dessert, we walked to the fruits section and again, I had to stop myself from buying! The avocados were sold at 26,000 VND/kilo! So cheap compared to where I buy mine at 50,000 VND! We also bought the mysterious poop fruit which of course is tamarind — but Ynna didn’t know that. 😛

 photo IMG_2559_zpsd042703b.jpgCan anybody tell me what this fruit is called?

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Then it began to rain! But that didn’t stop us to continue our gastronomic tour!
 photo IMG_2561_zps34497e4d.jpgOn our way to the Le Van Duyet temple, Barbara pointed to us the shredded pork skin that looked like noodles. I wonder what it’s used for.

 photo IMG_2568_zpsa862bf26.jpgOur last stop was the Le Van Duyet shrine  that was surrounded by a beautiful park — where we were supposed to have a picnic. But because of the rain, we ate at the sides of the temple.

 photo IMG_2570_zpsab2b6543.jpgLe Van Duyet was a general that helped vanquish the Tay Son rebellion in the 1800s. His tomb is also in this complex.

 photo IMG_2611_zps4f88081f.jpgPeople come to visit Le Van Duyet to seek answers on love, career, lost loved ones, health, and wealth among others.

 photo IMG_2585_zps789e112a.jpgThe kids were introduced how it was to “pray” to an ancestor. My son wished for a horse.  😛

 photo IMG_2591_zps74f4f87b.jpgThen off you go to the cabinet of mysteries where your “answer” is written. The funny thing is, since Le Van Duyet is Vietnamese and speaks only Vietnamese, questions in English may have doubtful answers.  😛   photo IMG_2599_zpsc98ebe6f.jpg It’s safe to say my son won’t get his horse.

Then at lunch, we tried all the food that Barbara was hoarding all through out the tour. The highlight was Ynna trying the poop fruit. 😛 photo IMG_2601_zps5560e1b7.jpgBy the time we were done by 2 pm, we were tired and couldn’t eat a bite more. I took home most of the stuff we didn’t finish eating. My nanny was very happy with the century egg! I was too! She mad an awesome congee!

I love Barbara! I’d recommend her in a heartbeat! Learning about Vietnamese culture and traditions are best digested through your stomach. 😀

Book a tour today!

Saigon Street Eats
090 844 94 08

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6 Responses to Saigon Street Eats

  1. Yen Phan says:

    The shredded pork skin is used in broken rice (cơm tấm) and bread, you should try!

  2. tructluong says:

    The small black fruit that you asked is called “Tram”. I often tried it when I was a child. It might cause a purple mouth. Love to see you explore my beloved hometown since I am apart from it now.

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