Saigon, one of the world’s best food cities.
Saigon is developing a reputation for outstanding diversity of food and drink options, both local and global which is truly putting it on the culinary map.
By Joel Zorrilla | Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
Vietnam is of course famous for its food, made famous in part by Anthony Bourdain, who returned to Vietnam various times to shoot his shows, featuring food from all corners of the country. Featured on both of his shows, “no reservations” as well as his newest addition “parts unknown”, Bourdain habitually expresses his shock at the hospitable nature of the Vietnamese and the phenomenal food Vietnam offers. When I mention Vietnamese food, its everything outside of the realm of Pho, already famous around the world. The diversity of food in this small country is astonishing.
Much-deserved international prizes
2021 is the year that we can say Vietnam set itself firmly on the global food wall of fame. AnAn one of our favorite high-end eateries which has been gaining more and more international and local acclaim for its modern twists on Vietnamese dishes deservedly won a spot in Asia’s Best 50 Restaurants recently in the 39th position. Let’s not forget about the blossoming mixology industry either, with one of our other personal favorites for a post-work cocktail. Summer Experiment recently clocked in at position #77 in Asia’s Best 100 Bars awards.
Starting with the local options, as any cultural and financial capital, Saigon offers dishes from most corners of the entire country. This reflects the migration trends as well, as the population of Ho Chi Minh City continues to grow, fed from residents of rural areas seeking out better opportunities and the city’s very attractively low unemployment rate (about 5%). As is expected these people bring along their local specialties, creating a melting pot of outstanding food diversity. Check our EATS section for our list of eateries, focusing mostly on local eateries.
World Class “Japanese Pizza”
Turning to the “expat” food scene, there has been a boom of locals, repats, and expats opening up very successful eateries serving food from around the world around the city. Everyone who has lived here for a few months will be familiar with the amazing success story of Pizza 4PS, started by a bored japanese businessman who’s love of pizza took him to quit his stressful career in the finance sector to open the most successful pizza chain in Vietnam, and possibly Asia. Pizza 4ps had an annual turnover of 15 million USD in 2017, with 3000 daily customers flocking to his restaurants to try such unique toppings as ginger fried pork and salmon miso cream, apart from the more traditional Italian style pizzas such as the ubiquitous margarita pizza.
Featured here on the BBC.
They flock to the outlets to try such pizza delights as salmon miso cream, teriyaki chicken, and ginger fried porkBBC
Marou Chocolate, the best you’ve never heard of.
Another notable success story is “Marou” chocolate, started by two french entrepreneurs who found themselves exploring the countryside of Vietnam to find a host of farmers growing a surprising amount of cacao. Marou has now become a staple of the fine dark chocolate now being exported around the world and winning notable awards. Dubbed, the “best chocolate you have never tasted” by the New York Times in an article published in 2016, they have opened two chocolatiere shops, one in Saigon and the other in Hanoi. Both shops have french trained pastry chefs producing some phenomenal pastries.
The world’s most exquisite bars are being made in a garage in Ho Chi Minh City.New York Time
Microbreweries, the best in Asia.
The explosion of microbreweries is another element of this goldrush which has not gone unnoticed. The first brewery which put Saigon on the map was the infamous Pasteur Street Brewery. Pasteur does a great job of blending local ingredients, like passion-fruit ales, Coconut, ginger ETC with brewing techniques brought over from the west by the founders producing award winning results. Some other breweries which have also made great inroads are: Heart of Darkness, LAC, Winking Seal ETC. All can be found at Bia Craft pub in District 3, Phu Nhuan and District 2:
One can attribute this success to a vast array of reasons, one of the main being the openness of the Vietnamese people. They love their local food more than anything and they always will, but one cannot deny the fact that they also won’t think twice at the idea of trying something new and mysterious. Even in business, which in this part of the world hinges on impressing customers and potential partners with lavish spending on expensive food and drink, there is a trend of Vietnamese business people holding such luncheons and dinners at western restaurants.
The second main reason, in my humble opinion, can be attributed to the incredible atmosphere of entrepreneurship and optimisms which grips this nation. If one doesn’t mind dealing with the Orwellian-like bureaucracy that needs to be waded through, there are millions of hungry expats and locals ready for the next big thing.
Check out our list of favorite watering holes, here.
A vegetarian/vegan paradise
As a largely Buddhist country Vietnam has a long and very old tradition of cooking with, and perfecting, vegetarian eateries. Plant-based versions of otherwise traditional Vietnamese staples are everywhere, from Vegetarian Banh Xeo, Pho, Mi Quang, Bun Bo and more. Some of our favorite Vietnamese Vegetarian spots are listed on our post, Top Vegetarian spots in Saigon. Some notable plant-based alternative eateries have been making waves in the local community, two of my favorites are The Organik House and Kashew Cheese. The Organik House does everything plant-based, including their own takes on Tempeh, Falafels, Salads and more. Kashew Cheese on the other hand makes everything from Kashew for their full spread of cheese options, and they are absolutely a nock out!
INSIDE TIP: Make your way to Organik House on Sunday for one of the best plant-based brunches you will ever have. Kashew Cheese may be known for the epic nut-based cheese itself, but it’s their absolutely killer sandwiches that will keep you coming back for more.