Banh xeo, Vietnamese for “sizzling cake” – a name derived from the sound these party starters make when cooked on a hot pan.
The crispy pancake is made of rice flour, green onion, coconut milk, and turmeric powder which creates the shining yellow color of the cake. Most of the versions of Banh Xeo share the same ingredients. The filling, however, is varied depending on the region you are travelling to. We love the classic one with shallot, shrimp, mung bean sprouts, and pork.
Enjoy Banh Xeo with your hands – it’s how the locals do. It is served with a big plate of veggies and herbs, such as: lettuce, fish mint, Vietnamese perilla, and salad.
Wrap everything with a big mustard leave and feel the freshness of the herbs combined with the crispiness of the cake and the flavorful shrimp and pork.
Why Vietnamese Banh Mi is so good?
The baguette has a long history in Vietnam dated back to the French colonial time. After more than a hundred years, there are several different versions of Banh Mi across Vietnam. However, the most popular one would include: cured ham of different types, pork floss, grilled pork, pickles, Vietnamese herbs and vegetables, and pate which is believed to be the “soul” of the sandwich.
Below are our favorite sandwich stalls where we have been eating for generations:
+ Banh Mi Huynh Hoa
Add: 26 Le Thi Rieng, District 1, HCMC.
+ Banh Mi Ga Ly Tu Trong (chicken sandwich)
In Saigon people usually eat seafood at street food stalls in the evening. It has become one of the most popular activities to do among young people and families. Saigon has especially good seafood due to its ideal location which is close to Mekong Delta and other coastal cities such as Phu Quoc, Phan Thiet, and Nha Trang. Southern people love sweetness and spicy food. Therefore when you order the seafood in Saigon, if you do not like spicy food, make sure you tell them your food preferences.
For adventurous foodies, try grilled snails. Some popular options would be: star fruit snail, conch, and garlic snail. They go perfectly well with sauté sauce or green onion sauce.
Vietnamese people love sticky rice. I personally love grilled banana wrapped in sticky rice because it is a part of my childhood. It is delicious but getting to know how to make it is even more fascinating. If you have a chance to see how it is make, you must be attracted by the aroma of burning briquettes toasting banana leaves and sticky rice. When it’s done, it has a crispy golden crust outside and a soft sweet delicate banana inside, which together create a perfect combination. A lot of restaurants add this lovely dessert to their menu as a signature dessert of Saigon itself.
Travelers usually love Vietnamese classic spring rolls. However, do you know that Southern people love to wrap and roll everything they can. They use all 5 senses to enjoy the food. Besides the classic rolls, they enjoy other versions of roll with beef, fish, or grilled meat.
Our recommended rolls that Saigonese love:
Shin Café provides authentic flavours of quality coffee beans from Vietnam and around the world, including Colombia, Guatemala, Ethiopia, Kenya and Tanzania, all roasted at the shop and brewed by the method of your choice. The founder of the coffee shop spent several years overseas and when he returned, he created a blend of coffee culture around the world to the city of Saigon.
Visit a local tea place in Saigon and take a journey through the history and taste of tea in Vietnam. The founder spent 5 years traveling extensively in Vietnam, China, and India to learn about tea. Taste the different styles of leaf and taste the subtleties and flavors of the teas that they make.
If you are looking for a lovely vintage coffee shop right in the middle of busy Saigon, then Café 81 would be a good option for you. The design is inspired by Saigon in the 1970s with beautiful antiques. The atmosphere is cozy and makes you feel like you are having a drink at a local home.
Padma de Fleur is part flower shop, part restaurant, but…they only serve lunch. The menu each day is ‘handpicked’ by its creative owner. A new menu, including six dishes, is created everyday. All are Vietnamese dishes with a “floral twist.” You may be able to speak to her when eating here and her English is excellent. Savour the creative way she decorates the shop and the food. Reservations recommended.
Yoko Café is an excellent live music venue in Saigon. It is where the career of several young acoustic bands is boosted. The music is varied from pop and rock over bands, jazz and blues, to original indie and experimental tunes. It’s a combination of a friendly, cosy space and good music.
Another recent opening cocktail bar of Saigon, Tamarind has drawn a tipsy, loyal fanbase due to its creative, often improvised cocktails and a cool middle age decoration. The staff here is professional, yet very casual and friendly, giving the place a cool, local feeling. Its cozy atmosphere makes it a perfect place to chat over cocktails or meet fellow travelers, expats and locals.
The Alley Cocktail Bar and Kitchen is located in a hidden alley right in the centre of Saigon and is operated by an experienced mixologist. It is one of few cocktail bars in Saigon with a speakeasy style. The décor is inspired by the owner’s childhood in the Mekong Delta. The bar features a simple yet delicious menu with Tapas and well-sourced quality foods. Every Thursday, the bar features either with a DJ, or an acoustic set. Saffron Travel highly recommend one of their signature cocktails: Mekong Delta or Gastro Fusion.
There are a number of bars now in Saigon, but PK is quite different. The first feeling when guest enter PK is that it is so hidden and unique. The bar is located in an old yet charming building which was designed in French architecture. The details are kept as they were to remain the authenticity of the place. The drinks are beautiful and the service is attentive. The bartender will come at your table and ask for your preferences as well as your mood to tailor your own signature cocktail. The owner of the bar is a great person to interact with. He is a collector and has a great passion for Whisky around the world with a big focus on Irish’s.
Tell the bartender your style and see what happens. You won’t be disappointed.
Pizza 4P’s is Vietnam-based Japanese Italian pizza restaurant. The special thing about this restaurant is the founder’s obsession with quality control. Every pizza needs to be perfectly round and he would refuse to accept payment for any pizzas that are not round. The restaurant has several pizzas served with its signature mozzarella cheese which is freshly made in Vietnam, a country where cheese did not exist. And he was not happy with the milk he was able to buy in Vietnam, he bought a farms and his own cows. There are 7 addresses in Saigon and each of them is also famous for its unique design and sustainable concept.
Situated on the banks of the Saigon River, 15 min from the centre of the city, The Deck is one of the most elegant rendezvous offering relaxed, riverside and open – air dining.
You can reach the restaurant by different means but the most interesting one is arriving by boat which can be arranged by the restaurant also. They can bring you right to your dinner table by boat.
With a wide range of options in their menus, you can choose from contemporary pan – Asian fusion cuisine to fresh seafood flown in from Phu Quoc Island, vegetables from Dalat and meat from New Zealand. All the dishes are simple but every single ingredients is of the finest quality.
Besides fine dining, The Deck is also an ideal place for either a sunset cocktail or canapés or luxury weddings and event.
Romeo & Juliet – or ‘R&J’, as it’s affectionately called – offers a full range of flavourful, authentic Italian dishes.
The menu dabbles in regional favourites from north to south – from Wagyu osso buco to home-made pasta crafted with imported Italian flour.
The contemporary dining room exudes a distinctively exuberant flair, with walls of vibrant Italian mosaics, elaborate candelabras and a collection of differently styled dining chairs – a creative nod to the 40 distinctive corners of Italy.