I was very lucky to get a visit from two of my amazing friends from DC, Doug and Jeanne. They experienced Japan for a week before heading down south to visit me. Coming from a super organized, hi-tech, and developed country, I had no idea how they were going to take on Vietnam. But they handled Saigon with great stride. Bearing the humidity, we walked around the reunification palace, cathedral, and post office sweating bullets. Though overwhelmed by the major motorcycle traffic, they crossed streets like pros and even toured the Saigon streets on a xe om (motorcycle taxi).
So how does one acquaint their tummies to an emerging country’s food standards? Given Jeanne and Doug’s short 2 day visit, here are the places we took them to:
Quan An Ngon (160 Pasteur Street, Q1) – One restaurant representing the different regional cuisines of Vietnam by collecting the best street food purveyors and housing them in one location. This is the place to take anyone who’s visiting for an introduction to Vietnamese cuisine in a clean environment. We went here for lunch to avoid the dinner traffic and the guarantee that the dishes will not be 86, which is likely to occur during dinner service.
Trung Nguyen Coffee – Legendee coffee is the crème de la crème of Vietnamese coffee at Trung Nguyen. Legendee coffee beans are processed to replicate the enzyme treatment process of Weasel coffee.
Pho Hung (241 Nguyen Trai St. D1) – What would a trip to Vietnam be without a bowl of Pho even if it is super hot outside? Out of all the pho I have had so far, I think this place is the best. The beefy broth comes super hot and the noodles are cooked just right. A huge communal bowl of fresh herbs comes with the pho and the meal is perfect with an order of a fruit juice/shake to cool you down. Turns out this restaurant has chains in Oregon and Texas!
Nhu Lan — Roasted Pork Banh Mi sandwiches for 20,000 VND from this very famous deli.
Sugar Cane Juice – To cool off from the non-AC Benh Thanh Market
Quan 94 (84 Dinh Tien Hoang Street, D 1) – We found out our favorite restaurant delivers. Avoid the hassle of shelling crab, because this restaurant does it all for you. Our favorite dishes: crab roe noodles, crab claws with salt and pepper, and spring rolls. This place is very local and we delivered because we didn’t want weave through peak traffic. Not sure if Jeanne and Doug would have ate here if they initially saw the place!
Some other tummy friendly Vietnamese restaurants for the wary:
Night Market in Benh Thanh (Seafood), Ngoc Suong “Marina” (Seafood), Bun Cha Hanoi (Vermicelli w/Grilled Pork, Hoang Yen (Family Style Vietnamese), Quan Nuong 3T (BBQ), and Pho 24 (fast food pho)