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The best food experiences in Ho Chi Minh City will give you a taste of locally available herbs, meats, seafood, handmade rice noodles and fragrant curries, with many dishes reflecting the distinct culinary influence of the various foreign countries that at one point occupied Vietnam. Don’t leave without finding out why these are our Forbes Travel Guide editors’ favorite food experiences in the bustling Ho Chi Minh City:
1. Banh mi sandwich. You’ll get a taste of French colonial history wrapped up in Vietnam’s banh mi sandwich — served on baguettes (as good as the ones you’ll find on Paris streets) and packed with a variety of fillings such as soft cheese spread, fresh herbs, pickled veggies, meats, pate and hot sauce, banh mi are a cheap street food staple available at casual restaurants and street carts throughout the city.
2. Pho. Pho is a traditional Vietnamese soup often served for breakfast that’s available in all corners of Ho Chi Minh City. Some ingredients vary, but you can usually expect a rich broth spiced with star anise, ginger, onions, cloves, fish sauce and sometimes other ingredients such as bone marrow or chicken stock. Rice noodles, sprouts, fried garlic, meat, fresh cilantro, basil, lime and hot sauce are among the items you might add to the base — many places serve you the broth and noodles and let you choose the rest of the ingredients to suit your taste.
3. Rolls. Fried or fresh, rolls are a good start to any meal in Ho Chi Minh City as well as a great mid-afternoon snack while you’re on the go. Fresh summer rolls are filled with rice noodles, carrots, shrimp, tofu and fresh herbs wrapped in rice paper, while the fried spring rolls are usually filled with vegetables, meat, fish and noodles. Both are often served with fish sauce.
4. Fresh fish. Vietnam is known for its fresh seafood, so don’t miss the chance to try a fish curry, fried or grilled calamari, shrimp stir fry or fried whole fish.
5. Curry. Curries in Vietnam are less spicy than the ones you’ll find in Thailand or India, but they’re still packed with flavor and well worth seeking out. Curry is generally more popular in Ho Chi Minh City and southern parts of the country where there has been more of an Indian influence.