Is Vietnamese food good? That I can easily answer: YES, 100 times YES! There is no doubt that Vietnamese cuisine is one of the most impressive cuisines in the world. I constantly reiterate my love for Vietnamese food out loud, to my friends, and to anyone I meet and talk to. But when I am asked to recommend a good Vietnamese restaurant in Saigon, in order to have a sit down nicer experience, I hesitate. My cooking skills allow me to cook whatever dishes, yes Vietnamese dishes, I’m craving. I have to admit that I don’t often eat at Vietnamese restaurants which makes it more difficult to give decent recommendations.

But the question still remains. I decided to take a Saigon restaurant tour on my own, to discover the best Vietnamese restaurants in Saigon that I can confidently recommend to my friends, and you, my dear readers. So here you go, a list of the best restaurants in Saigon where you will have the top-notch Vietnamese cuisine experience.

best restaurants in saigon for authentic vietnamese food
Do you fancy a bowl of Pho?

Before we get to my recommendations, let’s take a quick look to understand a bit about the reasons behind the deliciousness of Vietnamese food.

Why Vietnamese Food Is So Good?

You know Vietnamese food is good and that’s it. Period. But when it comes to the reason why it is good, sometimes locals can’t give you a satisfying answer. You may have guessed that it has something to do with the history, but how? Let’s find out.

Vietnam and Multicultural Influence

Vietnamese cuisine is partly reflected in the country’s history. Vietnam was colonized by France and China for much of its lifetime, 61 years under the French and 1,000 years as Chinese colonies to be exact. These two countries happen to boast arguably the greatest cuisines in the world. Vietnamese cuisine cleverly absorbed the compelling positive influences from these two highly refined cuisines. Banh mi and pho are great examples of this cultural fusion.

My French friends always joke that we stole their baguette. But I say nope, we created our own art out of their baguette.  Pho, Vietnam’s iconic noodle soup dish, derived its name from a Chinese word “Fun,” (粉) which means rice noodles, a common element in Chinese cuisine. And pho’s outstanding beef broth is a result of the French influence in Vietnamese food.

Vietnam’s Geography Supplies an Incredible Variety of Ingredients

regional differences in vietnamese cuisine
Vietnam food map

The differing regions of Vietnam produce a variety of ingredients. The Mekong Delta provides a great number of vegetables, herbs, and fruit for the whole country throughout the year. That, in turn, helps us raise animals such as chickens, cows, and pigs. The North of Vietnam, even though it isn’t a large area, adds to this variety with different kinds of fruit or vegetables that can’t grow in the long-lasting heat of the South. This diversity is supported by our differing regions. Central, Northern, and Southern Vietnamese food are all different. And with a long coastal line running north to south, it gives Vietnam a great supply of seafood. This is a big advantage! Vietnam’s unique geography contributes to its fresh, flavorful, and delicious food. 

If you wish to learn more about Vietnamese food change from North to South, check this out: Regional Differences in Vietnamese Cuisine – North, Central and South

Vietnam has Multiple Religions and Ethnic Communities

Despite Buddhism, the religions that have the most followers in Vietnam are Christianity, Indigenous religions, Hinduism, and Islam. In addition, Vietnam has 54 distinct ethnic groups, each with its own language, lifestyle, and cultural heritage.

Vietnamese’s diversity in culture and cuisine has benefited from this. The most impactful religion is Buddhism. Vegetarian Buddhist monks, along with their dedication to reflect their philosophy in all areas of life, including cooking and particularly spicing foods, has brought the element of balance into Vietnamese cuisine. You can always find the perfect equilibrium of ingredients and flavor in Vietnamese food recipes that make the perfect dish. A fresh spring roll always comes rolled with protein from meat or shrimp and fiber from vegetables, it feels soft and chewy from the rice paper and crunchy from the peanut in the dipping sauce.

Dipping Culture

Vietnamese food culture is unique and the dipping culture is partly why. There are dozens of dipping sauces for food here. I’m talking about fish sauce, soy sauce, peanut sauce, shrimp paste, fermented fish paste, and many other not-translatable sauces.  A dish is not complete if you don’t have the right sauce for it.

Fish sauce
Dipping sauce

The Best Vietnamese Restaurants in Saigon 

Mam Restaurant

Mam brings you a superb food experience in a city full of surprises like Saigon. This restaurant is in an old building on the corner of Hai Ba Trung and Dien Bien Phu street. With its antique look, Mam is designed beautifully with an elegant setting and a great ambiance. Wait until you try the food. I couldn’t stop myself from saying “Wow” when I did. It was excellent and presented nicely. My friends and I ordered deep fried pork with “mam” sauce, grilled chicken with chili and lemongrass, poached seasonal vegetables with reduced mam sauce, braised summer blossoms with minced pork broth, and a flaming dessert. There was nothing to complain about, I only complemented.

best vietnamese food restaurants in saigon
Photo: Mam Restaurant

Address: 193 Hai Ba Trung or 195 Dien Bien Phu St., Dist. 3, HCMC
Google Maps: check here! 
Map coordinates: 10.785689, 106.693744
Hours: 11 AM– 2 PM | 6 PM– 10:30 PM
Price: 100,000 – 570,000 VND
Food style: more Southern Vietnamese dishes

Propaganda Bistro Restaurant

Propaganda is one of the few restaurants that offer breakfast in this mid-price range. There is nothing better than waking up, doing your morning run, then dropping by and enjoying breakfast at Propaganda. Food normally makes me happy, and breakfast at Propaganda is a boost to my normal happiness. Why? The food here is great and it’s priced reasonably.

On top of that, the decoration is just beautiful. The walls are covered completely by the yellow and red themed propaganda paintings, both historical documents and beautiful pieces of art. It gives you a glimpse into life during the war. The paintings reflect mostly the northern situation when they focused on farming to manufacture food in order to support the South during the war. I come back every time I have friends in town. So far, I haven’t found a dish that is not good. So, when you are here, order something different. You are going to enjoy every dish.

where to eat authentic vietnamese food
Twisted Cuisine No Fusion | Photo: Propaganda Bistro FB

Address: 21 Han Thuyen St., Dist. 1, HCMC
Google Maps: check here! 
Map coordinates: 10.778784, 106.698183
Hours: 7.30 AM – 11 PM
Price: 45.000 – 225.000 VND
Food style: more Southern Vietnamese dishes

Mekong Kitchen

Mekong Kitchen is an amazing place! I was initially surprised by the number of dishes I didn’t recognize. The menu is comprised of all dishes from the Mekong Delta and I have never made them at home. Even the ingredients are from the Mekong Delta, from kaffir lime leaves, banana leaves, coconuts, vegetables to the different kinds of fish that only live in the delta area such as giant gourami or snakehead fish. Trust me, when you see the menu, all you want to do is order it all. But I made myself pick three dishes: deep-fried giant gourami, golden apple leaf salad mixed with half-dried shrimp, and grilled chicken with coconut pulp. And they tasted phenomenal.

vietnamese restaurants
Photo: Mekong Kitchen FB

Address: 156 – 158 Nguyen Thai Binh St., Dist. 1, HCMC
Google Maps: check here! 
Map coordinates: 10.767920, 106.698056
Hours: 8 AM – 10 PM
Price: 60,000 – 290,000 VND
Food style: Mekong Delta specialties

P.s. I was in this video and exploring a part of the Mekong delta cuisine. Try not to make fun of me.

Tib Restaurant

You may wonder what the Vietnamese food from Central Vietnam is like. Do you have enough time to hop on a flight there? If you don’t, Tib has you covered. Serving specialties from Hue, the ancient capital of Vietnam, you will have a glimpse of how the food in the central region tastes. I’ve tried different restaurants that serve Hue cuisine, and this restaurant has the best food. I was surprised the first time I came here.

After walking toward the end of the alley, I didn’t expect a nice ancient gate and a peaceful garden inside. When I walked in, the tables and chairs amazed me. They look like the furniture I saw on TV when I was a child, programs I used to watch about Hue and the citadel. After trying the dishes, this place had me. My favorite dish is the lettuce rolls. It’s no surprise, I always love rolls. Side note, Tib has a really good vegetarian restaurant at another address. And yes, I highly recommend it for a vegetarian option.

Photo: Tib Restaurant

Tib Restaurant
Address: 187 Ter Hai Ba Trung, Dist. 3, HCMC
Google Maps: check here! 
Map coordinates: 10.785844, 106.694197
Hours: 11 AM – 10 PM
Price: 100,000 – 250,000 VND
Food style: Hue – Central Vietnamese dishes

Tib Vegetarian Restaurant
Address: 89-91 Phan Ke Binh St., Dist.1, HCMC
Google Maps: check here! 
Map coordinates: 10.790749, 106.698271
Hours: 11 AM – 10 PM
Price: 30,000 – 60,000 VND
Food style: mixed – vegetarian

Chay 3 La – 3 La Vegetarian Restaurant

This is my favorite vegetarian restaurant. Whenever I have vegetarian friends in town, I bring them here. From a quick glance at the outside, this restaurant looks like a house from the countryside. The fence is made from plants and the restaurant’s sign is a flat winnowing basket. Walk inside and you will find tables and chairs made from bamboo. I think I’ve tried all the dishes on the menu here, but I can’t recommend any specific dishes to you. All the food is great! One of the special things I like about this restaurant is that many dishes are made from leaves- different kind of leaves, some of them I didn’t even know are edible.  And sure, they taste great.

Photo: Nha Hang Chay 3 La

Address: 32A Cao Ba Nha St., Dist. 1, HCMC
Google Maps: check here! 
Map coordinates: 10.762657, 106.689965
Hours: 8 AM – 10 PM
Price: 35,000 – 100,000 VND
Food style: mixed – vegetarian

Hum Vegetarian Restaurant

It looks like District 3 is the hot area where all these great restaurants are located. Hum Vegetarian is located in District 3, on Vo Van Tan street, just a two-minute-walk from the War Museum. This, I would say, is the paradise of vegetarian. As a vegetarian, you might worry that you can’t experience all the tastiest dishes that Vietnam has to offer. Here is my response, no need to worry. This restaurant might even make you into a full-time vegetarian, so it’s an excellent choice for everyone. Capturing the spirit of a pagoda, you will be greeted by a zen and cozy space. Take a break from the Saigon heat and sense-overload, and calm down and enjoy the peace here.

hum vegetarian restaurant saigon
Photo: Hum Vegetarian Restaurant

Address: 32 Vo Van Tan St., Dist. 3, HCMC
Google Maps: check here! 
Map coordinates: 10.778828, 106.692118
Hours: 10 AM – 10 PM
Price: 70,000 – 130,000 VND
Food style: mixed – vegetarian

Are you looking for more vegetarian restaurants in Saigon? My friend has it covered. Check this article out. 

Quan Bui Restaurant

I brought my friend to Quan Bui once and it’s now his favorite Vietnamese restaurant. The decoration in Quan Bui is very nice and warm, bringing you a really friendly feeling as you dine. Food is served on old-style plates and bowls which reminds me of a traditional family dinner in the North. You can find here both specialties of the South and the North of Vietnam. The chicken cashew nut here is amazing, and aside from that, fried brown rice is another must-try dish at Quan Bui. If you fancy a northern taste, get the grilled fish with dill (Cha ca La Vong), a really tasty dish from the north, Hai Phong city to be exact. Quan Bui has two more locations in District 1 and another one in District 2. You can easily find the one closest to you.

quan bui restaurant saigon
Photo: Quan Bui FB

Address: 17/A Ngo Van Nam St., Dist. 1, HCMC
Google Maps: check here! 
Map coordinates: 10.781302, 106.705923
Hours: 8 AM – 11 PM
Price: 70,000 – 260,000 VND
Food style: mixed Northern and Southern Vietnamese Food

Secret Garden & Secret House Restaurant & Cafe

Secret Garden and Secret House are run by the same owner and he is doing a great job maintaining the high-quality standard for these two restaurants. The big brother Secret Garden was opened in 2013, it has been frequently visited by locals and expats in Saigon since then. In the maze of modern buildings in Saigon, you will be surprised to find Secret Garden situated in a nice and cozy restaurant on a rooftop of an old apartment building.

The food is great paired with a really good vibe from the open atmosphere and colorful lanterns of the restaurant. It’s a little bit tricky (and also fun) to find it. Tell your driver to take the one-way street of Ly Tu Trong, then turn left at the crossroads of Pasteur and Ly Tu Trong street. You will find a small alley on the right side of Pasteur, go toward the end of the alley, take a left-hand turn and climb up some precarious stairs, keep ascending to the top and you will find this delightful dining garden after walking through their kitchen.

secret garden secret house mountain retreat saigon
Photo: Secret Garden FB

After operating for four years, the owner decided to open Secret House. This new location is not that secret. It is easier to find. Just follow Google Maps. Secret House places more focus on natural and traditional design. They spared almost half of the space for a real garden with beautiful plants and flowers. I always find it very peaceful here.

Secret Garden
Address: 158 Pasteur St., Dist. 1, HCMC
Google Maps: check here! 
Map coordinates: 10.777363, 106.699795
Hours: 10 AM – 10 PM
Price: 55,000 – 120,000 VND
Food style: mixed

Secret House
Address: 55/1 Le Thi Hong Gam St., Dist. 1, HCMC
Google Maps: check here! 
Map coordinates: 10.768785, 106.697796
Hours: 7 AM – 10 PM
Price: 65,000 – 90,000 VND
Food style: more Southern Vietnamese dishes

It’s pretty easy to have the best food experience in Saigon, especially after reading my article. I hope you have a deeper understanding of Vietnamese food culture and you can be an ambassador and spread this knowledge to the world.  

If you enjoyed reading this article and would like some more fun info about what to see, do and eat (and a bunch of interesting cafes!) in Vietnam, follow us at the Christina’s blog!

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