I was recently in Saigon and had the pleasure of staying with some friends, an Australian woman and her Vietnamese partner.
Barbara has a healthy obsession with Vietnamese cuisine and has spent the past five years living in Saigon. Vu has essentially grown up in this wonderful city and being the son of restaurateurs has a particular affinity for this delicious food as well.
Together they form the dynamic, knowledgeable, and extremely fun duo behind Saigon Street Eats. You can tell when someone loves what they do, and Barbara so obviously enjoys showing off her adopted home city that it’s infectious.
Not that you’ll likely need convincing to love Saigon!
They have different tours, including the interestingly named Snail Street tour. (It isn’t what you think.)
I got to experience their daytime street food tour and had a lot of fun. I had high expectations after my wonderful experience in Malaysia, and I wasn’t disappointed.
One of the things I love about food tours is getting an insight into cultures. You get that in spades with Barbara and Vu!
Our tour began with visiting their favorite pho place. Their particular recipe for this delicious soup is a closely guarded secret. Only two people know it, and one of them lives in the US!
While I sipped on my delightful glass of iced Vietnamese coffee, Barbara gave me an introduction to the various herbs sitting in the bright pink basket on our table. I had been warned beforehand that the Saigon version of pho is often considered superior to that from the northern Hanoi style.
The rumors are true!
The food in our bowls didn’t last long, and we were soon our way to the next delight. One of the nice things about this particular street food tour is that you get to do a lot of walking. With all the food you’ll be eating, it’s a plus. Trust me.
I had been in Vietnamese markets before, and elsewhere in the world, but I have to say the local market in Saigon wears the crown! Naturally, the couple seem to know just about everyone and their stories. It’s really enjoyable to be at someone’s stand and learn about the foods, but also learn about the personal side of their stories as well.
I gained a deeper appreciation for the people behind the stacks of shredded vegetables and bottles of pickled everything that day.
After exploring more of the market and seeing piles of things I had never dreamed of eating, it was time to sit down in front of a fan and drink coconut water from a young coconut. Local style. Which means sitting on a bench while scooters whizz past you seemingly only a hair’s width away.
As you continue to eat your way through Saigon’s streets, you also pick up food to enjoy as part of a picnic lunch in a local temple’s grounds. Vu gave a very interesting history lesson about the temple’s origins and the man it is dedicated to.
At the end of the tour, you have the opportunity to get your fortune read. Vu walks you through the multistep process. While he was giving me the background, I watched several women come up and cast their lots, so to speak.
The gods granted my wish on the first request. It’s valid for 1 year. One of the temple workers reads your fortune, and you get some direction about what you need to do throughout the year for the most favored outcome in your endeavor.
You really can’t beat this cultural and street food experience. Barbara and Vu know how to do it right. I’m not surprised.
*All images courtesy of Saigon Street Eats