An ultimate guide to Saigon's vermicelli dishes
Here's to your dictionary of "bún", or rice vermicelli, the simplest base to the most loved dish with endless tasteful combinations in Saigon.
Vietnamese cuisines are very diverse with the main focus on rice. You will find a heaven of rice-based dishes here from the traditional family meals with rice, broken rice dishes, or “cơm tấm” to a thousand kinds of rice noodle dishes. Among those, rice vermicelli or “bún” is the most popular dish with endless tasteful combinations, especially in Saigon. Here is the list of must-try vermicelli dishes that you won’t want to miss.
Bún bò Huế - Huế beef noodle soup
Bún bò Huế is like a spicier and more addictive version of Phở. Photo by Jan Nguyen.
Bún bò Huế is like the hotter, spicier, savorier cousin of the famous Phở. They shared the same bones with hot flavorful stock, rice noodles, slices of beef meat, and different kinds of fresh herbs and vegetables to level up the freshness of the dish. The broth of the dish is made from pork and beef bones with a generous dose of lemongrass, pineapple, a crazy addictive saté that turns the whole soup a gorgeous golden red, and a special kind of shrimp paste from the Central region where the dish originated from. These unique ingredients combination make up the distinctive taste and exceptionally addictive kind of flavor, especially to those spicy lovers. Bún bò Huế is served with a small dish of vegetables like lime, scallion, cilantro, banana blossoms, mint, basil, and Vietnamese coriander. The flavorful and rich taste from the soup together with the freshness of the vegetables is a perfect tasteful harmonization that will make you fall in love with the dish in just one mouthful bite.
Here are some suggested places for you to try this dish
- Bún bò Huế Đông Ba, 207B Nguyễn Văn Thủ Street, Ward Đa Kao, District 1. Price range from 60.000 VNĐ - 80.000 VNĐ
- Bún bò Huế Cô Mai, 158 Vành Đai Trong Street, Ward An Lạc A, Bình Tân District. Price range from 50.000 - 70.000 VNĐ
- Quán ăn Huế O Xuân, 22 Nguyễn Hữu Cầu Street, Ward Tân Định, District 1. Price range from 45.000 VNĐ - 60.000 VNĐ
Bún riêu cua - Crab Noodle Soup
Bún riêu cua originated from the North then become well-know across Vietnam. Photo by laodong.vn
Bún riêu cua or crab noodle soup is a well-known dish for locals across Vietnam. It is believed to originate from the North, then spread out to all regions of Vietnam. From there, the locals start to cook it with their own different components, creating different versions of bún riêu from North to South. The dish broth is made by simmering pork bone with a lot of tomatoes, onions, dried shrimp, and a crab paste/egg mixture. The topping ingredients of the dish vary in different regions. It is usually served with fried tofu, meatballs, blood pudding, snails,... and a tangle of fresh herbs and vegetables as always. The balance of saltiness from the dried shrimp, sweetness from the crab meats, and sourness from tomatoes making this dish the favorite noodle soup of many Vietnamese and travelers. Even though its origin is in Northern Vietnam, you can easily find any bún riêu stall in every corner of Saigon.
Here are some suggested places for you to try out this dish:
- Bún riêu Gánh, 163 Lê Thánh Tôn Street, Bến Thành Ward, District 1. Price range: 50.000 VNĐ - 80.000 VNĐ
- Bún riêu Nhà, 63B Trần Quốc Thảo Street, District 3. Price range: 50.000 VNĐ - 70.000 VNĐ
- Bún riêu Bảy, 122 Hậu Giang Street, Ward 6, District 6. Price range: 50.000 VNĐ - 70.000 VNĐ
Canh bún - Crab and water spinach noodles
Canh bún is a different version of bún riêu with lighter taste and softer crab paste. Photo by cachlambep.net
Canh bún is like the sister of bún riêu with almost the same ingredients but has some major differences. The crab mixture of canh bún is much lighter, soft, and fluffy while that of bún riêu is more sturdy. Canh bún is served with a thicker type of vermicelli similar to bún bò Huế. The noodle is cooked in the broth and has a unique red color from the annattos. And finally, canh bún is eaten with boiled water spinach rather than fresh vegetables like bún riêu. Usually, Vietnamese will add tamarind sauce into the bowl to add sourness to their canh bún. I personally prefer canh bún for its lighter taste, but both bún riêu and canh bún are my go-to dishes for breakfast just after my most favorite noodle dish - bún bò.
You can find canh bún at mostly any bún riêu stall. Here is some suggested places for you to try it out:
- Canh bún Võ Văn Tần, 267/64 Nguyễn Đình Chiểu Street, District 3. Price range: 40.000 VNĐ
- Canh bún bạch tuột chị Thuỷ (canh bún with octopus), 25F Nguyễn Thị Tần Street, Rạch Ông market, Ward 2, District 8. Price range: 30.000 VNĐ - 50.000 VNĐ
- Ngọc Nga Food Stall, 57 Nguyễn Bặc Street, Tân Bình Distrct. Price range: 20.000 VNĐ - 30.000 VNĐ.
- Bún mắm - Fermented fish noodle soup
Southwestern staple dish - bún mắm or fermented fish noodle soup. Photo by: vietnamnet.vn
Bún mắm or fermented fish noodle soup is a southwestern signature dish, using a special fermented fish/shrimp paste, as its base. The dish is characterized by its robust and uniquely savoury soup made with fermented fish paste, lemongrass, and plenty of seafood toppings including shrimp, squid, crispy pork belly, fish fillet,... Typically, it will be served with various kinds of fresh vegetables uniquely from the Mekong Delta area like purple stems of water lilies, yellow-white curls of banana blossoms, bean shoots to add freshness to the deep, and flavorful soup. The robust flavor and unique aroma of the dish will surely excite all of your tastebuds.
Some places where you can enjoy this dish in Saigon:
- Bún mắm 444, 375 Lê Quang Định Street, Ward 5, Bình Thạnh District. Price range: 80.000 VNĐ - 100.000 VNĐ.
- Bún mắm cô Ba, 451 Phan Huy Ích Street, Ward 14, Gò Vấp District. Price range: 70.000 VNĐ - 80.000 VNĐ.
- Bún mắm 144, 144 Khánh Hội Street, Ward 6, District 4. Price range: 70.000 VNĐ - 80.000 VNĐ.
- Bún măng vịt - Duck noodle soup with bamboo shoots.
The light flavor and textural contrast in the dish are what make bún măng vịt a favorite dish of many food-lovers. Photo by: tuvaobep.com
Another popular noodle dish is bún măng vịt or duck noodle soup with bamboo shoots, a dish that originated from Northern Vietnam. The soup of this dish is cooked from duck, chicken, yellow onion, and ginger. It is usually served with shredded duck meat, bamboo shoots, and soft rice noodles in a clear broth, garnished with shredded cabbages, green onion, and fresh vegetables. This noodle soup can’t be perfect with the must-have ginger fish sauce (nước mắm gừng) on the side for dipping the slices of duck meat. The light flavor and textural contrast in the dish are what make bún măng vịt a favorite meal of many food-lovers even though it is not quite popular compared to other Vietnamese noodle dishes.
Below are our recommended food stalls to try bún măng vịt:
- Quán Thảo, 181 Xóm Chiếu Street, Ward 16, District 4. Price range: 40.000 VNĐ - 60.000 VNĐ
- Bún Măng Vịt Đào Duy Từ, 9/2 Đào Duy Từ Street, Ward 17, Phú Nhuận District. Price range: 30.000 VNĐ - 100.000 VNĐ
- Cháo vịt Bé Ba, 175/1 Võ Văn Tần Street, Ward 5, District 3. Price range: 55.000 VNĐ - 100.000 VNĐ
Bún cá lóc - Snakehead fish noodle soup.
Snakehead fish noodle soup is characterized by its light and earthy flavor. Photo by Bún cá lóc Phan Lê.
Another signature dish from the Western region, particularly Châu Đốc city is bún cá lóc or snakehead fish noodle soup. The dish originated in Cambodia, then the people in Mekong Delta tweaked it to fit their taste and make it become one of the Western staple noodle dishes. The soul of this dish - the broth is made from shrimp paste, snakehead, livestock bones and the must-have spices củ ngải bún or auttum crosscus. The main protein of the dish is snakehead fish fillest fried with turmeric powder to create a tasteful golden color and a nice aroma. Don't forget to enjoy the dish with vegetables like water spinach, banana flower, bean sprouts, dien dien or sesban flowers, accompanied with a bowl of tamarind sauce. This special fish noodle soup gives off a special light, earthy flavor that will make you want to come back for more.
Some places in Saigon where you can try this special dish:
- Bún cá lóc Phan Lê, 159 Cao Thắng Street, District 10. Price range: 40.000 VNĐ - 70.000 VNĐ
- Bún cá lóc Kiên Giang cô Ba, 125 Bình Lợi Street, Ward 13, Bình Thạnh District. Price range: 45.000 VNĐ - 60.000 VNĐ
- Bún cá Châu Đốc dì Huệ, 241 Lê Quang Định Street, Ward 7, Bình Thạnh District. Price range: 40.000 VNĐ - 70.000 VNĐ
Bún thịt nướng chả giò - Rice noodle bowl with pork and spring rolls.
The most popular cold noodle dish in Saigon is bún thịt nướng chả giò or rice noodle bowl with pork and spring rolls. Photo by: emvaobep.com
There are other ways to eat rice noodles without the hot soup and the most popular cold noodle dish in Saigon must be bún thịt nướng chả giò or rice noodle bowl with pork and spring rolls. The dish consists of cold rice noodles, grilled pork, fried spring rolls and served with fresh vegetables like bean sprout, diced cucumber, lettuce, and pickled radish. On top of the bowl usually, are crushed roasted peanuts to add a bit of crunchy texture to the dish. The one final ingredient that ties all the components together is the special sweet and sour fish sauce pouring in the bowl. The dish is famous for its freshness, rich flavor, and contrast texture. This noodle bowl is a quick yet nutritious meal for a busy breakfast or dinner.
Some places you can come to try bún thịt nướng chả giò in Saigon are:
- Bún thịt nướng Hải Đăng, 149 Chấn Hưng Street, Ward 6, Tân Bình District. Price range: 30.000 VNĐ - 60.000 VNĐ
- Quán Văn Hiến, 167 Vạn Kiếp Street, Bình Thạnh District. Price range: 30.000 VNĐ - 50.000 VNĐ.
- Bún thịt nướng Nguyễn Công Trứ, 338 Nguyễn Công Trứ Street, Nguyễn Thái Bình Ward, District 1. Price range: 35.000 VNĐ - 40.000 VNĐ