Local food and scooters in Saigon

Discovering Vietnam, that’s discovering its food as well as the urban jungle Ho Chi Ming City actually is. A food tour felt like the right activity to combine both!


I have already told you that Saigon has its own idea of traffic. Cars get stuck in traffic all the time. So when I wanted to discover the city and its kitchen, doing it by bike felt like the right way to go. And so I jumped on the back of Thinh’s scooter, to discover some food.

Thanh Le, who owns the company Saigon on Bikes, guided the small group of scooters from place to place during an evening of fun and discovery.

Bánh Tráng Nướng
Bánh Tráng Nướng

Thinh drove the scooter to our first stop, to get some appetizers. A type of pizza and burrito-type rolls. It’s curious how after a while in this part of the world hot and spicy become easier to digest. When I go back to NY, I’ll have to adjust big time!
Some Thai to remember:
Bánh Tráng Nướng: Grilled Rice Paper with Stuffs on
Bánh Dẻo: Grilled Chewy Rice Paper Rolling Style

When I arrived here, the rest of our group came from their meeting point as well. We’d be three European guys for today’s tour: A Brit, a Swedish guy, and this Belgian dude. Funny enough none of us lived in Europe anymore. My two fellows were former colleagues in a Dubai branch of a large consulting firm. They would hit the airport back home immediately after the tour.

Our group left the first restaurant, not before Thanh had made a cool picture of us. And we drove in the Saigon night traffic to the second stop.

Saigon Traffic
Saigon

In this next place, we learned the difference between spring rolls and summer rolls. And yep, we have it wrong in the west…

Spring Roll
Spring Roll
Spring Rolls: Bringing excellent ingredients together!
Bringing excellent ingredients together!

The things we learned here:
Bánh Hỏi Thịt Nướng: Net Cake with Grilled Pork and Fresh Vegetables
Bánh Mì Hấp: Steamed Bread with Stir-Fried Beef and Fresh Vegetables
Chả Giò: Summer Rolls

Experimental

The next stop was kind of a more experimental stage. I won’t spoil the mystery completely so you can enjoy the tour when you get here, but it included a very weird egg, the spiciest shrimps I ever ate ( and a trick to neutralize wasabi), as well as some tasty clams, to give you just an idea. I’ll probably go back to this stop as some of the tastes were pretty much uncommon for me

Two of the least adventurous dishes here:
Nghêu Hấp Xả: Clams Steamed with Lemongrass and Chili
Tôm Tươi: Fresh Prawns

Thanh Le explaining the local food
Thanh Le explaining the local food

And we were on our way. All three of us were curious to see what the next stop had for us.

The food in Vietnam depends very much on the area where you are. So I was happy to see that we drove in the direction of Chinatown. We ended up in one of the small restaurants in the fifth district and had great soup with dumplings. Those who follow my adventures know that since Beijing I’m kind of addicted to dumplings. So this was a great stop for me.

Sủi Cảo: Dumplings with Hot Soup and Vegetables

Driving past the central post building in Saigon
Driving past the central post building in Saigon

Our final stop was the dessert. Not too sweet, not too much, excellent to end the evening. And so it was time to get on Thinh’s scooter one last time, to get back to my hotel. All in all a great evening learned a lot about the food in Vietnam and had a couple of hours of cool entertainment.

The price of a 3-hour tour and the food is US$59. More info: http//saigononbikes.com.

Our group, discovering local food with Saigon on Bikes (Foto courtesy of Saigon on Bikes)
Our group, discovering local food with Saigon on Bikes (Foto courtesy of Saigon on Bikes)
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