Ticking off Vietnam’s big three

After a few days in Saigon I’ve already eaten Vietnam’s big three: pho (soup noodle), goi cuon (rice paper rolls) and banh mi (baguette sandwich).

Pho bo from Pho Le in Saigon. (Will Jackson)

My first pho – from a place down the street from my hostel – was actually pretty average. The broth was bland and it only had a few slices of chewy beef. It took a bit of internet research to find a place that served a really tasty bowl.

Goi Cuon from Wrap and Roll in Saigon. (Will Jackson)

And I haven’t really enjoyed any goi cuon. I’ve had it from a couple of places and both times the rice paper has been dry and, well, papery. Will have to keep trying on that one.

A delicious bahn mi sandwich. (Will Jackson)

All the banh mi has been delicious though.

In any case, they’re the three dishes you have to try in Vietnam. No visit would be complete without them. They’re like visiting the Opera House in Sydney, the pyramids in Cairo or a ping pong show in Bangkok.

But like those other “must dos”, every tourist has had them before. They’re not unique nor necessarily really memorable experiences. You know generally what they’re going to be like and what to expect. You’ve just got to tick them off and get them out of the way.

Like most worthwhile travel experiences – the ones you’ll tell your friends about when you get home – finding some memorable food is going to take a little more effort or a little luck.

You can’t necessarily read about these things in a guide book. You have to discover them for yourself. It can take a little more time. A little experimentation even.

A tipoff from a local or fellow traveller could help me find some or I might have to just keep eating at random food stalls.


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  • Brett

    I thought the pho in the old city was pretty good and the banh mi a bit average, but hey, experiences differ…

  • Bryan

    I want to go to there.

    Or hire a Vietnamese chef to live in my house and cook. Would that qualify for a 457 Visa? Hmmm. Quick to the googles for research.

    Seriously tho, is there any bun? Cos that would be a totes deal breaker if there was none of that action going on.

    • thebeardedwanderer

      Yeah, there’s lots of bun. All sorts of varieties. This food writer I met up with last night is a celiac and she’s loves it. You should definitely move or at least visit here.

  • Tess

    all the spring rolls we liked were roll your own styles, never got them pre-made, might help on the dry papery side of things :)

    • thebeardedwanderer

      Will give ‘em a shot. If only I had Jared’s rolling skills. :p

  • http://twitter.com/eatrio_net Tom Le Mesurier

    I loved the pho up in Hanoi. Maybe it will get better up there? Are you planning on heading up that way?

    • thebeardedwanderer

      Yep, that’s the general direction I’ll be going once I’m done with my Mekong excursion.

      I hear the Saigon pho is sweeter than the stuff up north, so I’ll probably prefer it up there.

  • http://twitter.com/Agnesstramp Agness

    I remember living in Saigon for more than a month and having spring rolls and Vietnamese soups for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Now I miss the the real taste of Vietnamese cuisine!