We decided to follow a local’s advice on where to get some proper authentic Vietnamese street food and went across the park from our hotel into a smaller side street called Nguyen Van Trang (just off Le Lai). Number 7 as it’s known by the Saigonese is easy to find. It consists of a street kitchen with seats across the road as well as a canteen style eatery a bit further down the road. All food consumed in the canteen is delivered directly from the kitchen which is almost on the corner to Le Lai.
We took a seat in the canteen as all outside spaces were taken. Very little English is spoken but menus are available in English. There is a good selection of fish, pork and poultry dishes available considering it’s street food. Free iced green tea is available on all tables so drink as much as you like. The jugs are filled up soon as they are empty. When you’re ready to order it’s probably best to just point at the items on the menue. We went for deep fried red snapper, chicken and pork belly all cooked in different delicious sauces. All dishes cost around 35, 000 dong and are served with steamed rice and a sour cucumber soup which is free of charge. The owner is a lovely friendly man who was well chuffed that we thoroughly enjoyed his food. There is the obvious language barrier but he does understand “very good” and at the end of the day a smile after you’ve finished eating says it all. Our whole bill came to 130, 000 dong. With food being so cheap and good we leave a tip in most places – a bigger one if we really enjoyed it. As a thank you we were given two bananas for dessert which doesn’t sound much but no one else got them and it was a really nice gesture.
We only tried a few food places in Saigon among them Mumtaz on Bui Vien, barbecued skewers on Bui Vien and the aforementioned Pho Hoa on D Pasteur, but never really got disappointed. However, Pho Hoa and 7 are by far our favourites. It just shows that if you go off the beaten tourist track you’ll find some amazing local eateries that are cheap as chips and produce some truly stunning flavours. As a general rule eat where the locals eat. It might not be fancy but I would always choose flavour over silver service.
7 marked our final dinner in Saigon and we are so glad we ended this part of the journey on a high. Next on the list is Hoi An.