Eating in Sai Gon
You’re spoiled for choice in Saigon, which offers the country’s largest variety of Vietnamese and international food. Bargains are getting harder to find, however, and restaurant prices have been rising at up to 30% per year due to a combination of higher food prices, rising wages, and soaring real estate costs. Land in the city center now sells for around US$16,000 per square meter, so even a modest-sized restaurant sits on real estate worth more than US$1 million. Authentic local food at bargain prices is one of the glories of Vietnam, but it’s getting harder to find in Saigon as the city becomes ever more upscale and cosmopolitan.
The local food shows influences from French colonial times – bakeries have fresh and excellent baguettes, which they will fill with cheese (typically of the “la vache qui rit” or “laughing cow” brand), potted meat, ham, and onions, or any combination thereof, cheaply. Beef is used in various dishes – whether in any of the many variations of pho, or in a regional specialty such as “bun bo Hue” or Hue beef soup. Be sure to try, aside from pho, dishes such as the above-mentioned Hue beef soup, or “banh xeo” aka. Vietnamese pancakes, consisting of a delicious filling of your choice (various options included bamboo shoots and enoki mushrooms, along with meat, prawns, or both) in a crispy outer crepe-like casing.