We’ve heard that Ho Chi Minh has incredible street eats so we decided to splurge on a food tour here. We had a great recommendation to try out XO food tours and it was awesome.
The tours are run by young ladies wearing traditional Ao Dai outfits. They pick you up on the back of a scooter and take you to all the best spots serving tasty treats.
We had eight people on our tour from Canada, Singapore and Australia and everyone was very friendly. We had 5 stops in total, sampling a total of 14 dishes and two deserts with unlimited beer.
The tour guides were incredible. They weaved in and out of the crazy traffic with ease and had impeccable English. It was so interesting to be able to talk with them and go beyond pleasantries to actually discover more about the city and people and customs. They were super chatty and personable and had loads of great info. With infectious laughs and a taste for fun, they made the experience very cool.
The first stop was at a roadside cart and we were served iced green tea alongside a beef noodle soup flavoured with lemon grass.
This is the type of shack that we’d never normally choose to eat at for fear of hygiene and not knowing what we were ordering but it was super tasty. We were sat on the tiny plastic stools that seem appropriate only for children’s picnics and the hustle of rush hour swarmed around us and it was great.
We then headed out of district one, over to China Town to see the huge wholesale market that lines the streets. This area is over 300 years old and feels like a true slice of authentic Ho Chi Minh life. Sellers sit kerbside and peddle their goods to anyone passing by. The vibrant colours of the fruit and veg and the smell of BBQ smoke and meat and fumes added to the experience.
We stopped at a local grill place where we sat on a long table and cooked a variety of different meats on charcoal BBQs on the table.
The girls served up charred okra and marinated goat which was delicious in flavour but a little tough. We had a sauce of fermented tofu and chilli to dip the meat into which sounds unpleasant but it was delicious.
We also had incredible beef which was so thin it only needed a flash over the coals. The fat caramelised to give a wonderful flavour and we dipped it in chilli salt for extra zing. Frog was next on the agenda and we had the choice of skin or no skin. I made the mistake of taking a piece with a lot of skin and frankly it wasn’t great.
Super chewy, slightly odd tasting and not crispy as I think it should have been. Gary had a fleshy thigh which was much better and had less bones. We ended the BBQ round with incredibly succulent prawns. The table top BBQs are such a great idea.
We then got back on the bikes and headed through to district seven. This is a very new and modern area and in stark contrast to parts of the city we’d seen so far. Full of skyscrapers and brand new apartments, this area is largely populated by business people and expats. A two bed flat here is likely to cost $350k dollars and currently the main investors are South Korean and Russian. The streets are orderly, clean and lined with western chains like Dunkin Donuts, Popeye and Starbucks. Interesting to see such an alternative part of Ho Chi Minh city but it felt soulless in comparison.
We hopped back on the bikes for the last time and hurtled back over the Saigon river to our final stop on the tour which was a seafood restaurant. We ate the most delicious crab claws.
The white meat was so delicate and sweet and we dipped it in pepper and kumquat juice. We also had scallops with peanut and spring onion and clams with lemon grass. All so tasty.
The girls saved the best til last with balut. This is basically a boiled, fertilised duck egg.
We’d heard about this from Jordan and Charity who we met back in the Philippines. I was certain that I wasn’t going to try this, but I’d had quite a few beers by now. Our embryo wasn’t that big and it was cooked in tamarind sauce which massively helped. The actual yolk tasted ok, like a very rich egg. I gulped down the embryo part without hesitating to savour the taste.
We had such a great time on the tour and tried so many dishes that I wouldn’t normally feel adventurous enough to go for, that were indeed delicious. What a perfect way to end our time in the vibrant and crazy city of Ho Chi Minh. Thanks XO tours!