If you need a meal on the go but want something different from the typical Vietnamese street food, there are plenty of options. Michael Tatarski goes hunting around Ho Chi Minh City for some of the best food that’s also fast. Photos by Fred Wissink and Michael Tatarski.
180A Tran Binh Trong, D5
A complete anomaly in its neighbourhood, The Crepe offers its namesake dish to go, or to eat in. The surprisingly extensive menu is divided into two categories, sweet and savoury crepes. The former variety includes peanut, Nutella, strawberry, and banana, or some combination of them. The savoury crepes can come with egg, sausage, and beef. Prices range from VND 21,000 to VND 45,000.
I tried the sweet combination, though I was a bit skeptical given that District 5 isn’t exactly known for its wealth of international cuisine. My doubts proved unfounded, though, as the beautifully presented crepe was a delicious surprise. Doused in chocolate syrup and stuffed with Nutella, the dish was just the right amount of sweet. Vietnamese places in the city often go over the top with sugar, but this one got it just right.
The Crepe has a small drink menu of coffee, juice and yogurt. The shop’s interior is also in the running for cutest in town. In fact getting your crepe to go would be the smart choice, because I felt a bit strange sitting on the small furniture amid artwork straight from a teenage girl’s bedroom.
54 Truong Dinh, D1
The signs above the counter indicate that Crumbs is serious about its baked goods, as everything is prepared fresh daily with no animal fat, preservatives, nor sugar. There are a variety of homemade breads on offer, but I visited for the Australian-style meat pies, which include Australian beef. Each pie costs about VND 50,000, with options like coconut curry, chicken and vegetables, steak and mushroom, steak and tomato, and a pasty.
I went for the steak and mushroom, which was satisfyingly meaty and heavy enough to act as a meal on its own. I’ve always preferred fruit-filled American pies, but this well-spiced meat pie had me considering a conversion. There are always cooked pies in the display case waiting to be selected, so Crumbs is the perfect place for anyone in a rush. It’s possible to be in and out with food in hand in about one minute, and the best part is that you won’t be hungry again all day.
76 Lam Van Ben, D7
5:30am-11pm, delivery from 11am-10pm
This bare-bones eatery is located on quite possibly the most confusing street in all of Ho Chi Minh City. Even and odd addresses can be found on the same side, and numbers jump from 150 to 70 and back again on neighbouring buildings. As a result KST Kebab isn’t the easiest place to find, but Pierre, the manager, said this rather random location keeps prices low. “If we were in Phu My Hung, kebabs would be VND 40,000 rather than what you pay now,” he said.
All kebabs are stuffed with an excellent homemade sauce, green lettuce, tomato, red cabbage, onion and chicken cooked on the iconic rotating spit. The pita bread was among the best I’ve had here, and for VND 18,000 these kebabs are a great deal. The menu also features a variety of crepes for around VND 20,000 and a selection of drinks.
KST Kebab delivers to Districts 4 and 7 for VND 35,000, though delivery is free for orders over VND 100,000. Call 01648 805 915 or 01692 776 701 to place an order.
Le Banh Mi
12 Le Thanh Ton, D1
If you’re in the mood for a banh mi but want more quality than you get from the usual street cart, look no further than Le Banh Mi. This compact French-style eatery offers a gourmet take on the quintessential Vietnamese sandwich. All banh mi here come with pork shoulder with pate, cilantro, julienned spring onions, fresh cucumber and Dalat chilli. You can choose from one of three sauces: the Umami, with soy and wasabi; the Phu Quoc, with garlic, chilli, sugar and fish sauce from the eponymous island; or the Bale, with black peppercorn sauce.
I chose the Bale, which provided a nice kick. The pork was fresh and much more visually appealing than the occasionally questionable-looking meat on the street, and the homemade bread was delightfully crispy. A table out front allows diners to enjoy their banh mi, or a cold beer, while watching life pass by on bustling Le Thanh Ton. This sandwich is perfect as take-away since the service is just as fast as at a food cart. All sandwiches cost VND 40,000 for a small or VND 60,000 for a large.