In the lengthy blocks of apartments on Nguyen Thien Thuat (Chung Cu Nguyen Thien Thuat) in the heart of District 3 lies an array of food stalls and street vendors which pretty much occupies the entire footprint of the street. Bustling and full of local eats, this area stretches from Nguyen Dinh Chieu to Dien Bien Phu Streets with Cho Ban Co, or Ban Co Market, thrown into the mix.
Here you can find food and drinks of all sorts and at all hours, including com tam (broken rice), banh xeo (Vietnamese pancake), bun mam (seafood gumbo), goi cuon (fresh spring rolls), mi Quang (Quang-style noodles), bun thit nuong and bun bo Hue. This is just to name what I’ve seen and sampled in my own explorations of the area.
This busy food street literally does not close, nor does it sleep. From morning til night you’ll find an array of delicious and varied local meals on this block suiting all manner of diners. Some vendors open for business as early as 4am while others never shut their doors, staying open at all hours of the day and night.
A group of shellfish vendors, for instance, tend to open only in the evening to attract groups and the beer-drinking crowd but stay in business until the wee hours for Saigon’s late-night revellers. Whether you’re an early riser or a night owl, there is definitely something for everyone to enjoy here.
While several of Nguyen Thien Thuat’s food stalls have signage, others have no name and are simply known by their reputation for good, flavourful meals. Two examples are Chao Long Co Ut, an excellent spot for hearty, piping hot bowls of rice porridge, and Com Tam Tuyet Nhi, home to a sumptuous rendition of one of Saigon’s most famous dishes. Somewhere in the center of the complex – in front of number 31, lot G – lies a stall selling banh canh cua – a thick, rich, hardy crab soup with rope-like rice noodles – which is to die for.
If you’re looking for a bit of a local culinary adventure any time of the day or any day of the week, look no further than Nguyen Thien Thuat. Whenever you go, it’s best to make the trip hungry, as there are plenty of different meals from which to choose and you’ll want to get the full experience by sampling as much as possible.
Tristan Ngo is the Chef Patron and Owner of Skewers Restaurant and The Elbow Room.