Beep beep beeeeeeep!
With wind in our hair and the sun setting in the distance, we weaved around other motorbikes on the chaotic streets of Ho Chi Minh City, sitting behind our Ao Dai-clad drivers. We were on a Foodie Tour with XO Tours, and we were going to eat ourselves silly across the city.
Our first stop was at a restaurant that served Bún bò Huế, a noodle soup with beef chunks and a broth fragrant with lemongrass, topped with bean sprouts, morning glory (a type of water spinach), and of course loads of herbs (we were in Vietnam, after all!). It was spicy, sour, salty and sweet and I’d have to say it was one of the best dishes I tasted in the 3.5 weeks we were in Vietnam for (and we tried some amazing things!).
What a delicious way to start a whirlwind evening blasting around the city. I wanted to slurp down my whole bowl of Bún bò Huế but our host Tai warned us against it – there was a lot more food and beer to come and he didn’t want us to fill up too quickly!
We hopped back on our bikes and our drivers, both named Thao, manoeuvred us through the crazy streets of Ho Chi Minh City. The girls, both university students, work as drivers for XO Tours to improve their English skills. They were absolutely lovely and a joy to chat with while we were zooming around.
Next stop was about 20 minutes later in Chinatown, also called Chợ Lớn (meaning ‘big market’ in Vietnamese). We drove through a wet market selling all sorts of fresh meat and vegetables on the side of the road, and had our photo taken outside the enormous Bình Tây Market. This market supplies much of the city’s population with clothing, shoes, kitchenware, nail polish, herbs and spices – anything you can imagine really.
By that time we had mostly digested our first course so we were taken to the second food stop, a BBQ restaurant where our drivers cooked different meats for us over little charcoal BBQs on the table and we dipped it in chilli salt with lime juice.
We had goat, beef, prawns and even frog! They were all marinated in chilli – so delicious. Our favourite was the tender spicy beef but the frog actually wasn’t that bad, as everyone says it actually does taste like chicken, albeit with a slightly stronger flavour. Ribbit!
We had another sightseeing stop after the second course, in a part of HCMC that the locals call Korea Town (I wonder why!). This part of the city felt so unlike any of the rest of Vietnam – there were many new high-rise apartment buildings, wide streets, western fast food chains, and more cars than motorbikes. Unsurprisingly, the area is full of expats and not many Vietnamese.
Our final food stop was in a part of the city famous for its seafood – we even saw swanky Audis pulling up to the budget street restaurants. And it’s famous for a good reason – the seafood was to die for. The crab, coated in chilli salt and dipped in pepper and lime juice, was the best I have eaten in my life (I’m not exaggerating). It was tender, juicy, rich and spicy. The scallops, topped with peanuts and herbs were also delightful, and the clams with lemongrass, garlic, ginger and chilli were so so good. I could go on and on about how absolutely delicious the seafood was!
Then came the most challenging aspect of the night – eating the infamous balut. This interesting delicacy is a duck egg with a developing embryo inside that has been boiled. Uh huh. I flat out refused to eat it (I love baby ducklings so there’s no way I could eat one) but Shaun tasted some of the yolk. He said it wasn’t too bad, a bit chewy, but then he smelled the baby duck foetus bit (with feathers and a beak very visible) and almost gagged. Ew! Some of the brave people on the tour ate the whole egg and were rewarded with a voucher.
Finally we had some dessert, a flan (like crème caramel) and coconut jelly, which was in a whole coconut that had had agar added to it to solidify the coconut water inside. Yum!
Satisfied with a full belly, Thao and Thao drove us back to our hotel through the dark but still hot and heaving streets of Ho Chi Minh City. We had shared many laughs throughout the night and also learned a lot about what it is like to live in HCMC and their aspirations for the future. It was a fantastic night – one of the best on our trip – full of insanely good food and great company.
If you’re in Ho Chi Minh City and want a fun night out, check out XO Tours’ Foodie Tour – you won’t be disappointed!
Thanks to XO Tours for sponsoring our Foodie Tour. As always, you’ll receive our honest opinion regardless of who foots the bill. Follow XO Tours on Facebook! Thank you to XO Tours for providing most of the photos in this post.