Vietnam Part 3 | The Best of Food and Coffee in the Mekong Delta + Ho Chi Minh City
It has been about 2 1/2 months since my mom and I took our transformative trip to Vietnam. This post is a bit belated to say the least, but the experiences- and flavors most importantly- are still fresh and bright in my memory.
I remember thinking that we truly didn’t want to leave Hoi An (which is where I left off in my last post). Both my mom and I felt as if we could spend an entire month in that stunning city, exploring, eating amazing food and drinking all the Vietnamese milk coffee. However, we had two more places to go and work to be done in one of them.
This second leg of our trip was definitely a bit more wild and hectic than the first. We went from staying a few nights deep in the untamed green jungle of the Mekong River Delta to the untamed urban jungle of Ho Chi Minh City. Both places were filled with beautiful kinds of chaos in completely different ways.
Where we were in the delta was overgrown with palms and plants, and the “bike trails” were just big enough for a single tire to wobble its way along. We had no plans or sense of time while staying there- we meandered and flowed with the wandering river village life.
However, as soon as we arrived in the big city, the pace completely changed. People, cars and motorbikes rushed around us and we found our own speed in with it all, hurrying to finish up class plans and prepare for a week of hard work. We spent our days teaching back-to-back workshops in classrooms at the South Saigon International School and the evenings trying to make the most of being in this vibrant and lively city.
Being a travel chameleon and an equally country-and-city kind of woman, I fell in love with both of these contrasting places. I had never been anywhere like the lush tropical environment of the Mekong Delta and at the same time, found the colors, smells, and fast-paced energy of Ho Chi Minh City quite intoxicating. Each experience was made even more full by the incredible food we tasted and devoured in each place. These were some of our favorites:
During our short time in the depths of a river village, we mostly ate our meals at the Quoc Phuong homestay. Our host, Y, made delicious noodle soups and seafood hot pots and would frequently cut down fresh coconuts and jackfruit from his garden for dessert. I mentioned in my first travel diary on Vietnam that we went on a full-day boat tour with Y and the other guests of the homestay, and during this tour we tried some delicious local (if not slightly tourist-aimed) specialties. We visited an island that keeps bees where we tasted “honey-bee tea,” a green tea mixed with local honey, bee pollen, and kumquat juice. We then went on to a chocolate factory to try raw cacao, had coconut milk & peanut popsicles, and finished with a taste of the fresh flesh of “river coconut,” a strange star-like beast that I had never seen before. The whole thing was a grand flavor adventure.
My Tho - Chay Bo De
After we had been moved from Ben Tre to the city of My Tho, Y recommended this delicious vegetarian restaurant just around the corner from our hotel. We honestly didn’t know exactly what we were ordering since there was no english menu and no one who really spoke english in the entire place, but we pointed and mimed our way through and ended up with a fabulous meal of sautéed morning glory, a vegetarian version of a local soup with wontons, tofu and vegetables, and a lovely noodle stir-fry.
Ho Chi Minh City
Lunch + Dinner
This restaurant was recommended to us by several people and it is where we ate after the first long day of teaching at SSIS and it turned out to be our favorite restaurant in the city. Everything was so fresh, perfectly cooked, with unusual flavors and textures. It was the place where we first fell in love with our favorite Vietnamese side-dish, tonka flowers sautéed in garlic. Not to mention, sitting on the garden rooftop with a lovely view of the city was absolutely magical.
Somehow we had been in Vietnam for a week already when I realized we hadn’t even eaten a proper Banh Mi. I decided it was time to change that and looked up what was considered the best Banh Mi in Ho Chi Minh City- Huynh Hoa was at the top of the list. We arrived just before they opened and there was already a line out the door, so apparently we really had found the hot spot for sandwiches. The bread was freshly baked and flakey and while the filling was a complete mystery, it tasted amazing.
Another gorgeous garden rooftop full of incredible food. My mom ordered passion fruit steamed tofu and it was like eating fruity cloud puffs, while I ordered chicken in the most amazing sticky honey sauce.
When looking into places to try in Ho Chi Minh City, I had seen a photo of the giant clock-tower window in the Loft Cafe and decided based on the aesthetics, we would have to go there. We brought our laptops and work the day before we started teaching and set up office alongside lovely tall glasses of juice, iced tea and a coconut jelly pudding treat.
This french fusion cafe and boutique is just lovely. It overlooks the Saigon Opera House and has amazing food and incredible coffee. We ended up going there twice- once for afternoon cupcakes and tea and again for our final brunch after a long week of work.
Yep, we visited Cong Ca Phe in three different cities. That is how deep our love for their coconut coffee goes. The night we finished our week of teaching at SSIS, we went straight from the school to this cafe and toasted to an incredibly successful trip with our favorite drinks in hand.
To hear about the rest of our Vietnam adventure, read the general travel diary
and my recommendations for food + coffee in Da Nang and Hoi An.