Asia Travel Destinations Vietnam

Vietnam, Ben Thanh Market – Standard Bearer

Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh Ben Thanh Market by Duke Stewart
Written by Duke Stewart

To a tourist like me, Ben Thanh Market is strange with overwhelming smells and well, everything else. That’s my feeling when first walking inside Ho Chi Minh’s Ben Thanh Market. The place is kind of a magnet for foodies like me and my wife and Ben Thanh Market is a perfect place to visit on a sticky summer morning. It’s also a standard bearer for delicious food. Ben Thanh Market stands tall in its central location. A huge roundabout sits in front and offers a golden opportunity to film the hordes of motorbikes veering in and out towards unknown destinations.

Scooter-ruled world in Vietnam

Stepping inside Ben Thanh is mandatory for those visiting Saigon. Why else would anybody walk in its direction without having a peek inside? The nearby park full of green space is nice enough but come on! The taxis and motor-bikers offer a final chance to go elsewhere but it’s too early for any of that. Through the doors and into the madness, we go. The morning’s sweet coffee is still working towards my nerves and receptors. Inside, the market offers many things but above all a break from the already scorching heat that is common each day in Vietnam. That humidity will never be missed in my book.

Shop vendors are in full gear, hawking whatever goods can be found within their stall at a “good” price. “Not now,” I’m thinking while avoiding eye contact with them. One left turn later and we arrive at our destination. After some deliberation, a consensus is reached. Menus appear on the table within no time after taking our seats, They must’ve known we’re hungry. A minute or two to peruse and not look like we came here on a preset mission. Okay.

Ben Thanh Market

Vietnam's Ben Thanh Market

“Ready to order?” I think the owner of this fine establishment said that. A point and attempt to use correct pronunciation, most likely a failure. Time to wait. Many unknowns in this market and city but one thing assures itself. The food will be good, especially in Ben Thanh Market. The surrounding smells and sights of other customers flocking to this area confirm that. Orders made before our arrival start pouring out.

“This was a good idea.”

The wait was painful but not too long. Our spring rolls come out along with two bowls of soup. Whatever conversation was taking place before fizzles away at the sight of this beautiful spread. Red chili, the greens, and a squeezed lime finish things off before eating. This is essential in Vietnam. The food is already delicious but adding those fresh ingredients completes the journal from kitchen to plate.

Bahn Con Ga, Ben Thanh Market

A hearty portion of noodles go into the soup spoon via chopsticks, joined by broth, and the first sampling the same as the last. This meal revives any lacking spirits and from then, Ben Thanh seems a blur. No other memories exist and any attempt to recall them has found a strong wall created by that one special moment. Of course other thoughts will come back at the right time but for now, only those moments with that exquisite bowl of Nui Ga can be recalled. That’s just how delicious that meal was and any subsequent meals during that trip paled in comparison.

Vietnamese food as a whole transformed this brief trip into an excellent adventure where all previous gastronomic experiences violently met their maker. Ben Thanh Market set the bar and will always be where a food conversation starts with me. If you’re staying in Saigon, Ben Thanh Market isn’t too hard to find. Just ask someone about the big market where all the good food lives and they’ll direct you this way. Or they’ll point you to another one of the city’s awesome food havens. Either way, you can’t go wrong!

Vietnam - Ho Chi Minh - Ben Thanh Market by Duke Stewart

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About the author

Duke Stewart

I'm a writer and recovering American expat who shares my family's travels through life. Follow our adventures here and on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

25 Comments

  • Ok, I’m super late commenting for this week. I loved this and it made me so hungry. Asian noodle soups are my favorite and you described it so it sounded so yummy. Your description made me feel like I was actually in the market with all the sounds and the smells. A very good piece.

  • I so love Vietnamese food, and I can only assume that what I get here in the states bears only a passing resemblance to what you get to experience when you are there. My mouth is watering, just thinking about it!

  • Your description of that exquisite bowl of Nui Ga has made me hungry! Along with the photos, too. So glad the meal was better than expected and the market sounds like great fun.

  • Saigon is one of my favorite SE Asian cities. So much modern history and chaos. I went to this market during my stay and found the place to be exactly as you describe. A hot sweaty round-about of food stalls, t-shirt stands, and fish mongers along with everything else for sale that you can imagine. I love that about Asia.

    • Korea has traditional markets like these, with haggling possible and an anything-goes mentality. But the ones in SE Asia are way more exciting. Definitely looking forward to going back ASAP! Thanks for the comment, Tim! Always appreciate you stopping by.

  • Hmmmm.My taste buds are tingling! The photo of the marketplace reminds me of Turkey, and their bazaars. Thanks for the great photos and description of one tasty meal I’m sure.

  • Hi Carl; okay now i’m hungry. that’s just how good of a writer you are. and don’t forget I’m blind so didn’t even need the pictures. it reminded me of his little hole in the wall chinese restaurant we used to go to all the time when my dad was alive. it was called the wok bowl. they used to have the best everything. their shrimp balls were the go to item for us. they opened a newer fancier location. and about the time my dad died they closed the older smaller location. it was just as well I don’t think we would have felt right going there without him. Just picture us rolling up to a restaurant and piling out of trucks hauling carnival rides. we’d go in and b treated like family. we’d all come out so full we didn’t want to start moving again. wonder if their other location is even still open. thanks for the memory, Max

  • I am a huge fan of vietnamese cuisine – but I don’t think I’ve never tried the Nui Ga before!!! Will have to go for it next time we’re going to our favorite restaurant. I cannot refuse a good bowl of soup noodle!!

  • I’ve never eaten vietnamese food but I’m sure I would like it. The way you’ve written about it certainly made me want to try some. Unfortunately, the only ‘foreign foods’ restaurant we have around here is Chinese. Would be great to try others.
    Lenie

    • Ah, Lenie. I hate to say that I currently know how you feel. We only have Chinese (Korean-style) and McDonalds in this small town. Though Korean Vietnamese food is not so good from what I’ve tried. Cilantro is not something easily acquired here, thanks to strict customs laws. Anyway, I hope you get a chance to try some delicious Pho sometime. Thanks for stopping by and sharing.

    • I’ve had some good Pho while in the U.S. but the whole experience in Vietnam certainly tops all for me. Thanks for stopping by and sharing though! Really appreciate it!

    • Always glad to help! Hope you enjoy your trip to Ho Chi Minh. I’d love to go back and see the rest of the country sometime. Such an interesting place!

  • The description and look of the food sounds like an enjoyable meal. It sounds so busy and hectic in Vietnam.
    Reads like a great experience though.