First published November 2022 | Words and photos by Vietnam Coracle
Tom Divers is the founder and creator of Vietnam Coracle. He’s lived, travelled and worked in Vietnam since 2005. Born in London, he travelled from an early age, visiting over 40 countries (he first visited Vietnam in 1999). Now, whenever he has the opportunity to make a trip, he rarely looks beyond Vietnam’s borders and his trusty motorbike, Stavros. Read more about Tom on the About Page, Vietnam Times and ASE Podcast.
A broad, tree-lined street with a central partition, Nguyễn Qúy Đức is located in An Phú ward, in Ho Chi Minh City’s District 2. On a short, 200-metre section of this street there’s a density of noodle soup eateries which, although by no means unique, is notable for the variety of dishes in such close proximity, and also because these are not ‘street food’ outlets; rather, they’re ‘mid-range’ noodle houses. Noodle dishes from northern, southern, and central regions are all represented within a few steps of each other, making this a good introduction to Vietnam’s spectrum of noodle soups. Nguyễn Qúy Đức street is a pleasant place for breakfast or lunch, particularly for foreign diners who want to get to know Vietnamese cuisine, but don’t feel comfortable eating in a street food environment.
NGUYEN QUY DUC: NOODLE STREET
7 Noodle Houses on a Street in Ho Chi Minh City’s District 2
In this guide, I’ve listed 7 noodle houses on Nguyễn Qúy Đức street, all in close proximity. For each one, I’ve written a brief description, included photos and marked them on my map. The general price range is 40,000-80,000VNĐ ($2-$4) per dish. Food quality is good and the dining ambience is pleasant: full-size tables and chairs instead of tiny plastic stools, fan-cooled indoor seating as well as outdoor seating beneath the trees, proper printed menus with prices, decent hygiene standards and an aesthetic that’s a cut above most street food eateries. No doubt this is partly a reflection of the area: An Phú ward is one of the most affluent neighborhoods in Ho Chi Minh City. Nguyễn Qúy Đức street is also dotted with several good cafes and juice vendors: I usually get a coffee and juice to take out to accompany my noodles.
1. Phở Thắng (beef noodles)
2. Bánh Canh Cá Lóc Dì Hạnh (fish noodles)
3. Hủ Tiếu Nam Vang 1980 (pork noodles)
4. Bún Mắm Sài Gòn (fermented fish noodles)
5. Mỳ Quảng Sông Hàn (central-style noodles)
6. Mì Hà Ký (Chinese-style noodles)
7. Bún Bò/Bún Chả Cá Ông Tạ (beef & fish noodles)
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Noodle Street: Nguyễn Qúy Đức, An Phú, District 2, Ho Chi Minh City
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1. Phở Thắng
This Hà Nội-style phở noodle house is currently one of my favourites in the city for Vietnam’s best-known noodle soup. The broth is meaty and not too sweet, the beef is tender, and the dining atmosphere – outside on the quiet curbside under the trees – is very pleasant, especially in the early morning. But it’s the accoutrements that really draw me to this particular bowl of phở: despite being northern-style, the soup still comes with an assortment of fresh herbs – sawtooth coriander, Asian basil, rice paddy herb and wild mint – as well as chillies, bean sprouts, pickled garlic and, best of all, bánh quẩy – sticks of twisted fried dough for dunking in the broth. Phở Thắng makes an excellent breakfast. I often dine here with a coffee and an orange juice before my morning tennis matches in District 2.
2. Bánh Canh Cá Lóc Dì Hạnh
Thick, chewy, white noodles in a viscous, mild broth with large, tender pieces of cá lóc (freshwater snakehead fish) or sườn (pork rib), Dì Hạnh serves one of the best versions of bánh canh – a classic, comforting dish – that I’ve tasted in the city. Bustling and well-run, Dì Hạnh has inside and outside seating and is well-known (and well-loved) locally. At breakfast and lunch, diners sit happily with their bowls, socializing between mouthfuls. Sometimes referred to as ‘Vietnamese udon’, if you like your noodles to have form and texture, bánh canh is what you’re looking for. I enjoy a filling, satisfying bowl of bánh canh sườn for an early lunch on a hot day.
3. Hủ Tiếu Nam Vang 1980
A hugely popular dish across the city, hủ tiếu is served in two ways: with broth (nước) or ‘dry’ (khô). At Hủ Tiếu Nam Vang 1980, I prefer the ‘dry’ version. A nest of chewy noodles with slices of pork, shrimp and a few quail eggs, sprinkled with crispy pork rind and garnished with spring onions is accompanied by a side bowl of broth and a side dish of bean sprouts and greens to add texture. I like to pour soy sauce, a splash of vinegar, fish sauce, chilli and a tiny spoonful of pickled garlic onto the noodles and stir them together to give it a salty, spicy, tangy kick. The result is rather like a Vietnamese-style linguine dish. It’s great for lunch on a humid rainy season day.
4. Bún Mắm Sài Gòn
One of Vietnam’s more ‘difficult’ soups, bún mắm is famously smelly, or ‘aromatic’ depending on your opinion. The broth is formed from a concoction of fermented fish and shrimp paste which give the soup its flavour, colour and aroma. Bún mắm is packed with ‘goodies’, such as roast pork, eggplant, freshwater fish, shrimp and fishcake. It’s a lively, filling, rich, ‘challenging’ noodle soup. Served with pale yellow bông điên điển flowers, shredded banana blossom, water lily stems and shredded morning glory, bún mắm is a southern Vietnamese soup that represents the ‘Mekong in a bowl’. The version at Bún Mắm Sài Gòn is relatively mild and therefore a pretty good place to try your first bowl of this complex soup.
5. Mỳ Quảng Sông Hàn
This Central Vietnamese dish is a favourite among foreign visitors and residents. Mỳ quảng (also spelled mì quảng) is very easy to like: it’s pretty, tasty and textural. Mỳ Quảng Sông Hàn takes its name from the river that flows through Đà Nẵng. The most ‘informal’ of all the noodle houses in this guide, Sông Hàn is an open-side eatery at the foot of an apartment block with wooden tables and chairs. Mỳ quảng noodles are thick and flat and the broth is shallow and salty. Served with crispy rice crackers to add texture, and lime, fresh mojito mint leaves, chilli and pickles for extra flavour, diners can choose between chicken (gà), shrimp (tôm), and pork (thịt). Sông Hàn also serves a couple of other famous Central dishes, including mít trộn, a delicious salad made from jackfruit – it’s a light and refreshing afternoon snack.
6. Mì Hà Ký
A classic, Chinese-style noodle house, Mì Hà Ký specializes in mì – wheat flour noodles that are made on the premises in full view of customers. The noodles are fresh with a satisfying chewiness – like al dente spaghetti. Diners face several choices when ordering: mì (wheat flour noodles), hủ tiếu (flat, wide rice flour noodles) or mì-hủ tiếu (a mix of both) with gà (chicken) or cá (fish), served nước (with broth) or khô (dry). Personally, I prefer to order mì gà khô (wheat flour noodles with chicken served dry), because this makes the most of the fresh mì noodles: their flavour and texture is the focus of the dish. Portions are fairly small for the price, but the quality is good. The noodles are served from a classic, wooden ‘noodle trolley’ out front on the sidewalk.
7. Bún Bò/Bún Chả Cá Ông Tạ
This is apparently the only Sài Gòn branch of a famous, small chain from Đà Nẫng called Ông Tạ. They specialize in two soups: bún chả cá (fishcake noodles) and bún bò (beef noodles). I generally go for the bún bò which has a zesty broth of lemongrass and lots of different cuts of beef, including huyết (congealed blood cake). The noodles are served with a selection of fresh herbs, spicy dips and delicious pickled shallots. With these accoutrements you can ‘control’ the flavour and spice levels of your broth. This is a big, filling bowl of meaty noodles: make sure you’re hungry.
*Disclosure: All content on Vietnam Coracle is free to read and independently produced. I’ve written this guide because I want to: I enjoy eating on this street and I want my readers to know about it. For more details, see the Disclosure & Disclaimer statements and About Page