HCMC, District 1 Food: The Young and Hip

by - August 04, 2017

Ho Chi Minh City is known to have tons cafés filling up the streets, in stark contrast to its numerous street vendors and local eateries. During my trip, I found some cafes which rival those found back home in Singapore, especially since it's a lot cheaper over there and the quality of food holds up.
 Also, catching up to the trend, HCMC has a few of their own breweries brewing serving their own craft beers! Definitely a draw for the young and hip (alcoholics) and foreigners. 
I'll be sharing a few of the places which I've visited and recommend!

1.  Rau Kinh Giới

A quick search in google gave me a vegetable as a result... Moving on, this very hipster café (so hipster, it took me 20 mins to find it, only to realise it's at the back of a very narrow alley next to my hotel...Plus the locals had no idea where this place is even when I showed them the address! How's that for hipster?) serves Vietnamese cuisine in an 'atas' manner.

I was told to try 2 dishes: Chả Cá Lã Vọng and Bún đậu mắm tôm. Interestingly, these two dishes are famous in Hanoi.

Chả Cá Lã Vọng is dill and turmeric fish noodles. The fish fillets are fried "live" in a small stove together with the dill until yellow brown. I love this dish as the fish was delicious and soft and paired really well with the plain rice noodles and crispy rice cracker.
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Bún đậu mắm tôm is essentially fried tofu with fermented shrimp sauce. Although the tofu is supposed to be the star, you get slices of boiled pork and fried pork to go along. And of course, cubes of rice noodles. What I do not like, and which apparently a lot of foreigners do not like either, is the purple coloured fermented shrimp sauce which smells pungent and tastes just as that. Beaten by fermented shrimp sauce, I am.
I recommend reading this article for more information on this interesting dish: http://alotravelasia.com/must-try-street-food-hanoi-bun-dau-mam-tom/


2. Loft Cafe

This cafe is housed in an old clock tower about a street away from Vincom Center. This entire tower, in fact, is filled with extremely interesting little shops selling all sorts of artwork and "hipster" fashion items. It reminded me of Haji Lane but in a tower.
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Loft Cafe is huge and rustic and it's prices are cheap (compared to the Singapore cafe scene). Since it wasn't yet dinner time, I got myself a bottle of ice cold beer and some fried tofu appetizers, and immersed myself in this quaint looking cafe. It is relatively quiet, which makes it comfortable.
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Loft Cafe
Address: 26 Lý Tự Trọng, Bến Nghé, Quận 1, Hồ Chí Minh, Vietnam

3. East West Brewing Co.

Here we have a very impressive brewery with massive glass doors at the entrance. This HUGE space houses a dining and bar area, barrel aging room and a rooftop patio. The front of this place is glass paneled so we get natural light across the entire place in the day.

I was quite blown away as I was not expecting this in HCMC. This city, after all, is known for it's cheap canned beers. The crafts beer scene had barely started and I read that East West Brewing Co. is as of now, one of the largest craft beer brewery in the city.

They have a good selection of craft beers and I swear, this is a playground for beer lovers.

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The tasting sampler- you get to choose 4 beers to try!

What I'm really impressed by, is the fact that their food is extremely delicious. A place with great beer and food? Take. My. Money. Now. Plus a pint costs only about S$7! I died in beer heaven. And for the avoidance of doubt, no, I am not an alcoholic.
So I spent a full afternoon lazing away at this place, reading a book and people watching while sipping on delicious craft beers. (I like the stouts by the way, and they have interesting infusions like Yuzu beer!!) I'm also glad this place is a stone's throw away from my hotel so getting there was easy.
I highly recommend that you give this place a try if you love craft beers or if you would love some beer on tap (because every place serves canned beers :/ )

East West Brewing Co.
Address: 181 - 185 Lý Tự Trọng, Bến Thành, Quận 1, Hồ Chí Minh, Vietnam

4. Book Street (next to the Post Office)

If you are a huge fan of books and sitting in a nice and quiet open-air cafe to chill the day away while reading, I highly recommend checking out the book lane next to the Post Office. It's a quaint little street filled with bookshops selling international and local titles (in the Vietnamese language) with some beautiful cafes for readers to read and enjoy a cool drink.
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Book Street
Address: Nguyen Van Binh Street, District 1 (near the Central Post Office)

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