A motorbike food tour of Ho Chi Minh City with Back of the Bike Tours was one of the most memorable things I did while in Vietnam. Since traffic in Saigon is so crazy, it’s most convenient to travel by motorbike, and this tour offers English-speaking guides that will immerse you in Vietnamese culture, both by taking you through the streets via scooter and showing you what and where to eat to get a true taste of hidden gastronomic gems. Each place we visited, the hubs and I had never been to before, so it was a great way to expand our food horizon in Saigon.

Green papaya salad with beef jerky in Le Van Tam Park, District 1, HCMC

Enjoy the papaya salad while sitting in the park.

The hubs and I Ubered (yes, HCMC has Uber!) to the centrally located opera house where we met our guides, a team of two young Vietnamese women, Hoa and Ky, and an American ex-pat chef named Fred. They led us to Le Van Tam Park for our first tasting: a simple yet delicious green papaya salad with dried beef liver jerky (goi du du bo kho) made and sold by a seasoned woman from her food cart in the park. The dish was refreshing and especially welcomed on a hot summer day.

Then we hopped on the back of their bikes, and it was onto our next course: banh khot, which are little savory pancakes made with rice flour, coconut milk, and turmeric, and filled with shrimp–thik of them as miniature banh xeo, or the more notorious sizzling crepe.

You eat banh khot in a similar fashion: wrap with fresh veggies and dip in nuoc mam. I love how they’re crispy and smaller (and thus, more manageable).

Banh Canh Ghe Muoi Ot Xanh crab noodle soup with green peppercorn salt

Crab noodle soup

Our third stop was at Banh Canh Ghe Muoi Ot Xanh where I had its eponymous dish, one of my favorite tastings of the tour: a noodle soup containing fresh crab and thick chewy tapioca and wheat noodles in a milky broth. You dip the crabmeat in their famous sauce consisting of salt and cracked green peppercorns (which are unripened black peppercorns that taste fresh and mildly spicy).

If you ever find yourself in District 10, I recommend you seek out Banh Canh Ghe Muoi Ot Xanh and try a bowl yourself.

Christine riding on the back of a motorbike, HCMC

Open cans of beer are allowed in Vietnam when riding on the back of the bike.

I was feeling full but had to suck it up like a fatty.

Our fourth stop was Hu Tieu Sa Ta Nai To Ky where Fred ordered us hu tieu xa ta nai. (Many Vietnamese seem to be uncreative with their business names, simply calling it after their signature dish, or maybe they’re just smart no-nonsense marketing experts.) What arrived at our table was a dryish noodle dish with venison satay. It was an interesting flavor but not my favorite as I felt the noodles were overcooked (I noticed many Vietnamese tend to cook their noodles beyond al dente–is this an eastern texture preference?).

Hu Tieu Sa Ta Nai To Ky venison noodles

Rice noodles with venison

Last but not least, we went down the street for a dessert of grilled bananas (chuoi nuong) which we enjoyed sitting on tiny footstools right on the street. The bananas are grilled and topped with coconut milk, scallion oil, and peanuts. Sounds like such a strange concoction, I know, but it was yummy.

Grilled bananas in District 5

Dessert on the street in District 5

As always in summer’s monsoon season, it began to rain then, so we headed back to the city center where we said our farewells. I was happily stuffed and completely satisfied that within just a few hours, I got to discover five dishes and places I’d never been to before, and it was all thanks to Fred and the guides at Back of The Bike Tours.

If you’re ever in Saigon, be sure to check out Back of the Bike Tours for a street food tour, city and culture tour, or a chef’s tour that takes you on an even wilder gastronomic adventure. Tel them Christine Ha sent you!

Christine & John with their Back of the Bike Tours guides, HCMC

An awesome experience!


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