I’ve been here in Saigon almost a year. I am not the big fan of most Vietnamese food. Most of what you eat in American Vietnamese restaurants is great. I like all that food. But that would all come under what would be called "party food" here.
Some things to know:
BEEF is extremely stringy. Butchers cut off the fat and leave the gristle. They think the fat is unhealthy.
PORK (on the other hand) seems to have too much fat.
CHICKEN is usually your best meat buy. Don’t be concerned about bird flu, so long as you buy your meat in the supermarket. Poultry bought in the supermarket comes complete with head and feet, although the giblets have been removed. Vietnamese like to eat beaks and feet.
EXOTIC MEATS Dogmeat is generally only found in rural areas. If you get a chance to go to a rural area, you can get a taste of it. If it’s not against your religion to try it, try it. I didn’t like it but now I know I don’t like it.
The main supermarket chain here is called the Saigon Co-Op Mart. It’s a membership store but as a foreigner they will let you buy anything you want.
You cannot find the following items:
-Miracle Whip salad dressing
-Whole wheat bread (in a normal size–they have the "cocktail size" only)
Except at Baskin Robbins, I have not been able to order the flavor ice cream I want in a place where they wait on me. Usually I ask for vanilla ("vani" in Vietnamese) and get coconut. I send it back and get orange sherbet. I see someone else in the restaurant eating vanilla ice cream and tell the waiter/waitress I want what they have. I then get plain chocolate. Good enough.
Fast food places include:
-Pizza Hut (USA)
-Pizza Inn (USA-Texas)
-California Pizza Kitchen (USA)[called ‘Cali,’ so I, a native Californian, boycott them]
-Jollibee (Philippines) [Hamburger, Chicken, Spaghetti]
-Lotteria (South Korea) [Half of these slated to become McDonald’s]
Lotteria has begun selling milkshakes. I thought this would be great after a recent dental surgery I had. I went in there and asked for vanilla. No vanilla. Then I asked for chocolate. No chocolate. They only had strawberry, orange, and blueberry. They charge about a dollar for a shake that is roughly about 10 fluid ounces.
I think, if I want to continue eating ice cream in this country, I have to invest in a blender. I can get any flavor ice cream I want in the supermarket!
You can’t get root beer here but you can get Dr. Pepper. It comes in cans which were canned in Los Angeles!
Cola–You can get both Coke and Pepsi. They don’t sell Coke at the Saigon Co-Op Mart, just Pepsi and a couple of local brands which taste worse than Moxie!
Pepsi helped to fund one of the TV stations facilities here in Saigon, HTV (Ho Chi Minh City Television). You don’t see much in the way of Coca-Cola advertising.
Please feel free to ask any questions you might have.
I will answer one before you ask me:
Saigon was renamed Ho Chi Minh City after the Vietnam War by the government in Hanoi. The name Saigon represented so much during the war. Since it is the biggest city in the country, there is a good possibility the capital could be moved here. By renaming the city Ho Chi Minh City, the capital wouldn’t be Saigon. However, the Saigonese love their city and its name. So both names are used, except by people who detested the war. (This is as political as I will get here…)