The Reverie Saigon is spicing up its bespoke foodie offerings with the launch of guided excursions designed to help travellers navigate Ho Chi Minh City’s multi-layered food scene – peeling the richness of every layer over the course of a four-hour exploration through the city’s streets.
Launched in partnership with Hidden Saigon, a tour company that presents a meticulously curated selection of unique experiences in the city centred on the stories behind interesting people and places, “A Taste of Hidden Saigon” introduces the adventurous to the evolution of Vietnamese cuisine – from street-food stalls and local markets, to sidewalk vendors and contemporary fine dining.
More than just an opportunity to taste authentic Vietnamese dishes, the experience takes guests on a journey through the progression of Saigon’s rich and varied culinary landscape, through the eyes of someone who has been living it for over a decade.
Led by Linh Phan, a Vietnamese-Canadian creative producer whose work over the past 11 years has focused on highlighting another side of Vietnam other than phở, bánh mì and conical hats, the tour gives guests the chance to tap into the city’s vibrant rhythm by sampling dishes and visiting places that have shaped the culture.
“So much of modern Vietnamese cuisine is inspired by what’s happening out on the streets and in the little eateries tucked into this and that corner of the city,” said Linh. “These vendors are going strong, but unless you know where to look, they’re all but invisible.”
Visitors can opt to wake with the city for a morning tour that concludes after lunch, or get a taste of the city after dark with an excursion that begins in the afternoon and concludes with dinner.
The morning outing begins at 8:30 am with a typical breakfast of popular eats such as street-style noodles, banh canh cua, a hearty shrimp & crab noodle soup, or hu tieu tom thit, a shrimp & pork rice noodle soup, before an introduction to Vietnamese coffee in a shop that is making waves in the Vietnamese coffee scene with their speciality brews. Their distinct concoctions include a margarita coffee – which draws the flavours of lime, sugar and salt from the popular beverage and shakes it up with cold brew Arabica coffee – and also a phở coffee, which seeks the same aromatics as the famous noodle dish by subtly infusing star anise, basil, lime, and chili.
Thereafter, stops at a local eatery and a traditional food market introduce quintessential dishes such as banh it ram (shrimp dumplings), banh xeo (a crispy savoury pancake), goi ga (chicken salad), goi cuon (fresh spring rolls) and banh flan (Vietnamese coffee flan).
The tour culminates with a meal at Vietnam House, the first restaurant in Vietnam by Australian-Vietnamese celebrity chef, Luke Nguyen. Drawing upon his vast culinary experience and journeys throughout Vietnam, Luke’s distinctive vision presents a modern take on popular dishes – including the incorporation of premium ingredients.
Menu suggestions by the Hidden Saigon guide will deliberately include dishes that draw inspiration from food sampled earlier in the day. Chef Luke’s purple flower sticky rice dumplings, with its purple hue from the butterfly pea flower and filled with pork loin and tiger prawns, could be compared to street-style shrimp dumplings, for example. And the banh xeo at Vietnam House presents an elevated version of the classic Vietnamese crèpe, but with crab meat and Iberico pork as its main filling.
Guests who book the evening excursion can skip the coffee fix and opt for a cocktail instead with a visit to mixologists who infuse their own range of gin, or a stop at the tap room of one of the first local craft beer brewing companies in the country.
“A Taste of Hidden Saigon” is an optional add-on to The Reverie’s Sampling Saigon foodie package, which invites guests to take in the hotel’s own culinary offerings – including exquisite fine dining Chinese at The Royal Pavilion, or upscale Italian at R&J.
The two-night package includes:
- Round-trip airport transfers
- Choice of buffet breakfast at Café Cardinal or via In-Room Dining
- A USD 200 dining credit for use at The Royal Pavilion or R&J
*Suite bookings include exclusive access The Reverie Lounge, which serves breakfast, afternoon tea and evening cocktails & canapés daily.
Sampling Saigon rates start as USD 410++, exclusive of off-site excursions.
“A Taste of Hidden Saigon” starts at USD 280 per person for a minimum of two persons and a maximum group size of six persons.