From the steaming soups of Saigon, all the way to Hanoi’s smoky street food, Vietnam’s much-loved cuisine is well-represented in our city. Unlike Kowloon City, where you’ll find the best Thai food, Chungking Mansions, where you go for a cheap and tasty curry, or your local Cooked Food Centre serving up great Cantonese food, there’s no one area to head to, though. The best Vietnamese options are found all over the territory.
Vietnamese food is all about the balance between smoky meats, funky fish sauce, tangy nuoc mam, mountains of fresh herbs and the warmth of fresh chillies. The quality on offer has improved exponentially in recent years, making Vietnamese food one of the city’s most popular cuisines. Here’s where you can taste the best of the best. By Lisa Cam and Sam Sinha
RECOMMENDED: Keep expanding your palate and get a taste of the Indian subcontinent.
Where to find the best Vietnamese food in Hong Kong
Uniquely decorated to resemble an old school train carriage, this small Vietnamese eatery offers the Locomotive Special ($63) giving you the satisfaction of enjoying generous portions of raw beef, tendons, brisket and meatballs all in one bowl of pho.
In just six years, Chom Chom has become somewhat of an institution, its iconic stoop adding to the buzzy atmosphere of Peel Street every night of the week. Modelled after Hanoi’s bia hoi culture where locals and tourists sit out on plastic stools sipping freshly made beer straight from the keg, it also serves up seriously good, elevated versions of street food classics. The fish-sauce-heavy VFC (Vietnamese fried chicken) is a must-try while signatures like caramel black cod and shaking beef form the basis of a good meal, along with the zingy salads and fresh summer rolls. No reservations here, but they can always squeeze more stools out front.
Located on the border of Central and Sheung Wan, Co Thanh dishes up authentic dishes that challenge the palate and send the senses to Saigon, thanks to its wonderfully stripped-down setting. (The place was designed to resemble a humble shophouse restaurant, bare concrete, plastic stools and all.) The menu is small, but it packs a hefty punch. The banh mi comes loaded with homemade pâté, cold cuts, pickles, coriander, spring onions and Vietnamese chilli peppers. It’s one of the better versions of the sandwich in the city. Try the bún bo Hue, too. The broth is deep and flavourful.
Spilling out onto Wan Chai’s Star Street precinct, this light, breezy brasserie boasts a heavy stone bar and charming murals of French colonial Saigon. There’s nothing old-fashioned about the food. The menu showcases chef Bao La’s take on Saigon’s grilling culture, updated with high-quality ingredients and his spirit of invention. A choice from the DIY summer rolls section is a must, followed by one of the sharing plates of charred proteins from the custom-built charcoal grill, served with zingy dipping sauces and mountains of fresh herbs.
Le Garcon Saigon’s younger brother deserves its own mention for serving up the best banh mi in town. Custom-baked baguettes are delivered daily and the rolled pork belly, pork floss, head cheese, chicken liver pate and tangy sauces are all made fresh in-house to the same exacting standards as chef Bao’s Saigonese grillhouse next door. The charming little shop is takeaway only but you can perch on the wall outside and sip on a traditional iced drip coffee with your sandwich. Opening for lunch at 12pm, the shop serves the perfectly balanced sandwiches until they’re gone, so it’s best to get in early.
With a reputation for serving the most consistent bowl of pho in Hong Kong, Nha Trang uses fresh authentic ingredients and spices from Vietnam to make their broth both full of flavour and true to its Hanoi origin. Even after 15 years, the crowds keep coming back for it. The best part? You can try Nha Trang’s pho pretty much anywhere in Hong Kong these days. The restaurant now boasts seven locations, from Sha Tin to Causeway Bay.
Nhau is the newest venture from chef Que Vinh Dang, a hidden gem offering Vietnamese food ideal for sharing over drinks. Along with beautiful colonial-era inspired interiors and a tucked-away location just off Upper Lascar Row, Nhau packs a lot of punch into its one-page menu. Sour, spicy, salty, funky, fresh – every dish captures that distinct blend of disparate flavours that makes Vietnamese cuisine such a favourite. Standouts include banh mi rice tacos – barbecue pork, fresh herbs, pickled carrot and daikon resting on rice flour tortillas – and the grilled pork collar, lettuce wraps of sliced meat with sprigs of fresh Thai basil, mint and rice noodles. Wash it down with one of the signature cocktails, which riff on the classics using Southeast Asian ingredients.
Located out in Sai Kung, this soup shack had to earn its reputation, but hungry fans will travel for some of the best pho in town. The special pho is the house favourite here – a ginormous bowl loaded with various cuts of beef (meat, tendons and offal) and an umami-rich broth made from fresh oxtail, chopped beef and more than 20 herbs and spices. There’s also chicken or vegetarian pho, and one topped with squid cakes. Noodle soup ain’t your bag? Sample a rice or vermicelli dish or try the summer rolls or papaya salad. If you’re in the market for an unpretentious Vietnamese by the sea, it’s worth the trip.
This hole-in-the-wall joint is impossible to beat when it comes to value for money. Most of the items on the menu cost less than $50, including the flavourful pho. Grilled porkchop, raw beef slices, shredded chicken – you’ve got your pick of the lot for fillings, and all are great. The best option, though, is the pork neck. It’s got the right amount of smokiness, and the flavour is excellent. Try it with the rice vermicelli, and thank yourself later when you have money to burn on dessert.