CO GIANG STREET
Cô Giang is a long, straight street that unofficially marks the southern perimeter of Saigon’s burgeoning backpacker area in District 1. However, Cô Giang Street is a lot quieter than Phạm Ngũ Lão, Bùi Viện and Đề Thám streets whose bars, western restaurants and mini-marts make up the centre of the backpacker district. In general, travellers who choose to stay or spend time on Cô Giang Street are looking to get something more ‘authentic’, more ‘Vietnamese’ from their time in Saigon. While Cô Giang is not as densely packed with food stalls as other streets in this guide, it still offers plenty of local street-life and bustling open-air eateries, especially around the intersection of Cô Giang and Đề Thám streets. In the evenings bright fluorescent light bulbs illuminate streetside barbeques, whooshing woks, and bubbling cauldrons. Scented cooking smoke fills the air and hangs, like a Dickensian fog, over the diners sitting at tables on the sidewalk.
Right on the corner of Cô Giang and Đề Thám streets there’s a cluster of hugely popular outdoor restaurants, specializing in thick Chinese-style fried noodles called hủ tiếu xào. Quán 79 is particularly good for this dish and there are plenty of other items on the menu here – most of which have been translated into inadvertently hilarious English, thanks, I suspect, to Google Translate: ‘vegetable of transcendent garlic’ was one of my favourites. Don’t miss the stalls selling bò lá lốt(grilled beef rolled in aromtic betel leaf); they’re easy to find because of the smoking barbecues out front and the enticing smell. The bò lá lốt at Hoàng Yến (121 Cô Giang Street) is superb and very cheap too (20,000VNĐ per portion).