Saigon, Vietnam: Best places to eat - chef Jerry Mai's picks

With a family tradition of cooking Vietnamese, Thai and Cambodian cuisine, the powerhouse chef behind Melbourne's Pho Nom, Annam and the new Bia Hoi in suburban Glen Waverley is Jerry Mai. She has released a cook book, Street Food Vietnam (Simon & Schuster, $35). See


The best way to start a day in Saigon [as Ho Chi Minh City is commonly called] is on a full tummy. My favourite place is Pho Anh, where I go for the combo beef pho - silky noodles, rare beef, brisket and tripe. It's stuffed with all the good things and is fragrant and aromatic. (No website; 8 Ky Dong, Phuong 9, Quan 3). Also, try Banh Mi Huynh Hoa which makes the best banh mi – crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside, and that's just the bread roll. Fillings are all house-made porks: terrine, pate, braised pork balls. It's all served with a slathering of butter, pickles and coriander. (No website; 26 Le Thị Rieng, P, Quan 1)


At Quan Com So 7, you will find the perfect example of a Viet-style lunch. You choose from the collection of dishes that have been cooked that day, including frogs legs in lemongrass, turmeric and chilli, braised pork belly, crispy fried catfish with mango salad and stuffed bitter melon soup – all of the home comfort dishes I like. (No website: 7 Nguyen Van Trang, Quan 1) An alternative is Bun Thịt Nuong in the food section of Cho Thai Binh Market, only available during the day while the market is open. You can't visit Saigon without trying street food and this is one of my favourites: chargrilled pork skewers on bun (vermicelli noodles) with fresh herbs and nuoc mam. I love the charry smoky flavour of the pork combined with the silky feel of the noodles. This is the perfect snack while walking through the markets. You can't miss the stall – just follow the smoke once you are in the market itself. (No website: Phuong Pham Ngu Lao, Quan 1)


Lang Nuong Nam Bo is a Vietnamese restaurant on steroids. It accommodates up to 2000 people and has the best suckling pig in town and amazing fresh seafood from the tank. It's a popular restaurant for locals and is filled with mot, ha, ba yo! – cheering of beers. This is not for the faint-hearted and do not attempt solo (because you need someone else to eat all the food you will order). See


The Racha room is one of the coolest nightspots in Saigon, and my favourite cocktail there is The Racha: a red dragonfruit-based drink. I love dropping in for a drink or two. It's run by Chris Donnellan, who I worked with at Gingerboy and who is one of my business partners at Annam. See


For something in the street food realm try braised frogs in congee, or cha banh dinh. It's a Singaporean dish that has become popular in Vietnam in the last couple of years. The frogs are cooked in a hotpot with sticky caramel soy, the sauce of which is drizzled through the congee. It's a perfect late-night snack.