The Worst Soup in Saigon

I had a bowl of ‘bun bo’ this morning and I nearly threw up.


And think how embarrassing that would have been! There I was, being a total expat, wielding my chopsticks and spoon like an absolute pro, and barfing at the very same noodles I was so energetically slurping.

I would have looked like an idiot! And a very rude one at that…

But when something is quite simply disgusting it is bloody impossible to save face and consume it. I was broken! Defeated! The mighty stomach that dwells within Zoe was finally conquered. And let me tell you that is quite a feat.

Hu Tieu is way less daunting, available everywhere, and especially nice here on Do Quang Dau

But what was so bad about said soup that I felt I couldn’t even keep it down? What could possibly have been that awful that I, she who eats everything (including miscellaneous blubber), couldn’t shove it in my mouth and chew?


Firstly, it smelt funny. I sat down, pulled up my feet and took in a deeeeeeeep breath of what I expected to be the usual delicious noodly goodness, and choked mid gulp.

What on earth was that?! Something had died in that pot over there, something fishy and very very old, and now it was wafting a putrid, ugly smell across the bowls and chopsticks that sat around it waiting to be filled.

Good lord.

But I couldn’t get up! The bun bo lady was soaking my noodles already – I was in this for the long haul.


The second phase of this soup’s disgustingness came shortly after my own portion had been delivered.

Smiling up at my madam-of-noodles as I accepted the steaming bowl of death from her surprisingly clean hands, I glanced down into my soup – and choked again.

What on EARTH was that big fat blob of dark purple rubbery crap doing floating around in there?! And was that half a dog leg? Well no, it wasn’t, but it most certainly wasn’t beef and I’ve never seen a chicken that size… pork? Alien? Road-kill?

At least that cheesy looking square was tofu – I could deal with that, tofu is just fine. But the rest? Ok, better pile on the chilli and the lime, pinch my nose, maybe I should invest in a clothes peg…

Pho – the most famous of Vietnamese noodle soups! And potentially the best depending on who makes it

And then, friends, came the third phase of what turned out to be one of the biggest challenges of my time in Saigon – eating.

Having lived here for a while now my tastes seem to have changed – I’m a fan of fishy things and miscellaneous food substances, bun bo among them…but that morning I was a broken woman. I didn’t even finish the broth.

I left the stall $1 poorer and a stomach-load less human, with a definite craving for the comforting sweetness of a Vietnamese coffee and a pat on the back from a friendly friend somewhere.

‘There there Zoe, it’s over now…’

And, wandering down the street with a fire in my belly, I found my way to the cute little cafe where I would spend my morning. Sat down. And began to paint away my sorrows…

Best and Cheapest Italian Coffees in Saigon >


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