Everybody has that comfort food. That cuisine or dish that takes you back and transports you to a happy place, where everything is a little bit better as soon as you take your first bite. For me, that’s basically every meal I’ve had at an Indian restaurant.
The basmati rice, the spices, the thick-cut vegetables, the heavily sauteed meats and the spiciness are all things I crave when I seek out Indian food in every city I visit.
What luck, then, that Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam is jam-packed with Indian restaurants! And since the meals you can get here are infinitely cheaper than a dish you’d get in the West, I’ll admit it—I’ve indulged perhaps more than I should.
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If there’s one complaint to be had, it’s that the “spicy” is never that spicy, pretty much anywhere I go. But as far as complaints go, this is a minor one.
But as the allure of golden, crispy garlic naan and a heaping mountain of vegetable biryani is sometimes difficult to resist, here are my top choices for Indian cuisine in Ho Chi Minh City.
BENARAS (5A, Nguyen Sieu, D1)
Benaras Indian Restaurant, Lounge & Bar is a newcomer to Saigon’s Indian food scene featuring a tantalising but healthy take on North Indian cuisine in a fine-dining atmosphere. Benaras Indian Restaurant is tucked away in the heart of District 1 in Ho Chi Minh City and boasts a full bar and lounge and a menu curated by chefs who have experience working in 5-star restaurants. Diners will be swept away by the extensive selections, which include classic and signature dishes, homestyle Indian food, their refined versions of typical street food, veggie dishes and even a kids’ menu.
Image source: facebook.com/BenarasIndianRestaurantLounge/
Benaras prides itself on being a healthy alternative to Indian food, which to many has a reputation for being too rich. They have a practice of using as much as 80 percent less oil than most Indian restaurants and eschew artificial coloring.
Don’t miss out on: the rogan josh, a Kashmiri goat meat dish served with ghee, a refined, clarified butter. The aromatic blend of garlic, ginger and spices like bay leaves and cardamom tantalizes the taste buds and make Benaras Indian Restaurant one of the best places to go for high-quality Indian food in Saigon.
Namaste (188-190 Bui Vien, D1)
Namaste isn’t the most universally popular Indian food restaurant in Saigon, but it is by far my favorite. It’s also not to be confused with Namaste Saigon, a new restaurant that’s nearly as good as this one. The service at the REAL Namaste is professional and friendly, the environment is casual and relaxed, and the food is utterly delicious.
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The first time I went, I was surprised, and a bit suspicious. Food this good must be a fluke. So, I started bringing friends, wondering if it would be the same level of quality every time I came back. Good news: it was.
Don’t miss out on: The Gobi Manchurian. I never paid much attention to this dish before, but after Namaste’s take on it, I’m a true believer. Crispy, saucy, garlic-y, with a slight spice. What more could you want?
Tandoor (39A-39B Ngo Duc Ke, D1)
Probably the fanciest Indian food restaurant in Ho Chi Minh City, this is a good place to go when you want to impress a date, or maybe have an elegant lunch with your friends. You’ll also see a lot of Indian businessmen eating here, which is always a good indication of quality. Understandably, it’s a bit more pricey than many of the other restaurants you’ll find in the city, but you get what you pay for in terms of service and atmosphere.
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Don’t miss out on: The Goa Fish Curry. Delightfully spicy, but also rich and creamy. This is a curry you’ll write home about.
Baba’s Kitchen (164 Bui Vien, D1)
Indian food in Ho Chi Minh City is rarely discussed without a mention of Baba’s Kitchen, the undisputed curry crowd pleaser in the city. Tucked smack dab in the middle of Bui Vien, the chefs at Baba’s Kitchen have been wow-ing backpackers and locals alike with their flavourful tandooris and samosas.
Image source: hcmc.com
Occasionally people chide this restaurant for being a bit heavy on the ghee, but as far as I’m concerned, that’s part of the fun. Another point in its favour? Even with its ubiquitous popularity, the prices are still quite reasonable.
Another plus point: if you order spicy food, you will actually get spicy food. At one point the waiter said, “Are you sure?” as I requested full spice. I had to assure him I was. Two thumbs up.
Don’t miss out on: The Aloo Gobi. It’s less curry-fied than in other restaurants I’ve been to, and more spice-heavy. I’ve heard tell it’s the best Aloo Gobi in the city, and I’m inclined to believe it.
Ganesh (38 Hai Ba Trung, D1)
Ganesh is a solid choice for a good Indian meal. They’ve essentially become the go-to Indian restaurant across Vietnam (Mui Ne, Nha Trang, Hue, Da Lat, Hoi An and Phu Quoc all have branches), so it stands to reason that these guys are doing something right.
One thing that really stands out at both Ganesh’s D1 and D7 branches is the colourful and lively atmosphere. Throw pillows and comfortable seating abound, which makes this the perfect spot for a family dinner.
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I’ve also heard they have an amazing set thali for lunch. I haven’t had the pleasure of experiencing this myself, but it’s on my culinary bucket list.
Don’t miss out on: The Momo dumplings. You can’t get these in every Indian restaurant around, so I recommend you make the most of it here.
Spice India (1B Bui Vien, D1)
Not the most atmospheric of Indian restaurants, but these guys get the job done. Spice India holds a special place in my heart since their price requirement on Vietnammm is only VND99,000 (for some reason the other Indian restaurants in HCMC have ridiculously high minimum prices). The food here is consistent and it usually comes early. Just… always remember to have correct change for the delivery driver. You’ll thank me later.
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Don’t miss out on: The Daal Palak. And the Daal Fry. And the Daal Makhani. Basically, anything with daal is a good bet.
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