Ho Chi Minh’s Chinatown in District 5: famous attractions and food

District 5 in Ho Chi Minh City is known as the most concentrated Chinese people living and working. This place formerly established around Cho Lon Market. So, coming to the streets at Cho Lon, you will have the opportunity to experience a Chinese lifestyle and great cuisine. Let’s discover this town!

Chinatown Saigon
Saigon’s Chinatown | ©Katina Rogers

Chinatown of Saigon in District

Cho Lon area is home to a large number of Chinese people, located along the Tau Hu Canal stretching from District 5 to District 6 in Ho Chi Minh City.

On 6 June 1865, Cho Lon Town was established under the decree of the Governor of Nam Ky.

By 1930, Cho Lon area was merged with other districts in Saigon, adjacent to Nguyen Van Cu and Nguyen Thien Thuat today.

In 1952, Cho Lon Town changed its name to “Do Thanh Sai Gon – Cho Lon”, but about 4 years later, it has a shorter name Do Thanh Saigon. Nowadays, the people in HCM call it Chinatown, or Pho Hoa Cho Lon.

The Chinese Quarter covers the areas of District 5, 6, and 11, but the busiest and most crowded place is in District 5.

Famous Attractions in Saigon’s Chinatown District 5

1. Ha Chuong Assembly Hall

Ha Chuong Assembly Hall
Ha Chuong Assembly Hall | @vtq_0109

Ha Chuong Assembly Hall is a famous name for the local people in HCM. It also has other names of Ong Huoc Pagoda or Ba Chuong Pagoda. In the past, Chinese people from Changzhou, Fujian Province came to Saigon and built an Assembly Hall to be a meeting place for religious and business activities.

Located at 802 Nguyen Trai Street, Ward 14, District 5, HCMC, Ha Chuong Assembly Hall was recognized as a national historical and cultural relic of Vietnam in 2001. This place was built around the early 18th century.

Its area is about 1,500 square meters, in which the front yard has nearly 300 square meters. This building has a combination of wood, brick, and stone sculpture. The roof is beautiful, covered by Yin-Yang tiles and many skilful statues.

In general, the Assembly Hall consists of three houses forming the first, main, and last halls.

The first hall is to worship the Jade Emperor and the protector. Going deep into the main room, visitors will see the alters worshipping Thien Hau Thanh Mau, the two sides Chua Sanh Nuong Nuong and Phuoc Duc Chinh Than (Ong Bon).

The most distinctive feature of the architecture in this temple is the pair of monolithic stone columns in front of the hall, near the main door. And, on the pillars have dragons carved very skillfully, which shows the development and power.

Visitors can go to the pilgrimage on the Full Moon Day, 1st day of the lunar month, or New Year holidays. Every year, Ha Chuong Assembly Hall has two big feasts: Vía Bà Thiên Hậu ceremony on the 23rd of the third lunar month, and Co Hon of the ninth day of the seventh lunar month.

2. Tam Son Assembly Hall

Located at 118D Trieu Quang Phuc Street, District 5, HCMC, Tam Son Assembly Hall is one of the oldest Chinese Assembly in Cho Lon area. In 1839 under the reign of King Minh Mang, this place was built by the Fujian ethnic Chinese community.

Initially, the Assembly Hall was the place to worship Kim Hue Thanh Mau (the goddess to create babies), so this temple became a praying site for couples who wanted to have children.

But later, Thien Hau Thanh Mau, who supports people often going in the sea, was worshipped at the assembly hall, so Kim Hue Thanh Mau was put aside, and the other side was Phuoc Duc Chanh Than.

Despite many renovations, the Tam Son Assembly Hall retains its splendid features. The temple possesses typical Chinese architecture, so it has both historical ​​and cultural values, attracting tourists to visit and pray for good lucks.

3. Thien Hau pagoda

Began construction in 1760, Thien Hau Pagoda is also known as Ba Cho Lon Pagoda (in Vietnamese way), which is also considered one of the oldest pagodas of Vietnamese-Chinese people in Ho Chi Minh City.

Ba Thien Hau Pagoda was located in the centre of the Chinese community in Saigon at that time. Today, the temple is at 710 Nguyen Trai Street, District 5, Ho Chi Minh City. The pagoda has Chinese traditional architecture. The front of the roof has some beautiful statues of carps, dragons, and other motifs, showing prosperity.

Ba Thien Hau pagoda has 4 rows of the temple, in which the last 3 rows are Tien Dien, Trung Trung, and Hau Dien. The space between the houses is like a sky well, giving light and ventilation.

In the main hall, the guests will see the statue of Thanh Mau Thien Hau placed in the middle, and the two sides worship Kim Hoa Nuong Nuong and Long Mau Nuong Nuong.

The pagoda organizes the Via Ba festival on 23th of the third lunar month,  which is one of the big activities for Chinese people living in HCMC.

Thien Hau pagoda welcomes hundreds of domestic and foreign tourists every day to visit and worship. Besides, many young people choose this place to pray for love and a wedding.

4. Nhi Phu Temple

At the end of the 17th century, many Chinese in Quan Chau and Chuong Chau, Fujian province, China, came to Cho Lon area to live, so they built a temple called Nhi Phu, which preserves Chinese customs.

The people of Cholon often call it Ong Bon Pagoda. Ong Bon is a god protecting the land and people. In 1998, the Nhi Phu Temple was recognized by the Ministry of Culture and Information as a National Historical and Cultural Monument.

Situated at 264 Hai Thuong Lan Ong Street, District 5, Ho Chi Minh City, Nhi Phu Temple has a total area of ​​2,500 square meters. However, the yard has occupied nearly half of the area.

Perhaps the most striking feature of the temple’s architecture is its overlapping curved roofs, decorated with dragon reliefs, carp made from porcelain pieces. The walls are carved with images of the customs and culture of the Fujian people. Ong Bon Pagoda is a unique work of art from wood sculpture and ceramics.

The big activities at Ong Bon Pagoda that you can attend are the full-moon day in the first lunar month and the full moon in the eighth lunar month. It is because the people believe that these two days are the birthday and death day of Ong Bon.

5. Luong Nhu Hoc lantern street

Luong Nhu Hoc Lantern Street, District 5, is one of the attractive tourist destinations in Ho Chi Minh City. Every year, since the last half of the 7th lunar month, this area covers different colours, making the street dreamy and magical. All lanterns, dragons, and colourful masks start preparing for the Full Moon  Festival in the 8th lunar month.

When visiting this road during the Full Moon Festivals, tourists will admire the brilliant scenery. So, this site also attracts a lot of young people coming here to take pictures to share with friends.

Food to eat in Saigon’s Chinatown

1. Traditional Chinese roasted duck

roasted duck
Roasted duck | @oanhcookies

There are more than 10 big and small roast duck shops on Bui Huu Nghia street in Chinatown. Most of them have several decades to several years old, but the most famous roasted duck shop is still the row of roasted duck located right on the corner of that street.

In the past, the roasted duck was a dish that only served to rich people and the king, because it was processed quite sophisticatedly. The criterion of a delicious duck is that its skin must be crispy, yellow-brown, but glossy and eye-catching. Its meat must be soft and fresh. And, its taste has a fragrance of star anise and five-flavour powders.

The average price is 280,000 VND / duck.

2. Curry fishball

 Located at the corner of Nguyen Trai’s bow, Curry Fish Ball is the only fish shop in the Cho Lon area. This dish becomes a famous street food to taste when coming there.

The spicy curry sauce is processed carefully, adding spices and sweet taste that are suitable for Saigoneers.

Chewy fish balls combined with a tasty sauce will give you an unforgettable flavour. Some guests also enjoy curry fish balls with egg noodles or fried noodles. That’s great food.

>>> You may like to see more the local food in Saigon.

3. Pha Lau

Pha Lau is a strange food for many people. It is because this dish is cooked from ears, nose, tongue, heart of pigs or chickens… Despite that, plenty of eaters like to eat this one after tasting once.

Cookers will wash the ingredients thoroughly and deodorize the fishy smell. Then, the chefs marinate them with five-flavour powder, white wine, soy sauce, sugar, and other additives. After that, they will choose this dish with fresh coconut water to create the right taste.

Is that a challenge? Try it once, and you can like it. Pha Lau can be served with bread or noodles A bowl of Pha Lau costs from 30,000VND

4. Pulled noodles or Kungfu noodles

If you have only seen Kungfu noodles in Chinese dramas, you can now witness and enjoy fresh noodles made on traditional trolleys in front of shops.

These noodles are not like the ones you buy in the markets or the supermarkets in Saigon. They are made immediately, right in the kitchen. Thus, you will feel the fresh feeling and fragrant flavour.

The shops often open from 3:00 pm to midnight. You can enjoy a bowl of fresh noodles for a light dinner. The price ranges from 50,000 VND / bowl.

5. Back chicken with Chinese herbs

Black chicken with Chinese herbs is healthy food. This dish is made from the whole back chicken. Then, it is stewed with some traditional herbs such as ginseng, ky tu, and Chinese apples

When eating this dish, some people will find it quite hard to taste because of the herbs with a sweet and bitter taste. But, chicken meat is nice and fragrant.

Many people believe that this dish is good for the body and kidneys. A bowl of the back chicken with Chinese herbs costs from 50,000 VND.

6. Dimsum

Dimsum is a popular Chinese dish loved by many Vietnamese people. This food is a set of breakfast dishes from the Guangdong region, China.

This food started from the tea shops that served to the traders in the past. It is because they have to go far for the business, so diners wanted convenient and not too expensive dishes. Therefore, Dimsum gradually came with different shapes and flavours to fix their needs, but still full of nutrients and delicious.

The filling of a dim sum usually consists of shrimp, crab, fish, and pork, combining with vegetables, tubers, and mushrooms. All finely minced and mixed well. There are many ways to make Dimsum such as steaming, boiling, and frying, making them become different dishes.

Dimsum is one of the art dishes of Chinese cuisine. In Chinatown of Saigon, Dimsum is almost sold in Chinese restaurants with very affordable prices from only VND 10,000 to VND 25,000 / item.

7. Sweet soups

Different from other sweet soups in HCMC, the sweet soup in Cho Lon area has a less sweet taste. Some of the famous dishes are egg sweet soup, cao quy linh, papaya stew, and black sesame tea.

Typically, the egg sweet soup is made from chicken eggs cooked with black tea until the water infuses into the yolk. The egg white part will have a tough feeling, slightly acrid taste. But interestingly, the yolk is not fat. This dish creates a strange feeling.

The average price of a cup here is from VND 15,000 to VND 35,000.

 With the information above, we hope you can discover Ho Chi Minh’s Chinatown smoothly: take pictures at the beautiful attractions, and taste great food at famous restaurants in District 5 of Saigon. And, please share with us your experience there!