Eating street food in Vietnam is a full-on experience.
Traveling in South East Asia, you really can’t miss trying out the street food experience. Not only is it budget-friendly, but you get to see a peek through what everyday life is like for the locals. One of the best street food experience you can try is going to Vietnam.
Vietnamese cuisine has a unique taste to it altogether. Their food is characterized by the use of many herbs like spearmint, Asian basil, perilla, etc. They also like to add in some chilis on their dishes. Just enough for you to know it’s there but not too much like other Asian countries like Thailand.
Their street food choices are also not to be ignored. Aside from that Asian flavor, you can get, Vietnamese food is also heavily influenced by the French. The country occupied Vietnam from 1887 to 1954, and it affected their cooking. You can see this in the Vietnamese Banh Mi, their preference for baguettes, bread, and cheese, and yogurt.
Some tips to prepare you for the Vietnamese street food scene:
If you want to get the best out of your food trip, come during the best hours. These are the early mornings or in the evenings between 6 to 8pm. Some say that it’s best to try some local eats in the morning when all of the food had just been prepared. It’s that morning rush where you can also eat with the locals, find what stalls are being crowded, get a taste of some noodles still piping hot.
Don’t be too scared of long lines, too, because this is just a sign that what you’re getting is worth the wait. Especially if it’s the locals waiting in line with you.
Another tip to watch out for is how the stalls are set up. Street food here is served in these tables and plastic stools that vendors put out by the sidewalk or on the road at night. They also often only serve two or three dishes of their specialties, dishes that they’ve mastered just for you.
On the table, you’ll also get a lot of condiments. This is an essential part of the eating experience. You’ll often see a jar of fish sauce, garlic and chili in vinegar, some spicy chili, and limes or calamansi. Expand your palette and experiment with these or ask one of the locals to help you in the best way to eat your dish!
Eating street food in Vietnam is a full-on experience. There may be times when you have to share a table with strangers because of the crowd or learn Vietnamese phrases related to food. Whatever it may be, have fun with it, and you’ll quickly fall in love with this country’s culture.
Let’s dive into what exactly should be on your must-eat list. Here’s your guide for the best Vietnamese street food:
Who here hasn’t heard of pho? It’s only one of Vietnam’s most famous dish. You definitely can’t leave the country without trying one of these.
You can see this being sold everywhere, with variations depending on what city you’re in. But in its basic form, this is a rice noodle dish with a salty broth, usually topped with chicken or beef, and a sprinkling of herbs. What really shines in this dish is its broth; it’s packed full of flavor and will surely heat you up.
Another popular street food found in Vietnam, and a specialty of Hanoi is Bun Cha. You can find stalls that are dedicated just for this one dish, and often their servings are huge, so make sure to come with an empty stomach! It’s made of pork patties grilled over charcoal, vermicelli noodles, and the Vietnamese staple, a (myriad) of herbs. It also includes a broth that tastes of a vinegary fish sauce. Try it with fried crab spring rolls, its most common pairing!
A snack that’s been brought over from French tastes, Oc are sea snails. Don’t knock it till you try it because this is a staple street food in the streets of Ho Chi Minh. They can be cooked in a variety of ways from fried, steamed, sauteed, or grilled. A usual pairing to this is a glass of beer.
A specialty in Hoi An and often eaten around South and Central Vietnam, this street food is a variation of the French crepe. It’s made from rice flour, milk, and eggs. Turmeric is also added to it to give it its yellow color. Inside, there’s a mixture of pork, shrimp, and beansprouts. It’s, of course, served with a side of herbs and can be enjoyed by cutting it into slices and wrapping it in rice paper. There may also be a special sauce served with it.
Take a break from the fried street food and try one of these fresh spring rolls. To make this, you take your rice paper and fill it with meat, seafood, vegetables, and fresh herbs. Roll it and try with some fish sauce to get the full experience!
Still craving for something fried? There’s a fried version of this called Cha Gio.
Bun Bo Nam Bo
Healthy street food in a bowl made up of vermicelli noodles, slices of beef, peanuts, beansprouts, herbs, and a load of greens. It’s topped with fish sauce and some chili pepper for that extra spice. It has a sweet and sour flavor and is a favorite lunchtime treat.
This dish is something you can only find in Hoi An, this has an incredible heritage behind it. It’s a hodgepodge of different cultures from udon-like noodles to pork barbecue pieces similar to char siu. This street food can only be eaten in Hoi An because it’s made explicitly with water from an ancient well. They also toss in special local ash from Hoi An. It’s finished with the signature Vietnamese herbs and crunchy croutons.
One of the most popular street food in Vietnam, rivaling the pho, Banh mi is a French influence but definitely has that Vietnamese identity. It does have the baguette as its base reference, but each area of the country does it differently. You can do it with just bread, margarine, and paté or load it with vegetables, pork, and anything else you can think of. Have it while it’s still hot, and enjoy it!
For all those with a sweet tooth, this is perfect. Che is a sweet dessert and a colorful dish that can be served hot or cold. It typically includes pudding with a drink or soup base. There are so many variations to what other things are added. Some of these are tropical fruits, jelly, coconut shreds, among others.
Ca Phe Trung
Vietnam is definitely famous for its coffee, but the “egg coffee” is a little different. Most say this fits more into the dessert category than coffee. As you guessed, this drink contains egg yolks whipped into condensed milk and poured into a black coffee. It’s creamy, smooth, and worth a try even if you’re not a coffee lover.
Banh Trang Nuong
Often called the Vietnamese Pizza, this street food isn’t what you think it is when you think of pizza. It’s made of rice paper that’s grilled like a barbecue.
And of course, a pizza isn’t complete without toppings. There isn’t a standard for this one, but it’s often topped with pork, prawn, or egg. It’s completed with fresh herbs and a selection of mayo or chili sauce.
Bun Bo Hue
The first thing you’ll notice with this is its red broth. It’s actually a beef noodle soup with thick rice noodles, beef, sausage, and a sprinkling of herbs. The broth is made meticulously for hours with beef bones and lemongrass. It’s one-of-a-kind and can’t be missed!
Where to find street food in Vietnam?
Hanoi: Hanoi is the most popular place to go to for your street food fix. It’s a paradise with maze-like alleys with hidden gems of street food stalls. They also have their specialty dishes that you have to look out for.
Ho Chi Minh City: This is the country’s largest city, so you’ve got a lot of options once you get here. It may be overwhelming, especially since most of the signs are in Vietnamese. But no worries! Most of the stalls only have one to two dishes that they specialize in, so just follow the locals and enjoy your food.
Hue: This one is a spot for those craving for seafood. Hue is known for its lemongrass pork skewers (Nem Lui) and their fresh seafood and shellfish.
Hoi An: There’s a lot of history and heritage packed in this central city. There’s the Cao Lau and other dishes, dating back to Vietnam’s history.