Vietnam is like the ultimate foodie wonderland, especially when it comes to street food. It's not just about grabbing a bite; it's a full-blown culinary adventure deeply rooted in Vietnamese culture. From steaming bowls of noodles to sweet treats and refreshing sips, the street food scene is a flavor explosion that'll leave your taste buds in awe.
I'm all about enjoying good food! So, you can imagine my excitement about the food scene in Vietnam. It's not just a meal; it's a tasty adventure waiting to be devoured!
Street food culture in Vietnam
Vietnamese cuisine is renowned for its street food culture, embodying the essence of everyday life in Vietnam. The streets buzz with vendors offering an array of dishes, each carrying the hallmark of fresh ingredients and complex flavors. Street foods like Pho, a comforting noodle soup, and Banh Mi, a fusion of French and Vietnamese flavors in a sandwich, are just the beginning.
At the heart of Vietnamese street food is the emphasis on balance – the harmony of five fundamental tastes, fresh herbs, and a variety of textures. Foods like Bánh xèo (crispy pancakes) and G?i cu?n (fresh spring rolls) offer a sensory experience with their crisp, fresh, and aromatic ingredients. Eating in Vietnam is a communal affair, often enjoyed on the streets sitting on small stools, where meals are more than sustenance; they are a celebration of community and culture.
Now, let's get down to the nitty-gritty of street food wisdom:
Eat When the Locals Eat: Want the best stuff? Follow the locals. Hit the streets early for breakfast bowls or join the lunch rush for the ultimate family-style feast.
Dinner Delights: Come evening, the sidewalks transform into a foodie haven. From flaming hotpots to sizzling seafood, 6 pm to 8 pm is prime time for a street food feast.
But hey, is it safe? Absolutely! Vietnamese street food is generally clean and safe. Just stick to busy stalls, keep an eye on hygiene, and you're golden.
How Much? Street food won't break the bank. You can snag a delicious meal for a few cents or splurge a bit for around $1 to $2.
Where to Find It? Literally everywhere! Big cities, small towns, hidden alleys – you name it. There are even floating markets in the Mekong Delta serving street food vibes on the water.
And guess what? If you're a vegetarian, Vietnam's got your back! Loads of delicious plant-based options are waiting for you.
Get savvy about condiments and sauces
One of the things I noticed at every shop, be it the street side stalls or the restaurants - at your table, you'll find a lineup that's waiting for your creative touch – light fish sauce, garlic, and chili in vinegar, and maybe a chili paste that's like jam, not to mention freshly chopped chili, limes or kumquats, and even a bold shrimp paste. It's your personal kit to customize your meal just the way you love it.
And when it comes to noodle dishes, there's a bonus – a side serving of fresh herbs and leafy greens like mint, cilantro, basil, and lettuce, all on the house. You can fold these into your broth or toss them with dry noodles for an extra crunch and aromatic kick. If you're into rolls, you'll get a stack of rice paper and larger leaves for the art of rolling and dipping. And the dipping sauces? They're a spectrum – tangy tamarind, sweet-and-salty fish sauce, or a rich roasted peanut sauce. Just ask your server for the perfect pairings – they're the real flavor guides.
Where did we eat?
Vietnam is globally renowned for its incredible street food scene, offering an endless array of choices that promise travelers some of the most memorable meals they'll ever have.
Here are some of our picks for dining spots in Hanoi:
- Our go-to restaurant in Hanoi was - Met Vietnamese Restaurant & Vegetarian Food, which has several branches in the Old Quarter and serves a good spread of traditional cuisine. We loved the Shrimp/Squid in pineapple sauce with rice! Do try it out.
- Banh My Mama - one of the best Banh Mi in Hanoi we got to taste. Banh Mi is generally available almost everywhere, but the long line at this stall proved worthwhile.
- KingRoti - A warm and freshly baked bun with a variety of options like vanilla, cheese, and Matcha.
- Quan Cay Da - Fig Tree Restaurant - Quite the local place amid the bustling area just steps away from St Joseph Cathedral. They have a variety of deep-fried fritters and spring rolls.
Here are some of our picks for dining spots in Hoi An:
The central part of Hoi An, especially around the river, is lined with loads of cool cafes and restaurants right by the river. A lot of them have happy hour deals going until 6 pm, so it's pretty awesome to grab a drink and chill out watching the river as the evening kicks in. Plus, when it gets darker, the night markets start to get really lively – definitely a vibe worth checking out.
- My favorite dish in Vietnam was the Banh Mi, and the best one was at the Madam Khanh - The Banh Mi Queen. It was the most juicy, freshly baked Banh Mi that packed such amazing flavors.
- We had a great cocktail called Crystal's Jade - Gin, lemongrass, coriander, and amaretto at Mango Mango. It was such a good drink that we ended up twice there. This place is located bang in the center and becomes a bustling corner as the night sets in.
Dinner at Ms Vy's :)
At Hoi An, we had dinner at a lovely local family's house, on their porch. It was a very simple setup but a lovely experience at their house, thanks to an offbeat countryside jeep ride we did. She cooked us some delicious food- fried spring rolls, braised fish, and sweet and sour Pork. Fresh fruits as dessert.
So, what did we have?
A short list of items we ended up having.
Rice Noodle Soup (Pho): The holy grail of Vietnamese comfort food, this steaming bowl of broth, rice noodles, and herbs is a national treasure. Nothing beats a good bowl of heartwarming rice noodle soup to start your day when you’re in Vietnam. This was the default breakfast, especially for my wife.
Vietnamese Sandwich (Bánh Mì): A fusion of French and Vietnamese flavors, Bánh Mì is a delightful sandwich filled with savory goodness, typically featuring meats, pickled veggies, and fresh herbs. This was my favorite dish from Vietnam. We packed a couple of Banh Mi for our flight back.
Rice Paper Salad (Bánh Tráng Tron): A unique street food delight, this salad combines rice paper strips with a medley of ingredients like quail eggs, green mango, and herbs, all tossed in a flavorful dressing.
Vietnamese Sweet Dessert (Chè): Satisfy your sweet tooth with Chè, a diverse range of Vietnamese desserts often featuring ingredients like beans, fruits, and jellies in sweet, syrupy concoctions.
Spring Rolls (Goi Cuon ): Whether fresh or fried, these rolls are filled with a delectable mix of rice vermicelli, shrimp, herbs, and often pork.
Vietnamese Pizza (Bánh Tráng): Forget Italian pizza; Vietnamese pizza is a street food sensation. It involves grilled rice paper topped with various savory ingredients.
Spicy Green Papaya Salad (G?i Khô Bò / G?i ?u ??): A refreshing and spicy salad made with shredded green papaya, herbs, and a kick of chili, offering a burst of flavor.
Egg Coffee (Cà Phê Trung): A Hanoi specialty, this creamy coffee is made with whipped egg yolks and condensed milk, creating a decadent and unique coffee experience.
Grilled Pork with Vermicelli (Bún Cha): A classic Hanoi dish featuring grilled pork served with vermicelli and a side of dipping sauce.
Hanoi Grilled Fish(Cha Ca): fried fish with turmeric and dill, is a famous dish of Hanoi. Chunks of flavorful fish are plated on a bed of aromatic green scallions and dill, boasting a unique dining experience.
A variety of meat Barbecued!
On most of the night market streets, you will find stalls selling Barbecued pork, chicken, beep, shrimp, octopus, and even frogs! These are cheap quick snacks!
Each dish is a culinary masterpiece, offering a taste of Vietnam's rich and diverse food culture. So, buckle up for the food adventure of a lifetime in Vietnam – where every bite tells a tale, and every stall is a gateway to flavor heaven! Bon appétit!
Pro Tips for Street Food Adventures:
- Follow the Crowd: Crowded stall = yummy food.
- Check Hygiene: Fresh is best; look for stalls cooking on the spot.
- Small Portions Rule: Go for variety; try a bit of everything.
- Go Local: Each region has its specialties. Don't miss out!