Living in Vietnam for 15 years has opened my eyes to the vast array of delectable street foods available.
Street food is one of the staples of Vietnam. And you can eat it at any time of the day or night.
Eating in your local market or balancing on small plastic stools with a steamy bowl of pho is an experience in and of itself.
This simple unpretentious food is the heart and soul of Vietnam, and the aromas will awaken a desire to eat this hearty and healthy food. The recipes for each dish will change depending on which part of Vietnam you are in.
Vietnam is divided into three regions: north, center, and south. Geographical variances are reflected in the various culinary varieties, which are all slightly different from one another.
Each geographical region has its own distinct differences, Which are shown through different names, ingredients, cooking techniques, color, and presentation, and eating methods.
Bean sprouts are typically found in pho bowls in the south, but not in the north. Regardless of the variations, the key characteristics remain light, sweet broth, tender meat, and seductive aromas.
And so it is with most recipes, you have regional changes, much like the dialects of Vietnam, but the underlying basics are the same.
One thing does remain the same. Vietnamese love their food and love to make it a part of family life.
Eating Vietnamese style.
Vietnamese prefer to eat together as a family, sharing food. Each person receives a plate or bowl of rice. The bowls of food are placed in the center of the table and people help themselves.
In most households, noodle and vegetable dishes are the ‘norm”. Rice, meat or seafood dish, a vegetable dish, soup, and dipping sauce make up a traditional Vietnamese meal.
A family affair.
Instead of dividing the food into separate servings as in western countries, the Vietnamese share everything from the same plate.
As a result of their unique eating habits, Vietnamese people tend to socialize more during meals. During dinner, Vietnamese people enjoy chatting and small talk.
Parents inquire about their children’s school days, partners discuss their jobs, grandparents tell their grandchildren stories, and so on, creating a wonderfully pleasant atmosphere.
Eating street style.
Street food is sometimes shared accordingly, yet most street food dishes are served individually. Depending on the time of the day, expect to see workers going to or from work stopping and slurping down a hot broth of Pho or whatever they desire.
It was 10 o’clock one night and I was heading back home after a night out when the smells overcame me. I had to sit down on those little plastic stools and stuff my face with Bún bò huế. A spicy relative of Pho.
The friendliness of the locals, and perhaps the several drinks I had, led me to buy a round of beer for all the homeward-bound workers then pay for their meals. All for less than $15.00 for 7 people.
Drinking Vietnamese style.
I was born in New Zealand and grew up in Australia and thought I knew a bit about the drinking culture. however the Vietnamese take it to a different level. Food and alcohol, mainly beer, go hand in hand.
You will often see groups of males sitting in a restaurant or around a food stall quaffing down a case of beer while enjoying their meals. Where are their wives?. At home waiting for them to return from their meetings.
Vietnam also produces several varieties of rice wine, known as Ruou, and quite often you will find a pickled snake in the bottle. Said by many to provide health benefits to the drinker.
Yes, there are nonalcoholic drinks available and you can get the most amazing juices and fruit smoothies imaginable. Green tea is a staple that will be handed out free of charge when in a coffee shop or restaurant. However, don’t expect it at a street stall.
If you believe huge chain coffee shops make good coffee, you’re in for a treat. The coffee in Vietnam is strong.
Robusta and occasionally Arabica beans are used to make it. It contains a lot of caffeine, with 200-300 grams per serve being typical.
This coffee has the strength of Superman and can be bitter to people who aren’t used to it. The majority of Vietnamese people add sugar to their coffee. It’s a no-no to add drink milk.
If you want white sweet coffee, condensed milk is the way to go.
In cafes, there are three primary types of coffee to choose from. Caf’e Den (Black Coffee), Caf’e Sua Da (Coffee with condensed milk and ice), and Caf’e Da (Coffee with condensed milk and ice) ( Black coffee with ice).
You can fly home if you try them all in one sitting.
Dipping sauces and spices.
I can’t talk about my favorite street foods until I explain the importance of dipping sauces and the flavors they instill into whatever dish you are eating. from basic soy sauce to the evil-smelling yet tasty fish sauce, there is a lot to enjoy.
Because of the varied use of numerous sauces and spices, each meal has its own depth of taste.
Despite the fact that the cooking method is quite simple, Vietnamese cooks make extensive use of spices such as salt, pepper, fish sauce, and… Perilla, Thai basil, and other herbs are added to make dishes with amazing and well-balanced flavors.
Chilli powder, pepper, sugar, and so on are only a few of the spices available. They are used with care and creativity to blend rich flavors that are at the heart of Vietnamese cuisine. And they are then served up in a stunning presentation that will have you eager to eat.
What are my favorite street food meals? Here are some of them.
My favorite street foods.
When it comes to Vietnamese street cuisine, the most natural choice is pho or Vietnamese noodle soup. This local favorite consists of chewy rice noodles in a scorching hot savory broth topped with crunchy, peppery, herb garnishes and tender chunks of meat or chicken.
My preference Is beef. And I go with the uncooked strips which are then added to the broth and will be tender and ready to eat as it lands on your table.
When you’re in Vietnam, nothing beats a big cup of hearty rice noodle soup to get your day started. You can explore obscure backstreets to find the ideal spot to enjoy your meal.
And like Americans with pizza or the British with Fish and chips, the Vietnamese have their favorite Pho stalls or shops.
The Vietnamese sandwich is a popular choice with both locals and ex-pats alike. Normally considered a quick and easy meal to take away, it is worth the effort to try at least several.
Pickled veggies, coriander, fresh chilies, and pork slices will be loaded into your crusty French-style baguette. Usually made with pork and coated with pâté, it is a must for any foodie to try.
Eggs, chicken, meatballs, and a variety of other toppings are available. But my favorite is pork, arguably the most popular meat in Vietnam.
If phở had a bolder and hotter brother, it would have to be bún bò huế. The main ingredients of this noodle dish are beef broth, thick rice noodles, beef shank, pig’s feet, liver, and lemongrass.
It’s served with bean sprouts, fresh herbs, lime, and various other toppings and spices. Savory, tasty, and addictive, this dish originally from Hue is one you’ll want to keep coming back for.
It is commonly available in most cities around Vietnam because of its popularity.
When you are phở’d out, try slurping down a bowl of bún bò huế. You won’t regret it.
The word ‘Cơm tấm means ‘broken rice.’ Rice that has traditionally been unsellable and fed to animals because of its reputation as inferior rice.
It has, nevertheless, won a place in the hearts of both Vietnamese and foreigners alike.
The soft and fluffy broken rice with grilled pork chops and exquisite fish sauce is flavorful and will delight your taste buds.
Broken rice has a softer texture than “unbroken” rice because of the diverse shapes and sizes of the grains. It also absorbs flavors more readily. It also cooks quickly, making it a popular choice for rice meals that require quick preparation.
Fresh tomato, cucumber, and radish slices are usually served alongside the rice and pork.
This is a popular lunchtime dish and one that I keep returning to again and again. Eating this accompanied with an ice-cold beer is one of the joys of life.
Or Vietnamese pancake. At first glance, you would think they are made with eggs. However, they aren’t, the yellow coloring comes from the turmeric powder in the recipe.
Bánh xèo is a Vietnamese pancake that is filled with filling ingredients and fried till one side is crispy.
You’ll end up with a crepe-like pancake with a crispy side and fillings like shrimp, pork, and bean sprouts.
This is more of a restaurant or cook-at-home food. But I couldn’t leave it off my list as it is one of my all-time favorite dishes.
There is a street version available ( Bánh tráng nướng) as well. But in my opinion, it doesn’t come close to the complex blend of flavors you will find in the upmarket version.
And so much more
The Vietnam food experience has entertained the palates of some of the top chefs around the world along with presidents and food critics. From Obama dining with Bourdain to Gordon Ramsay attempting to replicate meals, it is foodie heaven.
There is so much more I haven’t covered from Bo Kho ( beef and vegetable stew ) to Gỏi cuốn and Chả giò, which are spring rolls to Chè, which is a sweet dessert. And yes, it is street food. You can buy it in plastic cups and is a cool refreshing snack on a hot Saigon day.
So, if you like traveling and love your food this country is a place you can live or visit and happily mingle with the locals.
My name is Stephen and I have lived in Vietnam for over 15 years. It can be frustrating and challenging but never dull. If you are up for an adventure you should consider Vietnam as a place to visit. Your taste buds will thank you.
You can check out my house in Vietnam below by clicking the YouTube button.
Any or all links on this site may be affiliate links, and if you purchase something through those links I will make a small commission on them.
There will be no extra cost to you and at times due to my affiliation, you could actually save money.
You can read our full affiliate disclosure here.