From city to city, the cuisines change. This will be one food tour your mouth will never forget.
For us, traveling around Vietnam became one giant street food tour. The cuisine changes as you move up/down the coast of Vietnam, each city having their own specialty. Every place we visit we are in search of the local dish and the best place to eat it at, which usually involves crouching around an aluminum table on a tiny plastic chair listening to the sound of motorbikes speed past.
The street food in Vietnam might be some of the best we’ve had. And it’s more than just the food here, it’s the culture. These vendors create their own shops on the side of the road which have an atmosphere that you won't find in any restaurant. You may not always have a menu or know exactly what you're ordering, but that’s part of the adventure. On most nights in any city in Vietnam, you will find these ‘restaurants’ packed with locals eating, drinking, smoking and hanging out for hours.
Some food vendors specialize in one or two dishes which are usually listed on a sign near their stand, others are more like proper restaurants with kitchens, with outdoor tables and chairs facing the street. In Saigon, in district 4, on Vinh Khanh street, there are a number of these restaurants. Most specializing in seafood, specifically, snails, while others have more of a menu with multiple items you can choose from.
When looking for street food we usually find out what the local dishes of the area are. As most signs are not written in English, it’s good to know ahead of time. Then we search for the busiest places with the most locals eating at them. We look mostly outside the main tourist areas because the food is more tasty and you won't pay a premium for it. Lastly, always ask how much before you buy so the locals are less inclined to charge you a 'tourist price' when it comes to paying.
Some people are very hesitant to eat street food, due to cleanliness and other reasons, but for us it’s been one of our favorite parts about traveling around Asia, and particularly Vietnam. It’s just plain good and in many ways much better than what you can find in a restaurant. It also helps you feel a bit more like a local, even if you are just visiting for a few days.
OUR FAVORITE STREET EATS
Quan BBQ Lua
Located on Vinh Canh street, this DIY BBQ spot is a great place to get your meat fix and enjoy a cold beer.
Com Tam Ba Ghien
'Broken rice.' Grilled pork served with rice and a side of vegetables. This Saigon special, served mostly at lunch, can be had at the famous Ba Ghien.
Located close to the famed 'Lunch Lady', this place is known for their veal which is carved fresh upon order.
Specializing in seafood and snails of all sorts, this local haunt on Vinh Canh street attracts a young crowd and is open late.
Bánh Canh Cua
Crab based noodle soup with thick udon like noodles. It can be found on Tran Khac Chan Street in District 1.
Spicy beef stew which can be served with noodles or a baguette or both depending on your taste.
Nem Nuong Dung
Fresh roll your own spring roll with grilled pork, fresh greens and peanut dipping sauce, mostly served in the afternoons as a late afternoon snack.
Usually reserved as a thing for Hanoi, this place grills whole or half ducks served with a heaping plate of rice and greens.
White Rose (Bang Bao Banh Vac)
These little shrimp and pork filled dumplings can only be found in Hoi An. There is only one family that holds the recipe. Luckily you can find them on the street and in local restaurants.
Yellow rice topped with seasoned hand shredded chicken. Its not exclusive to Hoi An, but has become one of their specialties.
Found on practically every corner of Hoi An, these donuts resemble a fried dough. These vendors also sell crab and fried bananas.
Madame Kahn 'Banh Mi Queen'
One of our favorite Banh Mis. Its spicy, fresh grilled pork served to you with all the fixings on a warm baguette. Get there early, she sells out by mid-afternoon.
A Hoi An classic, thick noodles served with sliced pork, greens and a delicious broth. Served at lunch until they run out.
Thin rice noodles served with shrimp, pork and a quail egg. This dish is hugely popular in Hoi An for breakfast.
Bun Hen/Com Hen
Rice or noodles topped with minced baby clams, peanuts, sprouts and pork cracklings. A true local Hue dish.
Bun Bo Hue
A northern version of Pho with a richer broth. Its served mostly for breakfast and can be found all over Hue.
Stir fried rice noodles topped with sliced beef and a heap of greens, a favorite for a quick dinner.
'Beer Food.' The local spots serving Bia Hoi involve squatting on tiny plastic chairs. At only 5,000 dong, this beer is cheap. The price of food makes up for it.
Grilled pork patties served in a light broth with greens and rice noodles. This Hanoi classic can only be found at lunch.
Nem Cua Be
Crab meat stuffed egg rolls, which we enjoyed alongside Bun Cha.
This Vietnamese version of an empanada is a fried pocket stuffed with glass noodles, ground pork, mushrooms and a quail egg.