Vietnamese street food sensations

Street food in Hanoi.
Street food in Hanoi. Photo: Alexander Mazurkevich/Shutterstock

Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City have numerous upmarket restaurants with flickering candles and soft music, but the tastiest food is often found outside at the street stalls . It may look basic, with little more than plastic stools and knee-high tables, but Vietnamese street food nearly always delivers. Vendors normally operate from early morning to late evening.

Roadside shacks are found in almost every town and offer quick and simple dishes – a bowl of steaming noodles or a beef stew filled with vegetables. Also ubiquitous are sliced and diced pineapples, mangos and guavas. For those who just want a drink, Vietnam’s café culture extends to the street: pull up a stool and wait for the thick, rich coffee to come. For those who want something more filling, the list of options is immense. Most vendors have the names of their wares printed on their carts. Among the most popular options are bite-size snacks that are deep-fried or grilled. The nation’s favourite noodles, pho, or snacks such as ca vien (fish balls on a stick) are packed with flavour.

A collection of delicious Vietnamese fare.

Each region has its own culinary quirk. In the north, dishes such as bun cha, sliced pork with vermicelli, are famous. In the central provinces, the best-known snack is banh bao, a soft, dumplinglike creation. Down south, the use of coconut milk and lime juice is more in evidence. Hu tieu mi, a mass of noodles and vegetables, is a classic southern dish, as is banh bot chien (nothing to do with dogs!), a fried rice-flour cake.

Street food is generally safe to eat, but the normal rules apply: go for ice cubes, not the crushed variety, and remember that fruits you can peel have been less exposed to germs than those that have been laid out in the open for hours.

'Bot Chien' Fried rice flour cake with eggs, Vietnamese street food in Ho Chi Minh city. Photo: PJjaruwan/Shutterstock

Read more: In depth: Taste of Vietnam

Book a trip: Cultural Saigon: From authentic street food to historic sites, Ho Chi Minh City is full of vibrant streets bursting with colonial charm.

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