Eat your way to an un-pho-gettable holiday
Street food is the heart and soul to many of the Southeast Asian countries and Vietnam is certainly one of it. Lining the streets you can find local markets, rustic food joints and rickety food carts with plastic tables and stools.
Simple and uncomplicated food, these Vietnamese street food will beckon your tastebuds and sneak their way into your heart:
1. Rice noodle soup (Phở)
When it comes to street food in Vietnam, the most obvious choice would have to be Vietnamese noodle soup, phở. This local daily staple is made up of chewy rice noodles in piping hot savoury broth with tender slices of beef or chicken and topped with crunchy, spicy, herby garnishes.
Definitely, nothing beats a good bowl of heartwarming rice noodle soup to start your day when you’re in Vietnam. As iconic as it comes, you can explore hidden backstreets to discover the best spot to enjoy your phở on this motorbike food tour.
2. Vietnamese sandwich (Bánh mì)
An equally popular street food as the phở is the bánh mì, a Viet-style French baguette sandwich which has made a name for itself globally.
The crusty baguette is packed with pickled vegetables, coriander, fresh chilli, cuts of meat – typically pork – and smeared with a coat of pâté. Other toppings can include egg, chicken, meatballs and more. Oh, how thankful are we that bánh mì can easily be found everywhere in the streets of Vietnam!
3. Rice paper salad (Bánh tráng trộn)
If you’re craving for a salad, you’re either a health nut or it’s because you miss the Vietnamese rice paper salad. The best way to describe this dish is an explosion of flavours in a bite!
It’s prepared with strips of rice paper, variations of dried protein – beef jerky, squid, shrimp – and tart green mango, fresh mint, sweet basil and lastly, its signature spicy, sweet, sour dressing.
4. Sea snails (Ốc)
A popular snack you can find in street food carts in Ho Chi Minh City is sea snails! Sometimes, you can even find yourself bumping into a snail restaurant with fresh snails and shellfish on display.
You can choose to have them cooked in various ways from fried to steamed, sauteed or grilled. These lil chewy, savoury snails are great for sharing with a few buddies over some icy cold beer!
5. Vietnamese sweet dessert (Chè)
Chè, a word to describe sweet dessert beverage in Vietnam, come in many different forms, sizes, flavours and colours! Typically, you can find them in a form of pudding, drinks or soup.
The usual suspects that you can find in chè include but are not limited to coconut milk, sweetened beans, glutinous rice, colourful jellies, fruits and more. Easily found in local markets, these desserts are great for cooling down on hot afternoon days.
6. Hoi An Noodles (Cao lầu)
Cao lầu is a noodle dish that is exclusive to Hoi An only and has quite the mysterious backstory. This Hoi An signature dish consists of udon-like noodles, pieces of barbecued pork (similar to char siu), fresh and crisp greens, and crunchy croutons.
The reason that you can only find cao lầu in Hoi An is that of its unique noodles which have to be made using water from an ancient well, the Ba Le well, and mixed with a special ash native to Hoi An. It’s also been said that the secret behind the precise recipe is known to only a few families in the region!
Aside from cao lầu, there are other signature dishes that you can only find in Hoi An. Ride through the streets on this motorbike food tour or go on a street food walking tour to discover what else the region has to offer.
7. Spring rolls (Gỏi cuốn / Chả giò)
A classic Vietnamese crowd favourite, spring rolls! A variety of fillings like meat, vegetables, shrimps wrapped in rice paper, you can find them deep fried or served fresh. Best eaten with a dipping sauce, these are suitable for everyone. Picky eaters, we’re looking at you!
The fresh ones are called gỏi cuốn and also sometimes referred to as ‘summer rolls’, while the fried ones are called chả giò.
8. Vietnamese pizza (Bánh tráng nướng)
A popular snack in Ho Chi Minh City, this Vietnamese pizza is made up of a rice paper grilled on the barbeque and topped with minced pork, prawn, egg or various other toppings. Garnished with fresh herbs and served with mayo, tamarind or chilli sauce, this pizza is surely one you’ll crave in the middle of the night.
You surely won’t be hangry if you join the Saigon street food night tour where you’ll be taken to the back streets and alleys the city to discover other local specialty dishes.
9. Spicy green papaya salad (Gỏi khô bò / Gỏi đu đủ)
Similar to Thailand’s som tam, the base of gỏi khô bò consists of a bed of julienned unripe papaya. Layered with roasted peanuts, shreds of beef jerky, basil leaves, coriander and crispy dough crackers, this salad is also sometimes referred to as gỏi đu đủ.
The star of the show, however, has to be the dressing that goes on the salad. Just the right mixture of zest, salty, sweet and spicy – it’s a taste you’ll never forget.
10. Egg coffee (Cà Phê Trứng)
The more commonly found method of making coffee is the Vietnamese drip coffee but another must-try is the egg coffee! Yep, you heard that right. Prepared with black coffee and egg yolks whipped into condensed milk, this makes for a creamy and smooth cup of coffee.
Tastes more like a dessert than coffee, it gives you the perfect kick so you can take on anything for the day!
11. Vermicelli with fried tofu and fermented shrimp paste (Bún đậu mắm tôm)
Every culture has its own smelly but tasty food and in Vietnam, it’s the bún đậu mắm tôm. The ingredients are simple and uncomplicated but the flavours are complex and robust. Mainly made up of vermicelli noodles, fried tofu, and fermented shrimp paste, other accompanying ingredients usually include cucumber, mint, perilla leaves, and pork belly.
How you eat this dish it by picking up the individual pieces, dipping into the shrimp paste sauce, popping into your mouth, and repeat! The smell may be a slight deterrent but trust us, it’s worth a try.
12. Spicy beef noodle soup (Bún bò huế)
If phở had a bolder and hotter sibling, it would have to be the bún bò huế. The main components to this noodle dish are beef broth, thick rice noodles, beef shank, pig’s feet, blood cubes and lemongrass.
It’s served with the usual bean sprouts, fresh herbs, lime and various other toppings and condiments. Savoury, tasty, and addictive, this dish originally from Hue, Central Vietnam, is one you’ll want to come back for more.
There are more flavours of Hue that is worth discovering. Hop on the back of a motorbike and whizz through the streets like a local in search for the best street food finds.
13. Grilled pork with vermicelli (Bún chả)
Originally from Hanoi, this vermicelli dish can be found throughout Vietnam served with grilled pork and a side of dipping sauce. It’s one of the highlights of this Old Quarter food tour you can find on Klook.
You can choose to eat it one of 2 ways – wrap everything in a big lettuce leaf and dip it into the sauce before taking a bite or mixing everything into the dipping sauce and eat it like you would a bowl of phở.
Whichever way you prefer, the bún chả is still pretty darn amazing. If you’re not convinced yet, just look at this gif of Obama enjoying a bowl of bún chả with Anthony Bourdain in a street-side noodle joint!
Source: GIPHY via YouTube
The next pit stop in your Hanoi trip should be Halong Bay! We recommend going on a Halong Bay luxury cruise to absorb the magnificent natural splendours, limestone bedrocks and sheer cliffs of tiny islands. Now, that’s proper food for the eyes.
You’re pho sure hungry now!
The struggle is very real when you can only see but not eat. Klook yourself a holiday to Vietnam now so you can taste all these amazing and easy-on-the-wallet street food finds. Let this be the year you #treatyoself!
A smart traveller is a well-prepared traveller
Since you’ll be out and about, using your phone and mobile data a lot to search for your foodie destinations and posting about them online to make your friends jealous, you want to make sure you don’t end up with bank-account-draining data roaming bills!
Lucky you, M1 users, you can join the M1 Data Passport club and use your local mobile data while you’re overseas. Your data roaming usage will be deducted from the local data bundle of your mobile plan, saving you the hassle of getting an additional 4G SIM card when you travel.
For non-M1 users, don’t worry. You can stay connected too by getting yourself a 4G WiFi device on Klook!