Vietnam Street food guide – 15 must try dishes

Street food in Vietnam is a culinary adventure that every foodie should experience. It’s an essential part of Vietnamese culture and a great way to try authentic and delicious food. Vietnamese street food offers a wide variety of dishes, from savory soups and noodle dishes to sweet desserts and refreshing drinks, all bursting with flavors and aromas. With its vibrant street food scene, Vietnam is a food lover’s paradise that will tantalize your taste buds and leave you craving for more.

About street food in Vietnam

Where does the Vietnamese street food culture come from?

street food in Vietnam

Vietnamese street food culture emerged as a practical response to the local lifestyle, offering affordable and quick meals rooted in culinary traditions passed down through generations.

Is it safe to eat street food?

Vietnamese street food is generally considered safe to eat, with many vendors prioritizing cleanliness and hygiene. Choosing stalls with a high turnover of customers, observing the cooking process, and practicing common-sense food safety measures can contribute to a safer street food experience.

How much does street food cost?

Prices can range from as low as a few thousand Vietnamese Dong (equivalent to a few cents) for simple snacks or beverages to around 20,000 to 50,000 Vietnamese Dong (around $1 to $2) for more substantial dishes like banh mi sandwiches or a bowl of pho.

Where to find street food in Vietnam?

street food in Vietnam

You can find street food literally everywhere in Vietnam. It is a country renowned for its vibrant street food culture, with offerings available in big cities, small towns, hidden alleys, busy streets, and even along highways. You’ll commonly encounter street food in markets, and there are even dedicated street food markets. Additionally, in the Mekong Delta, you can enjoy street food on floating markets, although a river may not be considered a traditional street.

Is there vegetarian street food in Vietnam?

Absolutely! Vietnam offers a wide variety of vegetarian street food options. Many street food vendors are accustomed to catering to vegetarian diets, and you’ll find an array of delicious plant-based dishes to sample. From vegetarian versions of traditional pho and spring rolls to unique tofu-based creations, there are plenty of vegetarian street food delights to discover and enjoy in Vietnam.

Tips how to explore street food in Vietnam

1. Follow the locals

street food in Vietnam

Locals are a great source of information when it comes to finding good places to eat. If you see a street food stall crowded with locals, it’s a good indication that the food is delicious and trustworthy.

In addition, a bustling street food stall with a large number of locals is often a reliable indicator of food safety and freshness. The high turnover of customers signifies that the food is regularly prepared, reducing the chances of it sitting around for long periods and ensuring that you are more likely to enjoy a safe and freshly made meal.

2. Check hygiene

While street food in Vietnam is generally safe and delicious, it’s important to observe the hygiene practices of the food vendors. Look for stalls where the food is cooked fresh and served immediately. Avoid eating raw or undercooked food, and opt for bottled water instead of tap water to stay hydrated.

3. Eat small portions

Street food in Vietnam is often served in small portions, allowing you to sample a variety of dishes. Embrace this style of eating and try different foods along the way. It’s a great way to explore the local culinary scene and discover new flavors.

4. Eat local dishes

Each region in Vietnam has its own specialties and flavors. While popular dishes like pho are available throughout the country, don’t miss the opportunity to try regional dishes unique to the area you’re visiting. Ask locals or do some research to find out what the best local dishes are and indulge in the culinary diversity of Vietnam.

5. Learn a bit of Vietnamese

street food in Vietnam

Learning some basic Vietnamese phrases can enhance your street food experience. Street stalls often have signs or menus in Vietnamese, so being able to understand simple words like “pho” (noodle soup), “ca” (fish), or “ga” (chicken) can help you navigate the options and communicate your preferences to the vendors.

6. Enjoy and be adventurous

Exploring street food in Vietnam is not just about the food itself but also immersing yourself in the local atmosphere. Embrace the bustling streets, the aromas wafting through the air, and the vibrant energy of the food vendors. Be adventurous and open-minded to try new flavors and culinary experiences that you may not find elsewhere. It’s all part of the joy of exploring Vietnam’s street food scene.

Vietnam Street food tour

Vietnamese street food is one of the most popular and exciting parts of the country’s food culture. However, navigating the bustling streets and crowded food stalls can be a daunting task for travelers. That’s where a Vietnam street food tour comes in.

A street food tour with a knowledgeable guide is a fantastic way to experience the best of Vietnamese street food. A guide knows the best places to eat, the safest and most hygienic places, and can help communicate with street food vendors. They can also provide insight into the history and cultural significance of each dish, making for a more immersive and educational experience.

Hoi An street food tour

Additionally, street food tours often include stops at popular landmarks and hidden gems, allowing visitors to explore the city beyond just the food. For an even more adventurous experience, some tours are done on the back of a motorbike, adding an extra layer of excitement and thrills to the experience.

While street food tours are available in most cities throughout Vietnam, some of the best places to do a street food tour include Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, and Hoi An. Each city has its own unique regional dishes, ensuring that every tour will be a different flavor experience. So if you want to discover the authentic and delicious street food of Vietnam while also exploring the country’s rich culture and history, a street food tour is an excellent option to consider.

Make sure to check all our food tours in Vietnam.

Helpful Vietnamese Street food words

Here are some useful Vietnamese street food words and phrases to help you navigate menus and signs:

  • Rice: Cơm (pronounced “come”)
  • Noodles: Mì
  • Meat: Thịt
  • Chicken: Gà
  • Pork: Heo
  • Beef: Bò
  • Seafood: Hải sản
  • Vegetarian: Chay
  • Tofu: Đậu hũ
  • Egg: Trứng
  • Soup: Phở (pronounced “fuh”)
  • Grilled: Nướng
  • Fried: Chiên
  • Steamed: Hấp
  • Spicy: Cay
  • Sweet: Ngọt
  • Sour: Chua
  • Salty: Mặn
  • Delicious: Ngon
  • Thank you: Cảm ơn (pronounced “kahm uhn”)

15 must try Vietnamese street food dishes

1. Pho

Pho soup street food in Vietnam

This iconic dish is a hearty soup made with beef or chicken broth, rice noodles, and various herbs and spices. It’s typically served with thinly sliced beef or chicken and is a staple of Vietnamese cuisine.

2. Banh mi

This popular Vietnamese sandwich features a baguette filled with a variety of meats, pate, pickled vegetables, and fresh herbs. It’s a delicious and filling option for a quick and tasty lunch.

3. Bun cha

This dish consists of grilled pork served on a bed of cold rice noodles, herbs, and a dipping sauce made with fish sauce, vinegar, sugar, and chili.

4. Cao lau

This specialty dish from Hoi An is made with thick rice noodles, pork, herbs, and a savory broth. It’s topped with fried pork rinds and served with a side of crispy rice crackers.

5. Goi cuon

These fresh spring rolls are made with rice paper, shrimp, pork, vermicelli noodles, and a variety of herbs and vegetables. They’re often served with a peanut dipping sauce.

6. Cha ca

This Hanoi specialty features grilled fish marinated in turmeric and served with rice noodles, herbs, and a variety of condiments, including peanuts and shrimp paste.

7. Xoi

This popular street food is a savory sticky rice dish often served with chicken or pork floss, fried shallots, and a variety of herbs and spices.

8. Banh xeo

Banh Xeo street food in Vietnam

This savory Vietnamese pancake is made with rice flour, turmeric, and coconut milk and filled with pork, shrimp, bean sprouts, and herbs. It’s often served with a dipping sauce made with fish sauce, lime juice, and chili.

9. Mi quang

This specialty noodle dish from the central region of Vietnam features turmeric noodles, pork, shrimp, peanuts, and fresh herbs. It’s often served with a small bowl of broth on the side.

10. Com tam

This popular dish is made with broken rice, grilled pork chops, a fried egg, and pickled vegetables. It’s a filling and delicious meal that’s perfect for a quick lunch.

11. Bun bo Hue

This spicy noodle soup is a specialty of the city of Hue and features beef, pork, and rice noodles in a spicy broth flavored with lemongrass and chili.

12. Che

This sweet dessert soup is made with a variety of ingredients, including beans, jelly, fruits, and coconut milk. It’s a refreshing treat that’s perfect for a hot day.

13. Kem

This Vietnamese ice cream is a popular dessert that comes in a variety of flavors, including coconut, durian, and green tea. It’s often served in a cone or a cup.

14. Ca phe sua da

street coffee in Vietnam

Might not be Vietnamese street food, but Vietnamese street drink, as you will see lots of places where they sell this on the street. This iconic Vietnamese coffee is made with strong coffee, condensed milk, and ice. It’s a delicious and refreshing way to start the day.

15. Tra da

This popular iced tea is a refreshing beverage made with black tea and sugar. It’s often served with a slice of lemon and a sprig of fresh mint.

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