Ask a Vietnamese person that he or she is most proud of and many will say the food in Vietnam. It is not for nothing that you see programs on TV where Vietnamese people living abroad are stopped by customs with all the food they import; they can’t live without it. And if you are going to make a tour in Vietnam, you should definitely taste some of it. Read all about whether it is safe to eat food on the street, the best dishes and more!

On this page you will learn the following about food in Vietnam:

Vietnamese food

Little food and binders are used in eating Vietnam, making the food easily digestible. The emphasis is on the use of fresh herbs such as basil, mint, lemongrass, parsley and coriander. Many Vietnamese eat uncooked vegetables as a salad with a meal, but this is often discouraged for tourists.

Nuoc mam is indispensable in the preparation of food. This fermented anchovy sauce takes the place of salt. By adding sugar, lemon, peppers, onion and garlic you get nuoc cham, a sauce that is on the table with most meals.

Vietnamese cuisine has a wide variety. The proximity to the sea is evident in the various fish dishes. Fish is often the most important source of protein for the Vietnamese. Crustaceans and shellfish are usually eaten with a sauce of salt, pepper and lemon. Chicken, beef and pork are also on the menu.

There are differences between the kitchens of the north, middle and south. The food is the most neutral in the north, salty and spicy in the middle and sweet in the south. Each region also has its own dishes that you can only find there.

Specialized restaurants also serve different food that you as a Dutchman will probably attract less. Bat (con doi), snake (trang), tortoise (con rua) and dog (thit cho) are considered delicacies and are expensive.

Steet food safe or not?

The answer is that it depends! Some sellers of street food stalls do not take the necessary hygienic precautions, but some do. Pay attention to this before choosing a place to eat. The first thing to look out for is to see if the stall is busy. A busy stall would mean that many customers would eat there, so this indicates that the stall is safe. Not only that, but the food is probably delicious too! Avoid stalls that are not crowded, as this indicates the opposite.

Some stalls are covered with glass on all three sides and protect the food from harmful bacteria. If you are here for the first time, do not try food stalls where food is left in the open air as the ingredients could easily spoil. The longer you stay, the better your stomach will respond to this.

Streed food Vietnam

A small tip

If you like to eat food such as phở, bún bò Huế (spicy steak noodle) or another dish that is a combination of vegetables, you can ask the seller to dip the vegetables in hot water in case you are concerned that you may get food poisoning .

Restaurants

Do you think restaurant food is safer than eating on the street? The answer is yes and no. Some restaurants use food that has been frozen for a long time, so it is not that healthy because of the preservatives needed to keep the food frozen. Frozen food contains more fat than food that is also stored at normal temperature. However, if you want to quickly adapt to eating in Vietnam, eating in restaurants is a good start because the food is usually safe.

Food poisoning

In Vietnam, not all vendors use gloves to grab the food, so that is one of the concerns. When handling food, many bacteria can be transmitted, making people easily sick. Also, due to the warm weather here, food can spoil quickly. That’s why you have to be careful when you eat rice or salad. One of the best ways to check is to smell it first. If you think the smell is not good, avoid it.

Water and ice

In Vietnam you cannot drink water from the tap. Here you have to drink water that has already been boiled or for convenience you can buy bottled water at the supermarket. Try to avoid places with blocks of ice, because the water used for this is often not hygienic. If the ice in your glass looks like it has been broken into pieces from a larger block of ice, do not drink it. The only ice you shouldn’t have a problem with are small ice cubes.

Tips

  • Bring hand soap to clean your hands before you eat, especially snacks for which you use your hands.
  • Avoid large, hearty meals in the beginning. Adjust slowly and once you know you can handle it, you can try more and more.
  • Bring some medicines from home, in case you get stomach upset.

Food tour

A safe way to get in touch with street food for the first time, eating at stalls on the street, is through a food tour. A tour takes you to the best food stalls in hidden alleys and local restaurants, where you can try different dishes. These places have been carefully selected, so you don’t have to worry about the quality. In the larger cities such as Ho Chi Minh City, Hanoi and Da Nang you can do this in combination with a motorbike tour. This means that you jump behind the motor of your guide, who shows you the best places to eat.

Cooking course

One of the best souvenirs you can take home is the ability to prepare some of the dishes that you have tasted during your trip. Cooking classes are becoming more and more popular as a travel activity in Vietnam and you can actually find a cooking course at any location. The most popular city to follow a cooking class is Hoi An, you can find them in Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, Hue, Da Nang and even on a cruise in Halong Bay.

Cooking course Vietnam

In addition to learning great recipes, you can make delicious food, taste and often visit a local market where you learn more about the ingredients.

Useful words

If you are looking for food in Vietnam, it is useful to know some Vietnamese words. Often there are plates hanging at restaurants and food stalls exactly what they sell.

English Vietnamees Uitspraak
Fish Ka
Shrimps Tôm Tom
Shellfish So
Rice Cơm Kom
Meat Thịt Theed
Beef Thịt bò Theed-bo
Chicken Thịt gà Theed-ga
Egg Trứng Trung
Duck Thịt vịt Theed-vid
Pork Thịt lợn Theed-lon
Lam Thịt cừu Theed-kiu
Sea food Hải sản Hai-san
Coffee Cà phê Café
Tea Trà Traj
Water Nước Nuok
Breakfast Ăn sáng An-sang
Lunch Ăn trưa An-trua
Diner Ăn tối An-toi
Chopsticks Đũa Dua
Fork Nĩa Nia
Knife Dao Daow
Spoon Thìa Thia
Glas Cốc Coke
I am full Tôi no rồi Toi-no-roi
Very tasty! Rất ngon! Rat-ngon
Can I have the menu? Làm ơn cho tôi thực đơn? Lam-own-cho-toi-thuk-dern
Can I have the menu in English? Bạn có thực đơn bằng tiếng Anh không? Ban-ko-thuk-dern-bang-tieng-Anh-kong
May I have the bill? Làm ơn cho tôi hoá đơn? Lam-own-cho-toi-hoa-dern
Restaurant Nhà hàng Nha-hang

Vietnamese dishes

Pho
Pho: Noodle soup with beef
Banh Xeo
Banh Xeo: Vietnamese pancake
Cha Ca La Vong
Cha Ca La Vong: Fish with vegetables and sauce
Com tam
Com tam: Grilled meat with broken rice and egg
Goi Cuon: Fresh spring rolls
Goi Cuon: Fresh spring rolls
Banh Mi
Banh Mi: French baguette with vegetables and meat
Bun cha
Bun cha: Fresh noodles with vegetables and meat
Mi quang
Mi quang: Noodle soup with shrimp and meat
Nem nướng
Nem nướng: Grilled meat and vegetable wrapped in rice paper
Bun Thit Nuong
Bun Thit Nuong: Vermicelli noodles with grilled pork.

Vegetarian dishes

There is an abundance of delicious vegetarian – or “chay” – meals in restaurants. Below a small selection of vegetarian dishes in Vietnam.

Bánh mì chay
Bánh mì chay: French bread with salad and (optional) tofu, egg and mushrooms.
Nộm đu đủ
Nộm đu đủ: Vietnamese salad made with thinly sliced green papaya, carrots, many peanuts, sesame seeds, basil and coriander.
Bánh ít trần
Bánh ít trần: Dumplings filled with beans.
Phở chay
Phở chay: The vegetarian option for Pho; soup with vegetables and noodles.
Bún chả giò chay
Bún chả giò chay: Rice noodles with vegetarian spring rolls
Bánh cuốn chay
Bánh cuốn chay: Made from a rice flour batter, with crispy onion and served with herbs and a spicy dip sauce. The vegatic varient has tofu instead of pork.

Vietnamese desserts

Chè in Vietnamese literally means desserts (dessert). You can find many types of Chè in Vietnam. Below some of the most popular.

Chè Chuối
Chè Chuối: Banana with sago pearls and sweet coconut milk.
Chè Bắp
Chè Bắp: Vietnamese sweet corn pudding.
Chè Ba Mau
Chè Ba Mau: Three-color dessert.
Chè Bà Ba
Chè Bà Ba: Dessert of sweet potato, taro and cassava.