On your next visit to this Southeast Asian country, take your adventures to the streets and explore these 12 amazing dishes of Vietnamese street food:
1. Pho (Rice Noodle Soup)
For those who struggle to pronounce the name, let's put all doubts to rest - it's pronounced 'fuh'. Practically the national dish of Vietnam, pho is a salty broth made with flat rice noodles. It contains delicious herbs, ginger, blanched vegetables, and usually a meat base like chicken or beef. Because of the many makeshift stands in every city, pho is a tasty yet affordable dish and probably the most common street food in Vietnam. You can buy one bowl for a cool VND 12,000 - VND 15,000. We'd recommend trying the pho at Gia Truyen in Hanoi and Pho Vu Phuong in Ho Chi Minh City.
2. Bun Cha (Vietnamese Meatballs)
Like the American burger patty, bun cha is char-grilled pork patties with rice vermicelli noodles and herbs. The primary taste comes from a fish sauce broth, which is admittedly an acquired taste. A side dish often joins it called nem cua be (crab spring rolls). Bun cha is believed to be a Vietnamese street food originating in Hanoi. The restaurants Bun Cha 34 and Dac Kim in Hanoi are particularly popular. Outside this city, a variant meat dish called bun thit nuong or bun bon am bo is made with beef, peanuts, and shallots.
Read more about Street Food in Hanoi.
3. Banh Xeo (Crispy Vietnamese Pancakes)
This dish is Vietnam's answer to the French crepe. A savory dish made in front of you at Vietnamese street food stalls is a thin, rich batter-based dish made with pork, shrimp, herbs, and spices. Surprisingly, the most distinct spice used for Banh Xeo is turmeric. Once cooked, the crepe is rolled with rice paper or lettuce, cut into slices, and served as small bites. It usually comes with a side serving of Vietnam's popular fish sauce. The dish earns its name for the sizzling sound of the pan when made.
4. Banh Tet (Vietnamese Sticky Rice Cakes). This Vietnamese dish earns its name from the occasion of Tet Nguyen Dan, or the Vietnamese New Year. It is a sticky glutinous rice wrapped in banana leaves along with mung bean or pork (for the savory preparation) or bananas (for the sweet preparation). It is rolled into a log-like shape, boiled, then cut into wheel-shaped servings. The savory dish is typically served with fish sauce or chili sauce, while the sweet dish is served with coconut milk and sesame seeds.
5. Cao Lau (Vietnamese Noodle Bowl)
Best known as a pork noodle dish, the regional dish Cao Lau finds a vegetarian variant in tofu, too. It comes from Hoi An in Quang Nam Province, central Vietnam. Many consider 'authentic' cao lau to be made from the water of the Ba Le well. It uses thick noodles like Japanese udon and Chinese wontons, but it is wholly Vietnamese for its herb palette and memorable clear broth. The noodles are made from ground rice with ash and water. Cao lau combines sour, sweet, bitter, and pungent signature street food flavors in Vietnam.
6. Rau Cang Cua
Because of Vietnam's location near the South China Sea and the Gulf of Thailand, shellfish is a prominent feature of Vietnamese cuisine. Rau Cang Cua is a dish made of crabs or sometimes snails. They are grilled over a barbeque, salted, sprinkled with lime and chili, and sometimes served with a caramelization of pork fat. The dish has a peppery taste from the claw herb plant that is prominent in this leafy salad. Rau Cang Cua is one of the easiest and quickest preparations among street food in Vietnam and is an explosion of flavor on your taste buds.
7. Goi Cuon (Vietnamese Spring Roll)Translating to 'salad rolls' or 'summer rolls', Goi Cuon is essentially translucent Vietnamese spring rolls. They are made with Vietnamese rice paper called Banh Trang. They come in vegetarian and non-vegetarian variations with fillings like mung bean, tofu, egg, squid, fish, crab, beef, or pork. They are fried in the north and are called nem ran, while they are slow-boiled in the south and cha gio. Goi cuon is eaten with fish or peanut sauce. It is usually an appetizer at Vietnamese restaurants but can also be found as a quick snack in Vietnamese street food stalls.
8. Bo La Lot (Vietnamese Grilled Beef in Betel Leaf)Fully known as Thit Bo Nuong La Lot, Bo La Lot is a delicious beef dish popularly found in Ho Chi Minh City. It is made of minced beef patties wrapped in betel or 'piper lolot' leaves before they are grilled over charcoal. Because of the use of betel leaves, it often has a peppery or bitter taste. Side dishes include grilled vegetables, rice noodles, and fresh chili and shallots. However, bo la lot can be eaten with a wrapping of Vietnamese rice paper or lettuce leaves. It tastes best with sweet chili fish sauce. You can find delicious Vietnamese street food stalls serving this along Ton Duc Thang Road in Saigon, but remember that they are mostly open at night.
Read more about Street Food in Ho Chi Minh City.
9. Banh Bot Chien (Vietnamese Fried Rice Cake)This Vietnamese dish consists of fried rice flour cakes. Immensely popular in South Vietnam, especially in Ho Chi Minh City, it is considered an after-school or light midnight snack. Fried until crispy, these flour cakes most commonly include an egg filling, although they can also feature vegetable or duck fillings. Banh bot chien is served with papaya shavings, shallots, vinegar, chili sauce, or sometimes a tangy soy sauce. This Vietnamese food is believed to be Chinese-influenced and can be bought at street stalls in Ho Chi Minh City's Chinatown, Cho Lon Street.
10. Banh Mi Op La (Vietnamese Fried Egg Sandwich)Another call back to French colonization, Banh Mi is akin to a baguette sandwich. It is made with a beautifully light wheat baguette cooked to crispy perfection. Then, it is cut length-wise and filled with delicious meat stuffing. While Vietnamese street food vendors commonly use pork and egg, Vietnamese restaurants use bacon or beef stuffing. Then, the dish is topped with Vietnam's popular chili fish sauce. The constant companion of this sandwich is the op la or egg preparation with sausages. This complete dish is fairly affordable at around VND 12,000 - VND 15,000, but in the 1970s, banh mi was seen as a luxury dish. Today, it is considered a breakfast dish or a light snack in Vietnam.
11. Che Khuc Bach (Vietnamese Panna Cotta). This sweet Vietnamese dish is an almond pudding with generous servings of lychee syrups. It earns its name from the primary ingredients of fresh cream and ice cream and 'che,' sugary water made of traditional Vietnamese sugar. Some Vietnamese street food stalls garnish the dish with shavings of watermelon, strawberry, and sliced fruits. It's an incredibly refreshing dish to combat the humid temperatures of the country. You can buy it for anywhere between VND 20,000 and VND 28,000.
12. Ca Phe Da/ Ca Phe Chon (Vietnamese Coffee)
Essentially iced Vietnamese coffee, Ca Phe Da is the perfect end to any meal in Vietnam. Coffee culture is huge here, primarily due to the country's cultivation of rich robusta beans. The coffee is cold and enjoyable, but the most traditional Vietnamese coffee is thick enough to be scooped with a spoon! It is mixed with condensed milk and sometimes other flavors, but we recommend you try the authentic version. Vietnamese street food stalls present various variations of Ca Phe Da - there is a Vietnamese egg coffee called Ca Phe Trung, which includes egg yolk in the brewed coffee, with a texture similar to tiramisu or eggnog.
13. Banh Cuon (Vietnamese Rice Rolls)Vietnamese cuisine's Chinese roots find a worthy illustration in the food of Northern Vietnam, and Banh Cuon is a worthy example of the same. It is a scrumptious roll made from rice flour with a hearty filling of pork, mushrooms, and shrimp topped with crunchy onions. A side of sprouts, cucumber, fresh herbs, and dipping sauce accompanies this mind-blowing course.
14. Xoi (Vietnamese Sticky Rice)
Xoi is a type of sticky rice that can be both sweet and savory. It is a countrywide staple, and while the savory version is eaten as a main course, the sweet variation is also served as a dessert. Simple and delicious, it is a popular Vietnamese street food dish and worth a try.
15. Bun Bo Nam Bo (Vietnamese Beef Noodle Salad)Bun Bo Nam Bo is a symphony of textures right in your mouth and is prepared with vermicelli noodles, peanuts, bean sprouts, fried shallots, and chili peppers. This is one of the few Vietnamese dishes in which the signature broth doesn't appear. It is often served with pickled vegetables, which gives it a tangy flavor.
16. Banh Khoai (Cassava Cake)Moving towards the central part of the country, we see a generous use of chili, which beautifully complements the balance of flavors here. A great example of the food of Central Vietnam is the savory Banh Khoai crepes, which are stuffed with shrimp, pork, egg, and bean sprouts. Rice flour is the main ingredient used in the preparation of this delight, with herbs and lettuce giving it a refreshing twist. It is often served with a soybean-based sauce on the side.
17. Bun Bo Hue (Vietnamese Spicy Beef Noodle Soup)A prominent dish of Central Vietnam, Bun Bo Hue, is a super spicy pork-and-beef-based broth with a portion of noodles. Lemongrass, herbs, and lip-smacking shrimp sauce give it a marvelous depth of flavor. This dish is a regal affair indeed and was a regular feature in the kitchens of Hue's Nguyen Dynasty.
18. Com Hen (Rice with Mussels)Com Hen is another delicious Vietnamese rice-based preparation served in a broth of fresh and lightly flavored clams. This incredible dish is garnished with a host of crispy bits like rice crackers, crispy pork, crackling, peanuts, and sesame seeds, which gives this dish another dimension in terms of textures. You will find various versions of this dish in central Vietnam, which has become a staple part of the region's food culture.
19. Canh Chua Ca (Vietnamese Sour Soup)Illustrating the fresh garden produce used in Southern Vietnamese Cuisine, the Canh Chua Ca is another take on the tradition of broth dishes. This dish is a fish soup leaning toward the sweeter side, and ingredients such as pineapple, tomatoes, bean sprouts, and tamarind are used to flavor the same. The dish is topped off with golden fried garlic, which is both a visual and tasteful treat.
20. Banh Mi (Vietnamese Sandwich)If sandwiches are your thing, you should try this dish. Tilting towards the French-Chinese heritage, this sandwich is prepared with baguette-like bread filled with mixed ground meat, cilantro, and some good old vegetables. The contrast of crunchy vegetables and juicy meat makes it a hearty treat for one and all, an integral part of Vietnamese cuisine.
21. Cha Khoai Tay (Vietnamese Potato Cakes)This crispy and gooey delight is a popular Vietnamese street food dish, and rightly so. It is prepared with boiled potatoes mixed with cheese, spring onion, and a couple of spices and is then deep-fried until it is crispy golden. This dish is often served with a fish sauce that perfectly complements the cakes.
22. Che Chuoi (Vietnamese Banana Tapioca Pudding)If you are a lover of all things sweet well, a variety of sweet dish combinations in Vietnam are waiting for you. Starting with the incredible Che Chuoi, a sweet soup prepared with coconut milk, sago pearls, and banana, a pudding-like delicacy. Humble in its preparation and comforting taste, this is the go-to dessert for one and all.
23. Che Troi Nuoc (Sticky Rice Balls in Ginger Syrup)Combining the goodness of dumplings and the gooeyness of sweet syrup is Che Troi nuoc, a golden dessert dumpling filled with mung bean paste and cooked in sweet ginger syrup. Literally translating to 'dessert wading in water', this Vietnamese Dessert is popularly served during the Lunar New Year.
24. Che Ba Mau (Vietnamese Three Color Dessert)A treat to the eyes as it is to the palate, Che Ba Mau is a tricolor dessert drink that is especially popular among the children of Vietnam. It is prepared with homemade colored jelly, mung bean paste, and sweet kidney beans. A vivid illustration of kaleidoscopic summertime, this dessert will have you asking for seconds.
25. Che Bap (Vietnamese Sweet Corn Pudding)A traditional Vietnamese dessert made of corn pudding goes by the name Che Bap, a regular feature in most Vietnamese households. It is prepared using sweet corn kernels, tapioca pearls, and creamy coconut milk and can be served both hot and cold. Pandan leaves give it a deliciously sweet aroma and make the experience of this dessert an olfactory treat. Go ahead and dig into this Vietnamese comfort food; you surely will fall in love with its charming simplicity.
26. Che Ba Ba (Vietnamese Dessert Soup)Carrying on the tradition of sweet soups is Che Ba Ba, a preparation of taro, cassava, and long sweet potato, well-cooked in coconut milk and topped with tapioca pearls. Marrying various exquisite flavors of the south, this dish is the perfect example of Vietnamese cuisine.
27. Com Ruou Mien Nam (Sticky Rice Wine)
An interesting way rice is consumed here is through its delicious rice wine, made from glutinous or non-glutinous rice. Like any other, rice wine, too, comes in various forms. Most Ruou De rice wine is prepared in home-based breweries, where yeast is added to cooked rice and is allowed to ferment. The broth so obtained is distilled to get the final product. However, the consumption of Ruou De has some serious implications and may cause blindness and even death. A much better option would be Ruou Can, a kind of party wine prepared without distillation.
28. Cha Ca (Vietnamese Fried Fish)
Cha ca La Vong is a Hanoi-style traditional Vietnamese grilled fish dish. The hemibagrus (Catfish) is sauteed in a turmeric-based sauce containing fish or shrimp paste, ginger, and red peppers.
29. Rau muong Xao Toi
This traditional Vietnamese vegetable side dish is made from water spinach and is typically served with steamed rice. Water spinach is chopped and stir-fried with oil, garlic, oyster sauce, and sugar.
30. Banh khot (Vietnamese Mini Savory Pancakes)
These Vietnamese savory mini pancakes are made in a traditional cast iron pan (Banh Khot) with a mixture of rice flour, corn starch, turmeric, water, and coconut milk. It is typically topped with shrimp, scallion oil, and minced or powdered salted shrimp.
31. Ga Tan
Ga tan is a Sweet chicken stew made from various medicinal herbs and spices and has been a secret recipe of Vietnam for generations. Chicken wings and drumsticks are marinated in herbs such as red dates, honey dates, pe ji, yuk chuk, dried longan, and goji berries.
32. Nom Hoa Chuoi (Vietnamese Banana Salad)
Nom hoa chui is a traditional Vietnamese salad with banana blossoms, sprouts, dried shrimp, roasted peanuts, and pork or chicken. The salad is mixed together, tossed, and dressed and is served on a thick banana leaf.
33. Hoa Qua Dam (Vietnamese Fruit Salad)
Hoa qua dam is a summertime fruit salad made with lychees, jackfruit, papaya, Asian pear, mango, dragon fruit, etc.. The fruits are cut into slices and arranged in a tall glass with crushed ice and a mixture of coconut milk, condensed milk, and sometimes yogurt.
34. Pho Cuon (Rice Noodle Roll)
Pho Cuon is a contemporary Vietnamese dish from Saigon. This roll wraps sautéed beef and vegetables in a denser rice noodle sheet and a portion of pho broth. The flavor is created by combining aromatic vegetables and beef stir-fry sauce.
35. Ga Nuong (Vietnamese Five Spice Chicken)
The grilled chicken dish is flavored with Chinese Five Spice and pairs well with steamed vegetables, rice, or a traditional Vietnamese sandwich. Gà nuong sa is lemongrass-grilled chicken. Garlic, onion, honey, wine, and pepper are all common ingredients.
36. Pho Xao (Vietnamese Stir Fried Noodles with Beef)
Pho Xao Thit Bo, also known as Vietnamese Stir Fry Rice Noodles with Beef, is a delicious dish that combines tender beef with soft rice noodles. The dish includes pho, beef, yu choy sum (a sort of bok choy), and various vegetables.
37. Ca Phe Trung (Vietnamese Egg Coffee)
Cà phê trung, or egg coffee, is a traditional Vietnamese drink made with egg yolks, sugar, condensed milk, and robusta coffee. Egg cream (yolk mixed with sugar and condensed milk) is stirred into equal parts coffee.
38. Bun Dau Mam Tom (Noodles & Tofu with Shrimp Sauce)
Bun dau mam tom was originally a rustic Northern Vietnamese dish that became popular as Vietnamese street food. The dish consists of noodles, tofu, and shrimp sauce. And it's accompanied by veggies such as marjoram and mint.
In addition to these local favorites, if you're feeling too adventurous, you can also try some more exotic foods here, like crispy fried crickets, giant water bugs, tarantulas, scorpions, bee larvae, and silkworms, which are local snacking options. Much like the French, Vietnamese food culture also has a few frog-based dishes, but instead of eating the legs alone, the whole animal is consumed here. Fertilized duck eggs are a popular side as well. Dishes based on snakes, snails, field rats, and duck tongues also find a place in various villages and cities in Vietnam. No matter what you decide to gorge on, one thing is assured- flavorsome delicacies await you! Bon appetite.