10 Vietnamese Street Food Dishes You Have to Try
Whenever you hear about Vietnam, probably the first association is a delicious and diverse Vietnamese street food. We’ve been living and traveling around Vietnam for almost two years and surprisingly, in every conversation, you’ll hear about delicious Vietnamese cuisine. When we think a bit about our experiences with food in Vietnam, it’s not actually that surprising that people LOVE Vietnamese food.
Who won’t fall in love with fresh, diverse, complex and cheap food on every step?
Literally, you can smell tasty food on every step and try a different cuisine every day. Another interesting fact is that cuisine drastically changes once you start to travel around the country.
We’ve talked with 10 bloggers and influencers who’ve been living or traveling around Vietnam and they shared their favorite Vietnamese traditional food.
10 Vietnamese Street Food You Have to Try (According to Bloggers and Influencers)
#1 Chuối nướng (Grilled Banana)
If you’re walking down a street market in Vietnam and happen to catch the undeniably tantalizing smell of caramelized bananas, follow that intoxicating aroma to a vendor dishing up one of Vietnam’s most delicious desserts, chuối nướng (or grilled or barbecued banana).
Originating in the Mekong Delta, where bananas are plentiful, chuối nướng can be prepared two ways: either with a plain grilled banana, toasted over a fire, or, alternatively, wrapped in sticky rice and banana leaf and cooked until the rice turns a golden brown (this variety is technically called “chuối bọc nếp nướng”).
Once the banana is cooked to puffy, delicious perfection, it is drowned in luscious, creamy coconut milk and dried sesame or peanuts are sprinkled on top. Served piping hot, this dish is best enjoyed when the ingredients are thoroughly mixed together, to get a full mouthfeel of the soft banana, the decadently silky coconut milk, and the savory crunch of the nutty toppings.
Although you can hunt down this dish in Hanoi and throughout the northern cities of Vietnam, chuối nướng is much more prevalent in Southern cities, like Ho Chi Minh City, Can Tho or My Tho.
And the best part? Since this is pretty much exclusively served up as street food, a serving will usually set you back a whole 15,000 – 20,000 VND.
#2 Vịt chiên (Fried Duck)
Hanoi is full of interesting, tasty and cheap street food. After sampling all of the street food that Hanoi has to offer, you should splurge on one meal – the Fried Duck at Grandma’s.
One of the top restaurants in Hanoi, Grandma’s serves traditional North Vietnamese cuisine. One of its signature dishes is a crispy fried duck. You may have eaten duck elsewhere, but Grandma’s is different. The pieces of duck are breaded and deep fried. Admittedly, not your healthiest meal, but tender and tasty. It comes with fried rice cakes and pickled vegetables.
The fried duck costs 299,000 VND (approximately $13USD). As we said, Grandma’s Fried Duck is a splurge, but worth it. Grandma’s is in the Old Quarter not far from Hoan Kiem Lake and a good place to stop on your Hanoi itinerary.
#3 Bánh đa trộn (Noodles with Fish Sausage)
Hanoi’s Old Quarter is full of food. Around every corner and on every street, there is fresh, local food. After getting your fill of Pho and Banh Mi, if that’s even possible in Vietnam, find something a little different. Search for Bánh Đa Trộn.
To put it simply, Banh Da Tron is a bowl of deliciousness. It looks like a dressed up bowl of Phở without the broth. To be specific, Bánh đa trộn is a bowl of noodles and chopped fish sausage patties. All of this is in a fish paste and topped with crispy strips of squid.
For many people, the ingredients don’t sound appetizing. Somehow, it’s perfect all together. The sausage doesn’t taste fishy or odd; instead, it’s a unique savory flavor. The noodles complement the crunchy squid. As always, hot sauce and chili paste is on the table.
Bánh đa trộn is not a particularly typical dish but is found in a few places in Hanoi. In the Old Quarter, a few local shops that see minimal tourist traffic serve Bánh đa trộn. To my delight, I stumbled upon a family noodle shop a couple of blocks south of Pub Street. At the time, all I knew was it was good. In the end, that’s all that matters.
#4 Bánh mì (Sandwich)
A bánh mì is thought of as a traditional Vietnamese sandwich, although it was initially more of a fusion dish, with strong influences from French cuisine as a result of the French colonization of Vietnam.
The sandwich is made with a French baguette-style bread that is crunchy on the outside but soft and doughy on the inside. The baguette is then filled several different ingredients, usually some combination of vegetables, meat, fresh herbs and sauce.
There are many meat-based versions of the bánh mì, but vegan versions made with tofu or with mock meat also exist and are called bánh mì chay (“chay” is the word for vegan or vegetarian food in Vietnamese). It’s a monster of a sandwich and can be very messy to eat, but that’s all part of the fun!
One of the best places to try a bánh mì for the first time is at Bánh Mì Phuong, a local institution in Hoi An (opened the first store in Korea) that became famous for its bánh mì after Anthony Bourdain ate there and called it “a symphony in a sandwich”. The usual version is filled with meat and other animal products, but they will make a vegetarian or vegan version of this classic Vietnamese dish on request.
#5 Bánh cuốn (Rice Flour Pancakes)
Bánh cuốn, one of Vietnam’s most delicious street foods, is also one of the most entertaining to watch being made.
Bánh cuốn is traditionally a Northern Vietnamese dish and can be found on almost every corner in Hanoi. It’s also commonly served for breakfast at homestays in Northern Vietnam. It consists of steamed rice flour pancakes stuffed and rolled with an excellent pork and mushroom filling.
Bánh cuốn is typically served with a bowl of nước chấm dipping sauce on the side and in Hanoi, with a soft-friend egg on top (local’s choice). My favorite way to eat bánh cuốn is with cubes of chả lụa (pork sausage inflected with spices such as cinnamon) on the side.
The best bánh cuốn is made fresh to order. It’s a joy to watch street stall owners ladle out the rice flour batter, raising and lowering the steel lid of the steamer and peeling back the delicate pancakes. For ‘fast-food’, it’s quite a time-consuming and artful process.
I never got tired of eating bánh cuốn when I lived in Hanoi for a year. In Vietnam’s capital, you can find bánh cuốn stalls everywhere—just look for the distinctive steamer set up in the front of the stall or shop.
#6 Heo sữa (Roasted Pig)
Most people focus on eating pho in Vietnam, and they should. Most food travelers don’t know that Vietnam makes some of the best roast sucking pig in the world! A suckling pig is a young pig, which is why it is so tender. It is normally roasted over an open flame, outdoors. Each restaurant has its own special seasoning, where they often use a syringe to inject the seasoning into the pig.
The skin is usually based in coconut milk, making it super sweet and crispy. It’s not easy to find suckling pig in Vietnam. It’s not on a typical Vietnamese restaurant menu. Instead, it’s most commonly found in countryside restaurants in small villages. The best suckling pig comes from Central Vietnam, around Hue, Danang, and in Quang Tri Province.
If you’re traveling around Da Nang, apart from delicious and diverse Vietnamese street food, don’t forget to explore natural heaven called Son Tra Peninsula.
It’s ordered by the half or whole pig and comes to the table sliced in pieces. The pig is typically served with a little mixture of salt, pepper, chili, and lime, to spice up the meat. And, it is almost always washed down with a cold Vietnamese beer served in a glass, over ice.
In a country where many dishes cost only a dollar or two, order a half pig is more of an investment, often costing the equivalent of 150,000 – 300,000 VND depending on the restaurant. But, it’s a great value and a must-eat traditional Vietnamese dish.
#7 Phở bò (Traditional Noodle Soup from North Vietnam)
Phở bò is a staple of Vietnamese cuisine. Found in restaurants, homes and especially on small street food stalls around the country, it’s a dish you simply must try when visiting Vietnam. If you are in Hanoi, make sure to wander the narrow streets of the Old Quarter and spot where the majority of locals sit: that’s bound to be a good place for pho.
The soup consists of a thin broth made by cooking beef bones for several hours. The soup is served in a large bowl with flat rice noodles, spring onions and thin slices of raw beef which cooks with the heat of the broth. You also get a small plate with bean sprouts, mint and coriander leaves, sliced chilies and lime to add to your taste.
Pho bo is served throughout the day – though apparently Vietnamese people enjoy it most for breakfast. You eat it with a spoon which you use for the broth, and chopsticks which you use for the noodles and all other ingredients.
#8 Bún bò huế (Noodle Soup from Central Vietnam)
The best-known dish to originate from Vietnam’s imperial capital, Hue, is the delicious bowl of noodle soup, known simply as Bún bò huế.
This tasty, predominately breakfast dish, is brought together by adding noodles (Bun) and cuts of meat, which can include beef (Bo), pork, bone marrow, small balls of prawns and crab, and sometimes cubes of congealed pigs blood.
The above ingredients are added to a rich broth, which has a complex flavor and is the backbone of the dish. Making the broth is usually a time-consuming affair, with pork and beef bones being simmered for hours, with a combination of lemongrass, shrimp paste, pineapple, and chili, added along the way. The red tinge to the dish comes from the addition of annatto oil.
The ingredients result in a soup that has a full flavor, yet is citrusy, a touch spicy, a little sweet, and with a long and pleasing aftertaste.
Add more chili, lime, and herb from the table to further enhance the soup.
Despite the origins of the dish being from Hue, Bún bò huế can be found all over the country, from Hue themed restaurants, through to carts on the side of the road.
And at the cost of between 20,000 – 40,000 VND, this is a dish not be missed on your Vietnam adventures.
#9 Mì quảng (Delicious Noodles from Central Vietnam)
If you ask me, one of the most delicious foods I’ve ever tried in my life is by far Mì quảng. This mouthwatering noodle dish is a specialty from Quang Nam, which is one of the largest provinces located in the center of Vietnam.
It’s special because of its uniqueness. Surprisingly, its uniqueness is from its diversification in the ingredients to cook it.
Mì quảng is an excellent combination from perfect soft, chewy noodle, stewed meat (or fish, chicken…); thick and savory broth which is an extract after long stewing meat(fish, chicken) with spices; fresh mixed vegetable; peanut; and grilled rice paper.
Squeeze a piece of lime, crumble grilled rice paper, put some chili pepper and fish sauce (if you’re sure you can eat spicy food combined with fish sauce) in your bowl of Mì quảng.
Mix it up and you can smell the scent from endless green rice-fields, feel cool water from long streams, taste the salt from our farmers’ sweat and sweet from Vietnamese’ hearts. The bowl of delicious and mouthwatering noodles costs from 15,000 – 30,000 VND.
#10 Ốp la (Fried Eggs With Sausage, Meat and Bread)
While traveling to many countries, I tried out many different foods. Before coming to Vietnam, I never was a “breakfast guy” but living here for 8 months now, I learned to love it.
My perfect morning always includes a Vietnamese traditional coffee and Ốp La Bộ Xúc Xic.
Ốp La means fried egg, Bộ means beef and Xúc Xic is a sausage. So it’s mainly a fried egg with some pieces of beef and sausage. At my favorite place, they prepare it in a special plate of stone and mix it all together. They also add some corn, potato and onion. They serve crispy bread and a fresh green salad (cucumber and lettuce topped with oil).
It’s a pretty simple but amazing dish. Also, it never gets boring and I could eat it every day. The price of a delicious plate will cost you anywhere from 15,000 – 40,000 VND.