Vietnam’s Street Food Culture

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When I went to the travel doctor to get shots for my trip to Asia, she specifically told me that I wasn’t to eat anything from street vendors or anything I hadn’t seen cooked. I smiled at her and then mentally laughed. How could I possibly go to Asia without trying any street food? I’d already been forewarned of all the soups from my friend Jodi. And while I’ve loved the food in Thailand and Cambodia, I can now admit that it’s Vietnam that’s stolen my heart (and belly).

I couldn’t have chosen a better place to start my Vietnam food journey than landing in the middle of Hanoi’s noise and pace. On my second day in Hanoi, I joined up with Urban Adventures’ Hanoi Street Food By Night tour, which brought me to the best spots in town for authentic, local eats. I sampled all sorts of delights (showcased below) and saw the markets where vendors buy their ingredients. I highly recommend this tour for those first arriving in Vietnam as a primer for all future meals.

vietnam's street food

Banh my, Dong Xuan Market– Our tour started at the market, where we were immediately handed mini baguettes, known as bahn my, filled with cucumber, fried onions and pork floss. It was a small but filling few bites to whet our appetites.

vietnam's street food

Surprise pancake with beef and mushrooms (banh cuon), Banh Cuon Gia Truyen Thanh Van – After sampling a few orders of rice pancakes filled with meat and mushrooms topped in crispy onions and dipping them in an oil made from cicadas, we watched them being made. The thin pancakes are formed, rolled, filled and on your table within a few minutes. I didn’t fall in love with this dish as I did the others, but it was nice to try.

vietnam's street food

Chinese barbecue, Duong Thanh and Hang Bong streets– I have no idea what the name of this place was, but it sells t-shirts out front during the day and when 5 pm rolls around, transforms into one of the busiest corners in the Old Quarter. Here you pick a stool surrounding a small table with a burner. You pick a handful of items you want cooked and they bring it to you and place it in your warmer. I personally loved the beef and grilled honey bread. While some may question the authenticity of Chinese barbecue in Vietnam, there’s an indisputable influence here.

vietnam's street food

Fruit salad with condensed milk, To Tich Street– While I couldn’t fully enjoy this dish since I gave up dairy a few months ago, I couldn’t help but be fascinated by the bizarre combination of mango, papaya, watermelon, avocado, a Jello-type substance, all topped with sweetened condensed milk and coconut milk. It’s dangerously sweet, but still refreshing.

vietnam's street food

Egg coffee, Cafe Phố Cổ– Our final stop on the tour was for rooftop egg coffee at Cafe Pho Co, which is at the top level of a house behind a t-shirt shop. Certainly hard to find, but worth the views of the lake. It was here that egg coffee was created during the bird flu as a way to offload the poultry products. The result is the bitter Vietnamese coffee topped in a creamy egg, making for something resembling chocolate milk. I’m not a coffee drinker, as I learned in Melbourne, but gladly would drink one of these again.

I also had great luck with the local restaurants recommended to me by the staff of my hotel, which led me to some places I never would have tried otherwise, where you sit down and are brought whatever the restaurant makes best.

vietnam's street food

Bun cha, Bun Cha Dac Kim– Just when I thought things couldn’t get more delicious, I discovered bun cha. We were brought a massive plate of greens, followed by 2 bowls of assorted meats and another bowl of mango in syrup with a plate of noodles. We mixed heavily for the best combination of flavors. Must eat this again.

vietnam's street food

Bun bo, Bun Bo Nam Bo– Conveniently located three doors down from our hotel, this was one of our first meals after arriving in Hanoi. The vermicelli noodles were topped in raw vegetables, fried onions, sprouts and beef. They were simultaneously sweet and salty in a uniquely Vietnamese way.

Have you ever sampled Vietnam’s street food? What’s your favorite dish?

Hanoi Street Food by Night in Hanoi

My tour was hosted through an ongoing partnership with Urban Adventures, but all opinions on Vietnam’s amazing cuisine are my own.

Mentioned in this post
  1. Dong Xuan Market
    Attraction in Hoàn Kiếm Việt Nam

    Đồng Xuân
    Hoàn Kiếm Việt Nam
  2. Cafe Phố Cổ
    Attraction in Từ Liêm Vietnam

    Hàm Nghi
    Từ Liêm Vietnam

About Caroline

Caroline Eubanks is the founder of Caroline in the City. She's a freelance writer based in Atlanta, Georgia but also considers Charleston and Sydney home. Her past writing credits include work for AFAR.com, National Geographic Travel and she is a contributor to Her Packing List.

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7 Responses to Vietnam’s Street Food Culture

  1. Beverley | Pack Your Passport June 17, 2014 at 6:16 pm #

    Pork floss??!!! This sounds amazing Caroline! So glad you enjoyed Vietnam (and its food!)
    Beverley | Pack Your Passport recently posted..Moving to East LondonMy Profile

  2. Polly June 17, 2014 at 6:43 pm #

    Oh man, whenever I see these street food posts I curse my vegetarianism. I miss out on so much good stuff!
    Polly recently posted..Washington, DC: close enoughMy Profile

  3. Victoria June 26, 2014 at 1:53 am #

    Yep! The delcious pho with crunchy, bitter vegetables and also the one pot soup that you share with loads of people and have no idea what exactly is in it. I had a brilliant time in Vietnam such that when I returned to Bangkok before going home, I felt that Vietnames food was better!
    Victoria recently posted..I’m fabulous and so are you! 10 tips on going to a festival in Berlin.My Profile

  4. Victoria June 26, 2014 at 1:54 am #

    I meant to say “Vietnamese” food is better!
    Victoria recently posted..I’m fabulous and so are you! 10 tips on going to a festival in Berlin.My Profile

  5. Kara July 14, 2014 at 6:22 pm #

    I love almost any kind of pho, and would gladly return to Vietnam to eat my way around the country. Delicious food everywhere I went!

  6. Henry Nguyen July 17, 2014 at 10:00 am #

    Admire how you accurately spell most Vietnamese words, except ” Banh” and not “Bahn” as you did several times. As far as Vietnamese food names are concerned, the word banh perhaps, by far the most often used description of all: banh mi, banh xeo, banh trang… Correct spelling, thus is a must!

    • Caroline July 17, 2014 at 10:16 pm #

      Thanks for correcting me, Henry! I’ve fixed them now.

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