When it comes to street food in Vietnam, or perhaps more specifically, ‘where can you find the best Vietnamese street food?’ it is highly unlikely anyone will recommend the same streets or even have the same top 5 snack list! We all have our favorites for different reasons, but more often than not, in Vietnam, it’s partially to do with loyalty to a particular vendor. The Vietnamese will often go to the same shops and the same restaurants for years out of some sense of duty to the owner. It won’t be completely without merit of course. Owners work hard to look after their regular customers.
So as you’re spending time in Vietnam, you will also find your favorite flavors, restaurants, and food stalls. Whether you are looking for street food in Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City), or street food in Hanoi, your options are quite staggering. Furthermore, once you have finally decided on the kind of food you would like to eat, picking your favorite street vendor from the 1000s around is another mind-boggling experience. Luckily however our friends on the ground have done just that, compiling a shortlist of their 5 best sidewalk snacks you must try and have even picked out the best spots for you to try them when traveling around Vietnam.
Ok, so we are going to start with the incredibly versatile Banh Xeo. Often compared to French Crepes, but with no direct influence of note into this national dish. Comparisons can also be drawn to the Jeon of Korea and even the Okonomiyaki of Japan. One thing is for certain, wherever people may think it is from, the Banh Xeo has to be on the list, of best Saigon street food.
The mighty Banh Xeo comes in many forms depending on which part of Vietnam they are from. In the south, for example, they will use coconut milk in the batter which releases a wonderful aroma with every bite. Made with rice flour or a mix of that and wheat flour, recipes are often closely guarded secrets, as vendors seek to create the lightest and crispest versions around. Some will use turmeric as a way to color them, and others simply rely on flavors to win customers’ hearts.
Fillings are varied, from tasty vegetarian options to different proteins, like sliced pork, prawns, or even beef (in the central region of Binh Dinh Province) mixed with beansprouts. On the side, a generous helping of fresh herbs and mixed leaves. Banh Trang (Vietnamese rice paper) is used to wrap pieces of Banh Xeo and fresh leaves. Then it is simply a case of dunking them into the luxurious dipping sauces of choice (normally fish sauce-based, or peanut sauce-based, depending on the region).
For perhaps the most famous in Saigon, head to Bánh Xèo 46A, Dinh Cong Trang Street (Bánh Xèo 46A, 46A Đinh Công Tráng, Tân Định, Quận 1, Thành phố Hồ Chí Minh). This is perhaps the most well documented since it was dined in by the late Anthony Bourdain and the price reflects this notoriety at around $5 for a large one.
Originating from the beautiful flower city of Da Lat is the incredibly popular Banh Trang Nuong. Maybe not the most traditional Vietnamese dish, it’s a very popular snack among the youth and families spending time outside. The term pizza is used very lightly here. Perhaps Quesadilla is more appropriate, but these beautiful creations are like nothing else around! Incredibly simple, but delicious.
Starting a large round rice paper on a charcoal grill, they are quickly topped with several toppings in quick succession. First a little oil, some minced pork, a cracked quail’s egg, some scallions, shrimps, more veggies like corn and some chicken or sliced sausage or both!
The vendor will skillfully rotate these on the hot BBQ to avoid burning, whilst ensuring everything is cooked to perfection. Once off the grill, chili sauce and mayo are added before being folded in half and wrapped in paper, for you to eat on the go! It’s an incredibly simple snack that can be prepared in minutes and so, it is perfect for those with hectic city schedules, who need to eat on the move!
If in Dalat, perhaps the most famous and certainly the most reviewed is at Bánh Tráng nướng Dì Đinh – 26 Đường Hoàng Diệu, Phường 5, Thành phố Đà Lạt, Lâm Đồng.
Bun Cha is a super popular dish from the north and can be found all over Hanoi’s vibrant streets. Grilled pork is placed in a bowl with a fish sauce-based ‘broth’ (for want of a better word). The broth is a watered-down version of fish sauce using vinegar sugar and water to thin it out. Often sliced carrots and pickled radishes are also added. It is served at room temperature and is therefore very different from many other noodle soups in Vietnam.
On the side, a hearty helping of cold vermicelli noodles, and a generous pile of fresh Vietnamese herbs. Unlike some other common dishes, there are no real rules about how to eat Bun Cha. Most people tend to throw everything together and devour it. You will work out your way.
Made even more famous by scenes of the former POTUS Barack Obama sitting down with Anthony Bourdain over a beer in Hanoi. Close to the French Quarter in Hanoi, Bun Cha Huong Lien is a quiet unassuming family-run restaurant that has been serving Hanoians for many years. The restaurant has now made a display of the Obama/Bourdain table for anyone wishing to make a pilgrimage. Bun Cha Huong Lien – 24 Lê Văn Hưu, Phan Chu Trinh, Hai Bà Trưng, Hà Nội
Perhaps the one dish, you may already know, is the world-famous bowl of Phở! It is widely believed that this dish is of French influence, and whilst it is acknowledged, noodles are of Chinese origin, the soup part is indeed believed to be French. Could it be a true fusion of East meets West? Chinese noodles, French Soup, and Vietnamese herbs and spices?
There are so many variations of this dish and many restaurants and vendors, everyone has their personal favorites. The noodles will be placed in the bottom of the bowl, the broth added and then topped with your preferred cuts of meat. On the side, Vietnamese herbs, sliced chilies, lime wedges, and chili sauce, which are all added to the bowl to taste before eating.
Also, though available on practically every other street corner, the next recommendation is certainly not the cheapest in Vietnam. It is proudly, quite the opposite. Anan Saigon by renowned chef/owner Peter Cuong Franklin specializes in street food-inspired dishes, that are elevated by the award-winning chef.
One of his most famous dishes is his $100 Phở! This dish was featured in The Best Ever Food Review Show and has over 7 million hits on YouTube:
It’s an off-menu dish, available with 1-day advance notice and so booking is a must. It contains not 1 but 7 different cuts of beef. The soup base is a twice strained consommé, which is both richer in flavor and significantly more clear than ordinary broths. It comes with other surprises, such as a fine truffle paste to add to your soup as you wish. It’s genuinely a treat for real foodies and one not to be missed when visiting Saigon!
Peter’s normal menu has a range of high-end versions of the dish made with Wagyu beef and truffles! Find it at Anan Saigon – 89 Tôn Thất Đạm, Bến Nghé, Quận 1, Thành phố Hồ Chí Minh
Another fine traditional Vietnamese staple of the sidewalk is the wonderfully filled baguette, known as Banh Mi. Like Pho, there are indeed many variants and everyone has their favorites. Inspired by the French and their love for baguettes, Banh Mi bread is a much lighter, airier version. At around 8 inches long, with a very light flaky crust, the Banh Mi is another perfect snack for those on the move!
Generally, you will find a Bánh mì filled with, pâté, various meats such as pork sausage, cilantro, pickled carrots, and radishes. Vegetarian and fish options are readily available, as well as various other incarnations are available everywhere you go, with prices ranging from just 50 cents up to a few dollars!
Virtually everywhere. If feeling brave, ask your guide for their favorite street stall. Alternatively, one of the most popular destinations for tourists and locals alike in Saigon is in District 1 and can be found with fast-moving queues outside every night! With over 4500 mostly positive reviews on Google, they must be doing something right! Theirs costs around $2 for a takeaway. Huynh Hoa Sandwich Shop – 26 Lê Thị Riêng, Phường Phạm Ngũ Lão, Quận 1, Thành phố Hồ Chí Minh
If you are looking for something a bit more special, head to Godmother Bake & Brunch at Level 3, 2-4-6 Đồng Khởi Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam 700000, where you will find the elevated Iberico Pork Banh Mi.
As we said at the start, everyone will have their own top 5 Vietnamese street food snacks, and there are so many options we didn’t list here. For sure our friends on the ground had a tough time deciding which to include.
The best way to discover street food in Vietnam is to simply walk around, make friends with locals, and look for busy hot spots. When taking any tour in Vietnam, you can fully count on your local guide to share their own secret food spots and dishes. From early in the morning, until the early hours, you will always find crowds of young and old sitting down on their tiny plastic chairs. Join them and enjoy it!
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