One of the main reasons to travel is the cuisine of the new places you visit. Whether it be in Singapore or abroad, what speaks the most to a traveller, apart from the scenic sights and vibrant cultures, is its colourful and flavourful cuisine. So, in case you’re travelling to Vietnam, check out the culinary scene there with these street food dishes that you simply have to try.
Vietnam, the Southeast Asian country bordered by China, Laos and Cambodia, is a popular international travel destination. A great place for expats, the country is one that is among the most affordable to travel to, especially in Southeast Asia. Vietnam comes complete with stunning landscapes, amazing weather and some of the most enriching experiences, such as dining along the railway tracks.
This is not all. What makes Vietnam so special among gourmands is its culinary escapades. The place has delicious local flavours, which have certain French influences due to its colonial rule in the past. Vietnamese cuisine has also become more popular apart from the traditional Pho, thanks to MasterChef Australia, where contestant Tommy Pham often tapped into his heritage to bring to judges gastronomic delights that were flavourful, but at their very core, humble comfort food.
So, in case you plan to visit Vietnam anytime soon, check out these street food options in the country that will make your taste buds go dancing!
Best street food in Vietnam
One of the most popular street foods that you need to try if you’re visiting Vietnam is Com Ga. Translating into Chicken Rice, the dish is known by a variety of names – Com Ga Hai Nam, Com Ga Hoi An, and more. However, these are the same dish, known by various names based on the region they are from.
This street food from Vietnam consists of rice cooked with chicken broth and fat, which takes on a pleasant yellow hue thanks to the addition of turmeric or curry powder. The dish, usually eaten with chicken, can also be served with other dishes, such as Chinese barbeque, roasted pork and other meats. Add a bit of regular or sweetened soy sauce for an additional umami flavour.
Probably among the most widely available Vietnamese dishes across the globe, Pho is a rice noodle soup eaten widely across the country for breakfast. The soup consists of chewy rice noodles served in a bowl of piping hot broth, usually beef (but chicken and vegetable versions can also be found). It is topped with pieces of chicken and/or beef, scallions (spring onion), lemon and bird’s eye chillies. It also has some herbs such as basil added to the dish for a herby punch.
The heart warming bowl of soup is available across the country, though the most popular versions are Pho Hanoi and Pho Nam. The dish is the ultimate comfort food, and makes for a light, flavourful start to the day for many. You can also top your pho with crunchy peanuts for a salty, spicy kick.
Bot Chien translates to Fried Dough, and is a delicious street food in Vietnam that can be eaten as a snack or as a meal. The dough is usually fried with eggs, and is flavoured with soy sauce and vegetables. The resulting dish is a savoury flavour bomb that will blow your taste buds away!
Indulge in the umami flavours as you relax after a tiring day roaming around in the country, and enjoy the fun of eating this snack by the street side. Add some meat and reduce the veggies in case you want to indulge yourself, or add extra greens for a boost of minerals and vitamins.
Banh Trang Nuong
A popular street food from Vietnam, Banh Trang Nuong is a snack made with grilled rice paper filled with yummy toppings and sauces. The dish is popular among youth hangout spots, often made in the visually attractive way in makeshift stalls on the streets – literally a street dish that packs a punch.
Banh Trang Tuong mostly consists of a beaten egg poured over the rice paper, with toppings such as shrimp, herbs, vegetables, sausages and more added on top. The texture and flavour resemble a crispy, fatty and umami omelette, and it pairs amazingly well with chilli oil and soy sauce. The dish is also called Vietnamese Pizza in other regions, because of its similarity in shape and serving style.
If you thought baguettes were loved only within French cuisine, think again. The prime example of fine dining flavours meeting street food is Banh Mi, a sandwich that combines the sweet flavour of the bread with savoury, umami flavours.
A typical Banh Mi consists of pate, margarine, pickled veggies, pork belly, cilantro, cucumber and pork floss for some fat and crunch. The result is a textural bomb that unleashes a gamut of flavour onto your palate with each bite that you take. You can also opt for some red pepper slices for additional heat.
If you love spring rolls (or egg rolls), you have to try this one. Goi Cuon is a popular street food in Vietnam and packs a textural punch. The dish is also quite easy to find on the streets, and you’ll find hawkers setting up stalls by the roadside to sell these treats.
Goi Cuon consists of pork and/or shrimp, which are combined with fresh vegetables (usually lettuce, cucumber, basil and mint for a light, summery flavour). This stuffing is rolled inside rice paper that has been moistened with water. These rolls, which only have the flavours of the veggies and the cooked meat, are then dipped in a peanut sauce, which usually consists of peanut butter, crushed peanuts (if you like some crunch), soy sauce and other flavours that make it a sweet, sticky, silky, smooth, umami sauce.
Bun Ca means fish and noodles, so there’s no wonder that it originated by the sea. The dish comes from Nha Trang, and the best version of this noodle dish can be found here. But, do not confuse it with Bun Cha, another popular Vietnamese dish that means pork and vermicelli!
The broth of Bun ca is made with fish, and is served with rice noodles, fish balls, Vietnamese ham or grilled fish – there are as many varieties as there are vendors selling this dish across the country. Some people also add a few slices of tomato to a bowl of Bun Ca for an added depth of flavour.
Banh Xeo is another dish that uses turmeric for its characteristic yellow hue. This Vietnamese street food looks like an omelette from afar, but it isn’t so. Banh Xeo is a rice crepe stuffed with shrimp, bean sprouts, pork and other yummy delicacies.
The rice batter is spread on a hot pan, and the making of the dish creates an audio-sensory experience. The crackle as the batter sizzles on the pan, the chewy texture of additions such as shrimp and pork, the mild herbiness and crunch of bean sprouts, and the sweetness of the coconut milk in the crepe batter makes for a delicious experience, combined with the crisp bite of the actual crepe.
Ca Phe Trung
When you think of Vietnamese coffee, you’ll mostly think of the version with iced coffee and condensed milk, or the drip coffee that is popular in the country. But, one way of enjoying a caffeine kick in the morning is Ca Phe Trung, a popular coffee preparation that is also a common dish found in the street shops in Vietnam.
This coffee takes a typical ‘eggs and coffee’ breakfast to another level, using black coffee, condensed milk and egg yolks (some people do use whole eggs). The egg and condensed milk are whipped until fluffy and creamy. This mixture is served on top of black coffee, which is usually a Vietnamese espresso or drip coffee. The result is a sweet, creamy blend that tastes almost like a dessert! You can also add spices and other additions such as tiramisu powder, custard, cocoa etc for an added depth of flavour.
Bun Bo Hue
Another popular street food delicacy in Vietnam is Bun Bo Hue. The dish, a beef and noodle offering, gets its name from Hue, a city in central Vietnam. Hue houses the royal palace and royal cuisine, with ample specialities that catered to the kings and queens back in the day. It is this city’s beef noodles or Bun Bo Hue, that has become a popular street food in Vietnam now.
The bowl of soup consists of beef broth, veggies, and rice noodles that are thicker and cylindrical in shape. At times, vendors also add bits of pork to your soup. The rice noodles are added in the end to help them maintain their chewy, bouncy texture. The addition of beef broth makes the soup richer, and vegetables add a much-needed crunch.
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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Answer: The dishes are centered around broth, meat and rice, so they can be as healthy or as fatty as you want them to be.
Answer: You can add chilli oil or additional spices to make your dish spicier, but usually the street food in Vietnam is well-spiced, but not too hot to eat.
Answer: Pho, Bun Ca, Banh Mi are among traditional Vietnamese dishes.
Answer: Pho, Banh Mi, Goi Cuon, Bun Cha and Banh Xeo are among the most popular street food dishes in Vietnam.