Vietnam boasts its culinary diversity with most of delicious dishes derived from street food. Each region has its signature cuisine and even each restaurant or food stall has its own secrets. For example, banh mi (Vietnamese bread) has been listed as one of the most delicious street foods in the world. In each city such as Hanoi, Hoi An and Saigon, the flavors of banh mi are different, showing the distinction of local culinary cultures. Now, let’s discover 11 best Vietnamese street foods which you have to try when traveling to Vietnam.
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Northwest Mountainous Area, Northern Vietnam
Com lam (rice cooked in bamboo tube)
This is an indispensable dish in any meal of locals in Northwest mountainous area. Glutinous rice is cooked in a tube of bamboo. When it is done, you just need to remove the burned outer layers until there is only one thin layer of bamboo enveloping white rice grains.
Break the tube of rice into small pieces and enjoy them with salted roasted sesame and peanut, then you can feel the sweet flavor of glutinous rice blended the fresh fragrance of bamboo. Experience such flavorful rice and sniff the greasy saltiness of sesame or the great taste of grilled wild boar, you will certainly know why many people are mesmerized by this dish.
“Thang co” is a special local dish of the Mong ethnic people. Nowadays, this dish is very popular with highland people and becomes a must-try dish for visitors. “Thang co” is traditionally made from horse meat, but beef, buffalo meat and pork may be used now. Locals use numerous special spices to cook “thang co” and each region has a different way to make this dish. Horse meat and almost all the offal will be preceded and mixed with spices including salt, cardamom, cinnamon and lemon leaves. The meat and offal is baked within 15-30 minutes. Then all the ingredients are poured in a big pot of water and simmered for a long time. Because of its spices, “thang co” has a strange smell that is not much pleasant. However, when enjoying sweet soft stewed meat with hot corn wine, you can completely enjoy the taste of mountain.
Hanoi, Northeastern Vietnam
Vermicelli with grilled pork
Vermicelli with grilled pork is one of the most signature dishes of Hanoians, which can be found in any street of the capital. The dish is made from simple and popular ingredients but chefs must pay great attention to every step of cooking. Sliced and chopped pork is marinated with spices. Grill the pork and minced pork patties outdoor on charcoal until both sides are golden brown.
Grilled pork will be more flavorful when soaking in dipping sauce including hot chili, fresh lime, fish sauce and pickled green papaya and carrot. Also, green vegetables such as salad, marjoram, balm mint, sliced water morning glory and beansprouts will make the dish more fresh and attractive.
Cha ca (grilled, deep fried fish)
Cha Ca La Vong has been a deservedly famous institution in Hanoi for a long time and attracted thousands of domestic and international visitors each year. The main ingredient of the dish is hemibagrus. Fish fillets are cut into small pieces and marinated with spices, then grilled on charcoal. On the dining table, the fish is quickly fried in the hot oil (high heat) till the outside turns golden brown and shredded spring onion and dill will be added. Cha ca is best served with shrimp paste, fish sauce, roasted peanut and vegetables including green banana, sliced green star fruit, figs, apricot leaves and green onion. Pick a piece of crispy yellow fish with some greens, dip them into shrimp paste and you will taste the dish with all your senses.
Hue, Central Vietnam
Com hen (rice with mussels)
Com hen is a simple yet famous dish of locals in Hue. The dish is a combination of different ingredients: cold rice, fresh veggies, flavorful herbs, sour taste of star fruit, pungent aroma from shrimp paste, warm tasty mussels, hot chili, crispy deep fried pork’s skin, tasteful roasted peanut and white sesame, served with a bowl of the super clear mussels’s soup. Cool rice is still soft and glutinous, other components are cool except mussels’soup Before eating, you just need to mix all things and enjoy the spicy taste of the dish.
Com hen is always eaten with hot chili due to the taste of Hue people. The harmony of flavorful shrimp taste, sour star fruit, fresh scent of herbs blended with rich crispy fried pork skin and hot sweet mussels’soup makes the dish really unforgettable.
Bun bo Hue (Hue-styled vermicelli soup with spice beef)
Bun bo Hue brings you the special taste of Hue, which is gentle and fine. Like other Hue cuisine, this dish requires a complicated way of cooking, especially with broth. The broth is prepared by simmering pig’s bones and beef bones with lemongrass and some kind of bulds, and seasoned by shrimp paste. Good broth must be clear, less fatty and feature the fresh sweetness of sugar candy blended with spicy chili and lemongrass.
Round thick rice vermicelli contributes to make the dish more special. Also, this cuisine usually includes thin slices of marinated beef shank, chunks of well-cooked oxtail, pig’s knuckles or pork and pig blood. A hot bowl of bun bo and a plate of greens, thinly sliced banana blossom, beansprout, lemon and green chili or spicy chili oil promise a pleasant dining experience.
Che (sweet soup)
In the journey to explore Hue cuisine, travelers should not miss che Hue (Hue sweet soup), one of the most delicious street foods in the ancient capital. On any street of Hue, you can easily find different types of che from royal to folk ones, each having its own colors and tastes. They are made from banana, corn, green bean, red bean, Indian taro, lotus seed, longane fruit, green pineapple and more. You can also mix different tastes to have a special soup. While cold sweet soup is the No1 choice, in the winter, nothing is greater than a bowl of hot ones.
Danang, Central Vietnam
Mi Quang (Quang noodles)
Originated from Quang Nam Province, mi Quang is made from rice and features its own flavors of chicken, shrimp, eggs, beef, jellyfish and catfish. Blended with ivory-white rice noodles is the fresh sweet taste of the broth. The main ingredients of traditional mi Quang are shrimp and pork. The dish is served with 9 nine kinds of fresh vegetables, namely premature cabbage, fresh salad, water mint, green cinnamon, bean sprout, laksa leaves, Vietnamese coriander, green onion and sliced banana flower. Toasted peanut and banh trang (toasted sesame rice crackers) are most commonly found in mi Quang and make the dish unique amongst other noodle dishes. You can season your dish by adding lime fish sauce, garlic and chili.
Bánh tráng cuốn thịt heo (Pork roll with girdle cake)
Many tourists share that they will remember this specility of Danang forever. Boilded pork and the dipping sauce make the dish different from other Vietnamese rolls. Each portion includes a plate of half fat and half lean meat and various vegetables such as salad, coriander, perilla, houttuynia, bean sprout, sliced pineapple, cucumber and green banana. These ingredients are rolled and covered by girdle cake, then dipped into a bowl of aromatic and spicy sauce, all creating a memorable taste.
Hoi An, Central Vietnam
Cao lau (noodles with pork and greens)
Cao lau noodles are set on the bottom of a bowl with scalded bean sprout and greens from Tra Que village. On the top are some slices of xa xiu (cha siu) pork, shrimp, chicken and crispy fried pork rind. Souse the sauce and add a little fried Cao lau, a green chili and some slice of lemon, then you will have a perfect Cao lau noodles with all its tastes and scents. There are many variations of this dish in Hoi An such as cao lau with pork, cao lau with chicken, cao lau with seafood.
Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), Southern Vietnam
Com tam (broken rice)
For people living in Saigon in the old times, “tam” is just a traditionally cheaper grade of rice produced by damage in milling. Nowadays, this kind of rice has been creatively used to prepare a delicious dish named “com tam”. Com tam is often well-served with grilled cutlet pork with honey. To make the dish more attractive, meatloaf can be added. Minced meat is mixed with duck eggs, minced peziza and seasoned with spices. A littled vermicelli made of cassava makes the meatloaf more viscid.
This meatloaf is steamed in a wooden mould and cut carefully when it’s cooked. A good com tam must be eaten with sweet-sour salted water morning glory. Omelet and fresh Chinese sausage.