Guidebook Street food helps to understand the country

Foodie must-do list

Street food helps to understand the country

Eating on the street may not be to every visitor’s taste, notes Rough Guides, but those willing to take the plunge usually put it up among their favourite experiences in the country.” Street kitchens range from “makeshift food stalls, set up on the street round a cluster of pint-size stools, to eating houses where, as often as not, the cooking is still done on the street but you either sit in an open-fronted dining area or join the overspill outside.” Most specialize in one type of food, “generally indicated (in Vietnamese only) on a signboard outside, or offer the ubiquitous com (rice dishes) and pho (noodle soups).” Com binh dan, “people’s meals”, are also popular.

“It’s everything put together that makes the meal complete. The flimsy red and blue plastic furniture that looks as though it has been stolen from a preschool playground. The crowded streets of t-shirt clad backpackers and conical hat wearing locals weaving in and out of each other’s way like an orchestrated dance. The fragrant smells of fresh herbs, cooked fish and spiced broth mixed with the faint odors of gasoline from passing motorbikes. The Vietnamese street food experience extends far beyond the plate to encompass the surrounding chaos and charm of the culture.” - Nikki Vargas in The Culture Trip

Have a look at this “street food odyssey” from Neil Simpson in Suitcase magazine, to understand “the breadth of the country’s culinary ingenuity”:

Bún rieu: “Bún means noodles, while rieu refers to a crab-based broth blended with tomatoes. The noodles are always fine and round. This particular bowl is made room for chewy chunks of pork, deep-fried tofu cakes, a spoon of chilli paste and slices of pickled garlic.”

Banh cang gio heo: “The sweet, pig-trotter soup swims with tofu pillows, fat udon noodles and blood curd – just add a splash of fish sauce and lime.”

Banh trang nuong “is the result of grilling rice paper, creating something akin to an incredibly crisp pancake … expect to find a fried filling of spring onions, minced pork, dried shrimps and shallots, liberally squirted with sweet soy sauce and sriracha.”

Bánh can: “Miniature pancakes each encasing a soft-boiled quail’s egg means delectable mouthfuls of crispiness layered with silky yolk … usually served with strips of pickled carrots and turnips, while these are sitting in a puddle of the country’s omnipresent dipping sauce of choice, nuoc cham.”

Bánh cam thit heo: “Pork and quail’s-egg dumplings are deep fried, sprinkled with sesame and mainly found in Ho Chi Minh City.”

Banh khot: “Little pancakes … crowned with daubs of coconut cream and pork mince, and eaten wrapped in rice paper and green leaves … more typical in the southern Mekong region.”

Trung vit lon: “Not for the faint-hearted ... a steamed duck egg containing a semi-formed foetus. You can order them across Vietnam, sold from trays attached to bicycles or mopeds.”

Banh vac: “Pretty and poetic, these tapioca dumplings are called banh vac (white rose) … a chunk of steamed pork inside and they’re typically served with nuoc cham and the crunch of dried shallot: softness, succulence and crunch in one bite … a signature of the central Hue region.”

Cao lau: “Another Hue speciality … a winning combination of prawn crackers, soft-boiled quail eggs and a tangle of yellow and white rice noodles. This texture bundle is drizzled with sweet soy sauce, but the kicker is a small proportion of soup at the bottom of the bowl – just enough to pull all the elements together.”

Hao nuong: “Da Nang’s coastline is sprinkled with no-frills, open-air restaurants … these grilled oysters (hao nuong) are topped with spring onions and ground peanuts, lending the oysters uncommon texture and smoke.”

Banh beo: “These canapé-style morsels are particularly popular in central and southern Vietnam … blobs of steamed tapioca are topped with pork crackling, mung beans and shredded crab meat. Take a spoon, pour a dash of nuoc cham onto the miniature dish, then swallow in one.”

Mi quang: You’re most likely to find this dish in central or northern Vietnam … the bowl is half-filled with a relatively sweet broth, then topped with roast pork, squares of pork crackling, bean sprouts and herbs.”

Goi ga la bap chuoi: “The main elements here are banana blossoms and chicken, tossed with peanuts, mint and dried shallots, ringed with prawn crackers: crunchy, moist, fresh and full of bite.”

Mien loung: “A Hanoi speciality … a glass-noodle soup combining bean sprouts, a very light broth and fried eels.”

Foodie must-do list
  • Guidebook