Street Food

During the planning stages of my expatriation to Vietnam, whenever anyone spoke of the local street food, all that came to my mind was phở. And that was only because I once went to a Vietnamese restaurant on a visit down to London. People used to give me varying accounts of Vietnamese street food; some strictly warned me off the stuff, others said it was the best food they’d ever experienced. I honestly had no idea what to expect.

I have since learned that Vietnamese street food is amongst some of the tastiest (and cheapest!) food that I’ve ever had the pleasure of eating. Granted, this is after numerous bouts of food poisoning and 2 trips to the local hospital, but what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, right? Vietnamese street food has to be approached with caution, but the moment you find that one vendor who practises proper food hygiene (ie: who doesn’t sharpen their knives on the curb), you just know you’re onto a winner.

Here are some of the local delights that have been tantalising my taste buds over the past 2 years:

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Cơm Tấm (Broken Rice)

This is my go-to lunch option, although the locals actually tend to eat it for breakfast. The broken rice is generally served with a BBQ’d pork chop and an optional egg. I tend to forgo the egg (despite the misleading photo). It’s usually served with an assortment of boiled vegetables and a small bag of fish sauce, which is delicious on the proviso you ignore what it’s made from and instead trick yourself into believing it’s just sweet chilli sauce. This particular cơm tấm came with some diced pork crackling sprinkled on top.

Price: 25,000vnd (£0.74)

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Bánh Cay (spicy cakes)

These little tykes have led to the demise of my ‘diet’ since a lovely local lady set up shop just outside my school. Now, a day rarely goes by where I don’t pick up a small bag. They taste just like Aunt Bessie’s roast potatoes, with the addition of a generous sprinkling of chilli. They’re deep-fried dough balls and are quite frankly heaven-on-earth. MUST be accompanied with a glass of water though!

Price: 5,000 vnd (£0.15)

20131004_004116Mì Xào Bò (Beef Noodles)

This is a bit of a ‘cheat’ street food. The base consists of a serving of plain instant noodles tossed with morning glory. Shreds of beef are then sprinkled on top. It’s all served with a small bag of soy sauce (which I give or take depending on my mood). This is a late night snack option, with the convenience of a 24/7 vendor just outside my apartment block.

Price: 22,000vnd (£0.65)

20131005_113248

Bánh Mì Gà Nướng (Chicken Baked Bread)

OK, this isn’t strictly a Vietnamese dish, but it is still purchased from a street vendor. This is a glorified chicken kebab, served on toasted pita and accompanied with salad and the BEST garlic mayonnaise I’ve ever tasted. This is definitely the guilty pleasure.

Price: 25,000vnd (£0.74)

DSC05193

Gỏi Cuốn (Fresh Spring Rolls)

I know this photo doesn’t look like street food, but it didn’t look quite as presentable sprawled inside a plastic bag. Fresh spring rolls are a travellers favourite in Vietnam; they make a great DIY experience. They usually consist of a couple of prawns, some processed pork slices and a whole smattering of leafy bits (coriander, mint etc). They can be served with a variety of dipping sauces, but my favourite is definitely the one photographed; a satay sauce with peanuts.

Price: 15,000vnd (£0.44)

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Bánh Mì (Bread)

Who can forget the reliable bánh mì? Not the greatest of photos, but the dish speaks for itself. A Vietnamese sandwich served on a warm baguette.  The filling can be questionable at times, some vendors enjoy adding a bit of pig brains into the mix. Therefore, I’ve learnt to visit the vendors who allow you to choose your own filling. Chicken, pork, paté and salad is a firm favourite. Although you can’t go wrong with the simple cream cheese and cucumber ones they also offer.

Price: 12,000vnd (£0.35)

IMG_2570Phở (Noodle Soup)

No Vietnamese street food list would be complete without the infamous phở. Honestly, it’s not my favourite of the local dishes, and I often end up just slurping the broth and leaving the rest. Regardless, it’s still the country’s national dish. Phở comes with a variety of meats, depending on your vendor. This particular bowl was purchased at Ben Thanh Market and included just beef. Other local soup dishes include: Bún Bò Huế and Hủ Tiếu (all much of a muchness if I’m honest).

Price: 15,000vnd (£0.44)

DSC07117Xôi Mặn (Salty Sticky Rice) *Dodgy translation*

I’d be lying if I said these next two dishes were a firm favourite. I’ve eaten xôi mặn once and while it was OK, it didn’t really blow me away. The dish consists of a bed of sticky rice mixed with a creamy mayonnaise-like sauce, topped with a spoonful of paté and slices of processed beef. Like the cơm tấm, a sprinkling of pork crackling shavings garnished the meal.

Price: 13,000vnd (£0.38)

20131002_071338Bánh Cuốn (Rice Paper Rolls)

Another one timer, but very delicious nonetheless. These are rice paper rolls stuffed with mushrooms and beef. They have a similar consistency as the fresh spring rolls but are served with rice noodles and additional meat slices. As usual, plenty of herbs decorate the dish.

Price: 25,000vnd (£0.74)

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Bún Thịt Nướng (Noodles with Grilled Meat)

Definitely a strong contender for the top spot. Noodles. BBQ’d pork. Fried Spring Rolls. What’s not to like?! This is another dish that’s accompanied with the wonderful fish sauce. But don’t let that put you off, it really is just so delicious. (*EDIT* Thanks to one of my Reddit readers for pointing out that I’d missed this little gem)

Price: 22,000vnd (£0.65)

Obviously, this isn’t a definitive list and I’d love to hear from anyone who has any other favourites that they feel should be added to the list!

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27 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. tarynnicole
    Oct 07, 2013 @ 15:42:30

    These are making my mouth water! Delicious! xx

    Reply

  2. noelleisme
    Oct 07, 2013 @ 16:00:38

    It’s surprising me that you are in ❤ with their street food ^^
    Some foreigners said they prefer restaurant to street food cos they just wanted to protect their tums 😦 But they didn't know that street food is our best taste 😉 It can be found easily and we can enjoy it everywhere! I thought foreigners had better to discover the world's street food 😀
    Thanks for sharing your mind.

    Reply

    • kerril29
      Oct 07, 2013 @ 21:23:35

      I can understand why foreigners are afraid of street food, and I have been sick many times myself! It’s just about using your common sense and choosing food from clean looking vendors! Thanks so much for commenting 🙂

      Reply

      • noelleisme
        Oct 08, 2013 @ 14:24:05

        Some famous restaurant without signboard out there, the quality of them are much better than some new restaurant which copied the same recipe but using cheap and toxic additive to let the food look more eye-catching, and they sell them cheaper than others! Be careful with them, choose the good ones 😀 I wish you could understand Vie so you can get the suggestion from the AddSaigon, Địa Chỉ Sài Gòn and some FB page that suggests the best restaurant for everybody ^^

  3. noelleisme
    Oct 07, 2013 @ 16:01:34

    Reblogged this on Psycho Noelle and commented:
    Let me know what you think about our street food ^^

    Reply

  4. cornishkylie
    Oct 07, 2013 @ 16:40:48

    Looks yummy! I am a firm fan of street food here in Thailand – so many people are afraid of going anywhere near it but like you said, using your common sense and judgement can lead to some delicious and cheap discoveries!

    Reply

  5. Jane
    Oct 07, 2013 @ 21:24:51

    I loved ALL of the food in Vietnam, especially Pho, Cao Lao and their spring rolls! Ahhh I am so sad that I won’t be able to get anything half as good or anywhere near as cheap back home! 😦

    Reply

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  7. geanieroake
    Oct 09, 2013 @ 07:00:50

    Wow, there’s a Vietnamese restaurant not far from me. I think I’ll have to check it out. Fun blog, glad I found you!

    Reply

    • kerril29
      Oct 09, 2013 @ 07:19:51

      Thanks so much for your comment, so glad you’re enjoying my blog 🙂 you should definitely try out some Vietnamese food – be sure to let me know what you think!

      Reply

  8. linda
    Oct 10, 2013 @ 02:06:48

    Yum yum yum!!!……..WOW!! That looks good and tasty.

    Reply

  9. Ken W. Simpson
    Oct 14, 2013 @ 13:02:08

    Trial by terror! One bacteria infection and stay in Hanoi hospital on saline drips was enough for me. I admire your fortitude.

    Reply

    • kerril29
      Oct 14, 2013 @ 13:09:11

      Ah, I’ve been there my friend! I’d like to say that I’m glad I stuck it out, but I think my stomach would beg to differ! Thanks for the comment 🙂

      Reply

  10. herdailydigest
    Oct 16, 2013 @ 15:35:53

    Mi Xao Bo! Yum! 🙂

    Reply

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  12. jettfrogg
    Oct 16, 2013 @ 20:33:31

    Those look amazing! we actually just booked a trip to Saigon for next April. Can’t wait!

    Reply

  13. richardhartjacksonart
    Oct 19, 2013 @ 02:35:37

    My favourite is a banh mi thit nuong (grilled pork). Hoi An, in particular is a banh mi paradise!

    Reply

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  15. amie
    Nov 05, 2013 @ 09:05:34

    loved this post.

    Reply

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