Vietnam is often quoted to have some of the world’s best street food and there really is no doubt it is extremely tasty. There is such an abundance of choices as you stroll along the bustling streets of Hanoi and Saigon, or driving on a moto through the most rural of villages that we have put together our views on what must be sampled when you are in this wonderfully exciting country.
1. Pho Bo
Pho Bo is probably Vietnam’s no.1 street food in its popularity inside and outside of the country. It originated in Vietnam’s north but has been enjoyed in the south for a long time. Some say there are two styles, northern and southern but as long as it has the three main ingredients, beef, soup and noodles, it is only personal preferences that may make a difference in finding your favourite Pho stand.
2. Banh Mi
So it is a rather well-known secret today that the best sandwich is not from some city in Europe or New York but in fact on the streets of Vietnam. A baguette is lightly grilled over coals before it is filled with mayonnaise or dairylea (not what you expect to find in Vietnam) and pate before you choose your meat, pickled vegetables and fresh herbs. It is a fusion sandwich, with an obvious link to the French when they ruled in the 20th century, along with xa xiu, the barbecued pork which has Chinese origins and the herbs and seasonings which are distinctively south-east Asian. They are sold almost only from stalls and vendors with some surrounded by tiny plastic stools, others are served to go wrapped in recycled paper. Everyone has their own slightly different build to their sandwich, but whichever meat, condiment or topping you go for they are all rated very highly in Vietnam’s street food choices.
3. Bun ca
This dish literally translated to noodle fish, with ‘Bun’ simply referring to rice vermicelli noodles, and ‘ca’ fish. There are plenty of variations of this breakfast noodle soup but particularly in northern Vietnam, dill is a popular ingredient which is used more like a vegetable here than a herb. The broth, made from fish and pork, is a reddish colour due to the tomatoes which are in fact used, not for the taste, but for the colour.
4. Pho cuon
Not to be confused with noodle soup pho, this is a mixture of minced beef and fresh herbs wrapped in fresh rice paper sheets. It is the rice sheets which are referred to by the word ‘cuon’. They are assembled to order and are dipped into nuoc cham (dipping sauce) which is laced with young papaya and chayote. These are a relatively new addition to Vietnam’s street food, but they are increasingly popular.
5. Xo Xeo
Xo xeo isn’t the most appealing of Vietnam’s street foods visually but it certainly gets you coming back once you have tried it. It is a hearty bowl of mashed mung beans along with turmeric – strained sticky rice, your meat of choice, from pâté to Chinese sausage, and a fried egg on top. All together it is a bit like a Vietnamese shepherd’s pie, and is often washed down with a glass of iced soya milk.
Xoi is sticky rice that is commonly had for breakfast to ensure you start the day with energy. Like Pho it is said there is a northern and southern style of Xoi. There are two types of sticky rice to choose from, either salty or sweet which can come in many different varieties. A popular choice for the sweet option is cooked corn mixed in with the sticky rice, mung beans and shallots on top and finished with sugar. A salty version contains rice with dried shrimp, green onion, chinese sausage and soy sauce.
7. Che Com
This is a tasty quick snack that you can pick up all over Vietnam. Sticky rice is flavoured with ginger and caramel and is then topped with either peanuts or cashews. It is incredibly dense and extremely filling, perfect to keep you going on a busy day sightseeing the country.
8. Papaya salad with pork liver
This salad has become less common but there are still certain places which are famous for this special dish. It is made from shreds of young papaya salad which is served in sour – sweet sauce and topped with Vietnamese basil, roasted peanuts, shrimp crackers and the most important ingredient, beef liver or lung that has been braised in an aromatic dark sweet sauces with different spices depending where you buy it from!