Tips to Eating Street Foods in Vietnam

Vietnam is known for its delicious food and the best way to enjoy authentic Vietnamese food is from the various street food stalls all over the country. However, for first-time visitors to the country, eating street foods might be something that you are hesitant to try. There are just so many of them and you won’t find any English menu that will tell you what these foods are or what they are made from. Also, most of the street food vendors have limited English so communication might be a challenge. To help you with, here are some tips to eating street foods in Vietnam.

1. Familiarize Yourself with the Different Street Food Dishes

First of all, do a bit of research on some of the most popular street food dishes in Vietnam. Find out what they look like so it will be easier for you to identify them once you arrive at the country. Pho is the most popular one, a rice noodle soup that you’ll find in various street food stalls all over the country. Other popular dishes to try are Banh mi (baguette sandwich), Gỏi cuốn or Chả giò (spring rolls), Gỏi khô bò (spicy green papaya salad), and Bánh tráng trộn (rice paper salad).

2. Eat at the Right Time

Most of the street food stalls are open during the prime eating hours. They are open from 7 AM to 8 AM for breakfast, 11:30 AM to 1 PM for lunch, and 5 PM – 7 PM for dinner. If you’ll visit the night markets, you’ll find that some of the food stalls open until late at night and even until midnight. Those stalls at the streets are “pop-ups”, which means they will close and leave once their selling time is over.

3. Sit on a Tiny Chair if Available

For a more comfortable way of eating street foods in Vietnam, look for those stalls that offer plastic tables and chairs for their customers. However, these chairs are so tiny that most westerners would struggle to fit themselves in. Nevertheless, sitting at these chairs is more comfortable than having to eat your hot bowl of Pho while standing.

4. Eat with Chopsticks on your Right Hand and Spoon on the Left

 

Once you have settled on your chair, it’s time to feast on your dish. Follow the locals and eat with chopsticks and spoon. If you’re eating Pho, twirl the noodles with the stick and use a spoon to scoop the soup. Then place the noodles on your spoon and slurp!

5. Add Chili, Fish Sauce, and Some Vegetables and Herbs

Pho Beef noodle soup eating with basil

You’ll find several condiments at the stalls where you will order your food so use them to make your dish even more flavorful. These consist of fish sauce, soy sauce, chili, vegetables, herbs, and many more. Don’t hesitate to ask for help from the vendor. Even with limited English, just by pointing at these condiments, they will understand what you are trying to ask and they might add the sauce and veggies themselves!

6. Finish Up your Meal with “Tra”

When eating at breakfast or lunch, the best way to finish your meal is with a glass of “tra”, a local green tea. You’ll find that most of the street food vendors will have a big pitcher of tra, which is free for all customers. So after eating your bowl of Pho, grab a glass and take some tra from the pitcher. At dinner, however, the best way to finish your meal is with a glass of local beer.

7. Don’t Pay More than $3 Per Person

Although most street food vendors are honest, there are a few that might charge you a bit for being a foreigner in Vietnam. Street foods in Vietnam are incredibly cheap and should not cost you more than $3 per meal. For instance, a bowl of Pho in Ho Chi Minh should cost you around 20,000 to 35000 VND or $1 to $1.65. Of course, this will also depend on the type of Pho that you will order, whether it’s vegetarian, beef, chicken, etc.

8. Go Where the Locals Eat

 

If you are not sure where to eat from the long line of food stalls on the street, observe where most of the locals go and follow them. Understandably, a stall that has lots of customers is known to sell high-quality and delicious food. Also, if the stall is often packed with customers, it could mean that the food is always fresh since it gets moved out too quickly.

9. Ask Help from the Locals

 

 

If you are still confused about certain things, don’t be afraid to ask for help or advice from the locals. Vietnamese locals are friendly and would not mind helping tourists who are visiting their country. If possible, approach the young workers or students who are most likely fluent in the English language. They can advise you on the best food to eat, what these foods are made of and which stall sells the most delicious foods!

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