What’s a visit to a new country without immersing yourself in the local cuisine. The fantastic street food of Vietnam is a great way to do this, as well as understand the various cultural influences have come together to create this gastronomic extravaganza.
From the lip smacking Pho (that everyone struggles to pronounce) to the French inspired Banh Mi, Vietnamese food continues to be exciting, colourful, and packed with flavours. And having it cooked fresh in the streets at unbelievable prices is what lends the extra zing to Vietnamese street food. On your next visit to this Southeast Asian country, take your adventures to the streets and explore these amazing dishes of Vietnamese street food. Let’s exploce Street Food in Vietnam – A Guide to a Delicious below.
Street Food in Vietnam – A Guide to a Delicious
Similar to the American burger patty, bun cha are char grilled pork patties served with rice vermicelli noodles and herbs. The primary taste comes from a fish sauce broth which is admittedly an acquired taste. It is often joined by a side dish called nem cua be (crab spring rolls). Bun cha is believed to be a Vietnamese street food originating in Hanoi.
The restaurants Bun Cha 34 and Dac Kim in Hanoi are particularly popular. Outside this city, a variant meat dish called bun thit nuong or bun bon am bo is made with beef, peanuts and shallots. This dish reached international popularity when it was eaten by former US President Barack Obama and renowned chef Anthony Bourdain during a trip to Vietnam.
Rau Cang Cua
Because of Vietnam’s location near the South China Sea and the Gulf of Thailand, shellfish is a prominent feature of Vietnamese cuisine. Rau Cang Cua is a dish made of crabs or sometimes snails. They are grilled over a barbeque, salted, sprinkled with lime and chilli, and sometimes served with a caramelisation of pork fat.
The dish has a peppery taste from the claw herb plant that is prominent in this leafy salad. Rau Cang Cua is one of the easiest and quickest preparations among the street food in Vietnam, and is an explosion of flavour on your taste buds.
Goi Cuon, a Vietnamese spring roll common in restaurants and street food stalls. Translating to ‘salad rolls’ or ‘summer rolls’, Goi Cuon are essentially translucent Vietnamese spring rolls. They are made with Vietnamese rice paper called Banh Trang. They come in vegetarian and non vegetarian variations with fillings like mung bean, tofu, egg, squid, fish, crab, beef or pork.
They are fried in the north and are called nem ran while they are slow boiled in the south and are called cha gio. Goi cuon is eaten with a fish or peanut sauce. It is usually an appetizer at Vietnamese restaurants but can be found as a quick snack in Vietnamese street food stalls as well.
Bun Thit Nuong
As described, bun thịt nuong is a popular Vietnamese dish similar to bun cha. It consists of cold rice vermicelli noodles topped with charcoal-grilled pork, fresh greens, and herbs like basil, perilla, and mint. It’s garnished with pickled daikon and carrots, roasted peanuts, and chopped green onions before being drizzled with nuoc mam pha.
Like bun cha, there’s a good balance of flavor and texture in bun thit nuong that’s easy on the palate. You have smokey pork, sour and crunchy pickled vegetables, fresh greens, peanuts, and a sweet savory fish sauce dressing over a bed of cold sticky rice vermicelli noodles. Unless you don’t eat meat, it’s hard to imagine anyone not liking this dish.
Like cao lau, mi quang is a specialty of Quang Nam Province. A quintessential Da Nang food, what cao lau is to Hoi An, mi quang is to Da Nang. Mi quang is a rice noodle dish made with chicken (or pork) broth topped with a host of proteins from chicken to shrimp to snakehead fish. It’s served with a bowl of fresh greens and herbs along with a few condiments. Unlike cao lau that’s served dry, mi quang is a slightly soupier dish made with a wider type of rice noodle. Its stock is made by simmering meat (typically chicken or pork) in water or bone broth before seasoning with black pepper, fish sauce, shallots, and cu nen a pungent, garlic type vegetable.
The simmering process creates a concentrated broth that’s more intense in flavor than a traditional noodle soup. The broth is then ladled about 1-2 cm deep into a bowl of noodles topped with different proteins like pork, shrimp, and hard boiled quail eggs. It’s typically garnished with crushed peanuts, green onions, and chili, and served with fresh herbs, a rice cracker, whole green chilis, and lime.