Culture  A Foodie’s Guide to Vietnam - Where & What to Eat
05/09/201900:00 Delilah Hart


Vietnam is home to some of the freshest and most delicious culinary flavours in the world. Picture the clearest beef broth you’ve ever seen, deep-fried spring rolls piled high and possibly the best sandwiches you can find anywhere - and it all costs just pocket-change!
Vietnam truly is a melting pot of French, Chinese & Vietnamese cultures.  You will find dishes you’ve never tried before, and you’ll eat a baguette next to some spicy noodle soup. 
Vietnam does take a bit of getting used to, so before digging in, we’ll tell you how to find the best places to eat. 

How to Choose Where to Eat

Vietnam has earned a reputation for its food hygiene standards.  Everyone knows ‘that person’ who got food poisoning in Vietnam.

Vietnam doesn’t have strict food ratings or guidelines, so vendors have free reign to serve you what they wish, how they wish.
That doesn’t mean you will get sick - it just means you need to be smart about where you eat!  If you follow these tips I’m sure you’ll be fine.

1. Follow our advice
Our number one tip is to use TripAdvisor.  Not only will you avoid the dodgier vendors, but you’ll also be able to find some of the best restaurants in Vietnam. 

It is extremely common for amazing restaurants to be hidden down alleys and up staircases, so don’t expect to just stumble upon these places.  Check the top-rated eateries in the area, then make a beeline to the nearest one.

2. Use your senses
Look around.  If you see the staff following poor hygiene practices (such as meat left out or on the floor, flies, no gloves), then steer clear. 

Once you’ve ordered, you can still walk away - food is cheap enough in Vietnam.  If it tastes or smells like it could make you sick, you’ll find another place with the same dish just around the corner.

3. Watch the locals
The locals wouldn’t return to a restaurant or vendor if they got sick from them.  This is the best tip for eating street food.  If a vendor is harassing you to buy, then they aren’t busy enough and the food might be bad.  If a vendor is busy, has a line or a crowd, then this is a good sign.

4. Be careful with street food

Don’t write street food off entirely in Vietnam (some of it is amazing and super cheap!), but this is where it pays to be even more diligent.  Follow all the above rules and if you have any doubts just try somewhere else.  There is always another Banh Mi or Pho down the road.

Must-Try Dishes

1. Pho


We’re sure you’ve heard about pho before - it is probably the most world-famous Vietnamese dish out there.  And for a reason: it is the most common dish in Vietnam.
Pho is a clear soup broth served with soft rice noodles and either beef (pho bo) or chicken (pho ga).  It comes with a plate of fresh herbs, vegetables, chilli and lime for you to garnish how you desire.
It will be a bit of a change, but pho should be your go-to for breakfast - this is what the locals eat.  You can find it practically anywhere.


2. Cha Gio
Anything deep fried is delicious.  In this case, the Vietnamese took pork mince and wrapped it in rice paper before deep frying it.  And as you can imagine, it’s absolutely amazing!
A plate of this should be an appetiser to every meal.  Actually, it probably shouldn’t be - it’s pretty unhealthy.  But so, so worth it.

3. Goi Cuon
The healthy alternative to Cha Gio, and every bit as delicious. Goi Cuon is a fresh, cold spring roll where pork, prawns and fresh vegetables are wrapped in rice paper.  This is then served with a delicious dipping sauce.

4. Banh Mi
Vietnam was once a French colony, which did, in fact, lead to some interesting culture-shifts within the country. This includes the beautiful French architecture such as the Notre-Dame Cathedral which juxtaposes against the rest of the city. 
Aside from the architecture, the French brought baguettes.  The Vietnamese quickly started making sandwiches by adding processed meat, fresh vegetables and pate.  This is a pretty simple recipe, but the Vietnamese have had a long time to perfect it.
Today, you can find a banh mi almost anywhere in Vietnam, but it is worth scoping out the best ones (and not just going for the first street food vendor you see). 
Our top picks are Banh Mi Hoang Hoa which is one of the
best places to eat in Ho Chi Minh City, and Banh Mi Phuong in Hoi An with an unbelievable twist on the classic with cream cheese and chicken.

5. Bun Cha
Bun cha originates from Hanoi and it will absolutely blow your mind how delicious it is.

It comes with vermicelli noodles, vegetables and some fresh herbs.  The most important part is the grilled pork patties which are served in a delicious spicy and sour broth. You can mix it all together or add a bit to the soup at a time.
It probably makes sense to try it in Hanoi where it can be found all over the place, but our favourite place is Bun Cha 145 in Saigon.

6. Banh Xeo
Banh Xeo is a savoury pancake which looks more like an omelette.  You may be surprised to hear that eggs do not, in fact, feature in banh xeo at all.  It is a simple pancake made with rice flour, water and tumeric (giving it it’s trademark yellow colouring). 
This pancake is then fried on a high heat with a generous dose of oil or fat, which essentially shallow fries the pancake until it’s crispy.
Our favourite part about this dish is how it’s served and eaten.  You receive a Banh Xeo packed with fresh meat (typically prawns) and bean sprouts.  You then grab a large lettuce leaf, place a bit of your banh xeo inside the leaf alongside some fresh herbs. Finally, you dip it into a delicious fish sauce based dipping sauce.
It’s messy to eat, but you will devour every bit of it.

Follow Delilah on Instagram and visit her blog, Our Travel Mix.
Delilah is a traveler, writer and aspiring photographer. She has a seemingly endless bucket list of destinations from all around the world, but her favourite place is still Queenstown in her home country, New Zealand. Get inspired and follow her adventures on her travel blog, Our Travel Mix.

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