The bustling streets of Vietnam are lined with stalls and carts. When you step into them, you’ll dive headfirst into sizzling pans and fragrant spices wafting through the air. The streets hold flavorful Vietnamese street food that will surprise you and leave you craving more.
Let’s check out the exciting kaleidoscope of flavors and textures of the street food in Vietnam that cater to every palate and preferences. Whether you’re a carnivore craving succulent grilled meats or a vegetarian searching for herb-infused delights, Vietnam has something to offer you.
So, fasten your seatbelts, or should we say loosen that belt a bit, as we embark on a delicious adventure through the streets of Vietnam.
Most Popular Vietnamese Street Food
Banh Mi Xiu Mai (Vietnamese Meatball Sandwich)
This is the Vietnamese version of a meatball sandwich. The meatballs are made of ground pork, aromatic herbs and spices. The mixture is molded into balls and then carefully simmered in a rich tomato-based sauce. This creates a luscious, slightly sweet and savory concoction that serves as the heart and soul of the dish.
Once cooked, the meatballs are nestled within a crisp, French-inspired baguette with a medley of toppings and garnishes. This combination provides a perfect contrast between the tender meatballs and the crunchy exterior of the bread.
Street Food In Vietnam: A Taste Of Noodle Tradition
Pho (Traditional Vietnamese Noodle Soup)
In the bustling streets of Vietnam, there exists a culinary masterpiece that transcends borders and captivates tastebuds worldwide – the traditional Vietnamese food called pho.
Pho is a humble yet hearty broth made by patiently coaxing every ounce of flavor from beef bones, herbs and spices like star anise and cinnamon. This old craft is a favorite among Vietnamese street foods and soup enthusiasts.
Some locals customize the experience with hoisin sauce and sriracha (placed in separate dishes) to create the perfect balance of sweet, savory and spicy tastes. It is served at all times of day, and is, in fact, a popular breakfast food in Vietnam.
Bun Cha (Meatballs and Vermicelli Noodles)
Bun cha is a deceptively simple yet immensely satisfying dish. This Vietnamese street food is a succulent meatball crafted with a harmonious blend of minced pork, garlic, shallots and Vietnamese herbs and spices.
But the magic doesn’t end with the meatballs. It extends to the ensemble of a generous plate of vermicelli noodles adorned with fresh herbs like mint, cilantro and basil.
Crisp lettuce leaves and a rainbow of pickled vegetables add a refreshing crunch. Nuoc cham, a tangy dipping sauce combining water, sugar, lime juice and fish sauce, ties everything together with its sweet, sour and umami notes.
Banh Canh (Thick Noodle Soup)
At first glance, banh canh may appear unassuming. But beneath its unpretentious surface lies a delightful complexity that captures the essence of Vietnamese street food.
Banh canh is a thick and chewy noodle soup. The noodles are made from a combination of rice and tapioca flour. These mix gracefully in a broth that varies from seafood-infused lightness to the soul-warming richness of pork or crab.
Tender slices of meat – be it shrimp, pork or crab – float atop the noodles. Meanwhile, an array of fresh herbs, crisp bean sprouts and a squeeze of lime add brightness and texture to this Vietnamese food.
Mi Quang (Quang Noodles)
Mi quang is a beloved Vietnamese street food. Each corner of Central Vietnam, from Da Nang to Quang Nam, boasts its own interpretation of this dish.
It consists of wide rice noodles, typically tinted with the golden hue of turmeric. Slices of tender pork, shrimp or plump pieces of chicken nestle alongside fragrant herbs, fresh bean sprouts and crunchy rice crackers.
However, the pièce de résistance of mi quang is its broth. The soup that accompanies this noodle dish is rich, flavorful and often nuanced, with a depth achieved through simmering bones and spices for hours.
Bun Rieu (Vietnamese Crab Noodle Soup)
Bun rieu features a flavorful broth made with tomatoes, crab, shrimp paste or sometimes pork. It is served with rice vermicelli noodles and garnished with fresh herbs, bean sprouts and lime.
This Vietnamese street food is often enjoyed with optional additions. Tender chunks of crab, tofu, fried tofu puffs or shrimp can be tossed in to add depth to the seafood medley.
Depending on the region or personal preferences, people enjoy it with a squeeze of lime and a dash of fish sauce. So, you can customize bun rieu exactly to your liking.
Street Food In Vietnam: Sizzling Grill And Skewers
Bun Thit Nuong (Grilled Pork And Rice Noodles)
This iconic Vietnamese street food is a blend of grilled pork and rice vermicelli, which is deeply rooted in the heart of Vietnam.
Bun thit nuong starts with tender slices of marinated pork, perfectly grilled over open flames. This results in smoky, savory and slightly sweet notes that elevate this Vietnamese food to stardom.
It is drizzled generously with a zesty and sweet-tangy fish sauce dressing. Bun thit nuong transforms each bite into a burst of flavors, a harmonious blend of umami, citrus and just a hint of chili heat.
Nem Nuong Cuon (Grilled Spring Rolls)
Nem nuong cuon is a grilled spring roll often sizzling on open flames, primarily found in the bustling streets of Vietnam. So, these rolls have a smoky, charred essence.
Aside from its grill-kissed exterior, inside you’ll discover a juicy and flavorful mixture. The filling is crafted from seasoned ground pork and aromatic herbs, all lovingly wrapped in rice paper.
The magic of this Vietnamese street food unfolds with the first bite. Each mouthful creates a delightful contrast that dances on your taste buds. Because of this, it is among the tastiest of Vietnamese starters.
Tom Nuong (Grilled Marinated Shrimp)
Tom nuong is marinated shrimp grilled over charcoal. The marinade of this Vietnamese street food consists of lemongrass, garlic and fish sauce. This gives a fragrant and savory depth to the shrimp and captures the essence of the coast.
The shrimp undergoes a transformative journey when tom nuong is gently seared on the grill. The sauce – a tangy, sweet and sometimes spicy concoction – adds a zesty punch to the grilled seafood, enhancing its natural sweetness to a new height.
Com Ga Roti (Vietnamese Rotisserie Chicken)
Com ga roti is succulent, golden-brown chicken with crispy skin and a savory aroma that’s nothing short of irresistible.
This Vietnamese street food is all about the art of roasting chicken. The marinated chicken spins on a rotisserie to cook slowly until it achieves tender juicy perfection.
Although originally from Ho Chi Minh City, com ga roti draws inspiration from Western rotisserie chicken traditions. A touch of French and American culinary techniques in the heart of Vietnam, it is a harmonious fusion that captures the best of both worlds.
Street Food In Vietnam: Rice Wonders
Com Ga Hoi An (Chicken Rice)
Com ga Hoi An is a tender poached chicken infused with aromatic herbs and spices. It is a beloved Vietnamese street food classic often referred to as Hoi An chicken rice.
What levels up this Vietnamese street food is turmeric. The spice imparts a subtle fragrance and a golden hue to the rice.
It is often served with garnishes and accompaniments, including fresh herbs like mint and cilantro, crisp cucumber slices and a sweet and savory fish sauce-based dressing. Each element contributes to a harmonious blend of flavors and textures.
Banh Cuon (Vietnamese Rice Rolls)
This Vietnamese street food is a roll that’s as much a visual masterpiece as a culinary one. Banh cuon starts with a mixture of minced pork and wood ear mushrooms. This is seasoned with fragrant herbs, prawns and shrimp and then carefully enveloped with thin, delicate and translucent rice paper.
The banh cuon filling is steamed to perfection. This cooking method helps the dish maintain its soft and slightly chewy character that offers a gentle contrast to the savory filling.
Com Hen (Baby Basket Clam Rice)
Com hen is a dish of delicate baby basket clam with steamed rice on the side. It is accompanied by fresh herbs like mint, cilantro and basil, adding a burst of vibrant greenery.
Locals also add crushed peanuts, thinly sliced banana flowers and crunchy water spinach to provide a delightful crunch and contrast in textures.
What makes this Vietnamese street food mouthwatering is the fragrant simmering clam juices which is often flavored with lemongrass, chilies and herbs. This sweet and savory broth binds the entire dish together, adding depth and complexity to each spoonful.
Street Food In Vietnam: Sweet Temptations
Che (Vietnamese Sweet Beverage)
Amid the whirlwind of savory Vietnamese street foods, there’s a sweet refuge that captures the heart and palate of locals and travelers alike – che. It’s a soup-like dessert or beverage that takes on many forms and flavors.
Che may include mung beans, black-eyed peas, sticky rice, fruits and jelly. All of these are suspended in a fragrant pool of coconut milk or sweetened water. Each spoonful is a tasty and harmonious blend of creamy, chewy and sometimes crunchy elements.
There are countless variations across Vietnam’s regions, each with unique ingredients and preparation methods. From che ba ba in the south, featuring a medley of tubers and fruits, to che sen, which has lotus seeds, to che troi nuoc with its sweet glutinous rice dumplings floating in ginger syrup, there’s a che to suit every sweet tooth and craving.
Chuoi Nuong (Grilled Banana)
One humble Vietnamese street food stands out as a sweet embrace of nature’s bounty. Chuoi nuong is a ripe, firm, yet tender grilled banana carefully skewered before being cooked over an open flame.
The heat lovingly caresses the skin and gradually caramelizes the natural sugars within. The result is a golden-brown banana with a slightly crisp exterior that gives way to a warm, melt-in-your-mouth sweetness.
You’ll find chuoi nuong being sold by street vendors and in local markets, beckoning with their enticing aroma. One of the most popular snacks in Vietnam, chuoi nuong is served with creamy coconut milk and some crunchy sesame or peanuts as garnish.
Banh Pia (Vietnamese Cake)
This Vietnamese street food is often cherished as a souvenir and enjoyed as a treat. Banh Pia features a crispy, buttery exterior and a smooth, sweet interior.
The cake has a flaky and thin pastry shell that yields to the slightest touch. Within the pastry is a filling traditionally made with sweet mung bean paste or other variations like lotus seed, durian and even green tea.
At first bite, this Vietnamese food shatters delicately, giving way to the rich, velvety filling within.
Banh Cam (Fried Sesame Balls)
At the heart of banh cam lies a filling made from sweet mung bean paste, often delicately flavored with fragrant ingredients like pandan leaves. The luscious center is enveloped in a coat of glutinous rice flour dough, creating a sphere of delicious anticipation.
But what sets this Vietnamese street food apart is the exterior transformation that occurs through deep frying. As these dough-coated balls dip in bubbling oil, the once-soft dough turns into a crispy, golden shell that shatters with a satisfying crunch on the first bite.
The exterior is then coated in a generous layer of sesame seeds, adding a delightful nutty flavor and creating a textural contrast to the creamy filling within.
Banh Khoai (Vietnamese Sweet Potato Pancake)
Banh khoai is a Vietnamese street food with a batter crafted from a mixture of rice flour, water and turmeric. Adding grated sweet potatoes to the mix is when the real magic happens. This version infuses the batter with a natural sweetness and a satisfying earthiness.
The batter ladled onto a sizzling hot skillet creates a large, thin pancake that crisps up beautifully around the edges. This results in a crispy and chewy texture, offering a contrast that engages your taste buds with every bite.
More than the batter, the magic of banh khoai continues with the dish’s choice of toppings. Fillings like shrimp, pork belly, bean sprouts and fresh herbs are delightfully tucked between the folded pancake.
Street Foods In Vietnam: Light and Fresh Options
Goi Du Du (Spicy Green Papaya Salad)
Goi du du is a flavorful salad that features shredded unripe green papaya and carrot, crushed peanuts and thin slices of beef jerky. It’s a classic Vietnamese street food that balances cooling papaya with warming spices.
Fresh herbs like mint and cilantro add a refreshing touch. But its the spicy, sour, and sweet dressing made with lime juice, fish sauce, chilies, garlic, and sugar that makes the whole dish come together beautifully. The result is an explosion of bright, crunchy textures and flavors.
Goi Cuon (Vietnamese Spring Roll)
Goi cuon, or Vietnamese fresh spring rolls, are a healthy appetizer featuring thinly sliced vegetables wrapped tightly in delicate rice paper. Fillings vary but often include fresh herbs like mint and cilantro, vermicelli noodles, sliced cucumber, lettuce, shredded carrot and pork or shrimp.
They are dipped in nuoc cham, a sweet and tangy dipping sauce spiked with chili. Goi cuon is served cold and fresh. The crisp and chewy rice paper contrasts with the cool, lively fillings inside.
FLAVORS AROUND THE WORLD
Explore More Vietnamese Street Food
In different corners of Vietnam, street food is more than just sustenance. The country promises delicious and unique sets of flavors that are a testament to culinary craftsmanship. From the calming taste of pho to the sweet temptations of banh cam, these street foods are to die for.
If you wish to embark on a culinary voyage through Vietnamese street foods, remember that you’re not just enjoying a meal. You’re celebrating the nation’s culinary heritage and indulging in the unforgettable memory of Vietnamese cuisine.