Street food in Vietnam

An amalgamation of history and culture, philosophy and geography, street food in Vietnam is one of the healthiest, tastiest, and most distinct cuisines in the world. And the best part? You just need to take a few steps outside your hotel to experience it. The Vietnam street food culture is almost inescapable, and for good reason too- why would anyone want to skip out on delicious food? From ten unmissable dishes to the vegetarians’ dilemma- we’ve got it all covered in our Street food in Vietnam guide. 

street food in vietnam Freshly prepared, astonishingly delicious- that’s street food in Vietnam for you.

10 Must-Haves in Vietnam

There’s no singular place offering the best street food in Vietnam, instead, it can be found across the country. Additionally, a country filled with so much regional diversity warrants a diversity in cuisine and dishes, and it can be overwhelming trying to pinpoint certain specialties you need to try. Our travel scouts did some research of their own, and after traversing through Vietnam, have come up with a list of 10 dishes that you can’t miss on your trip to Vietnam.

1. Pho 

Vietnam’s breakfast meal, pho consists of a beef or chicken-based broth, rice noodles, herbs and thinly sliced meats, served alongside condiments such as hoisin sauce, soy sauce, fish sauce, Sriracha, and chili paste, to flavor the broth.  Arguably Vietnam’s most famous dish known around the world, pho has several variations, most notably the northern pho bac (clearer broth, subtler flavours) and pho nam (murkier, with more veggies and spice) of the south. Pho is flavourful due to it being cooked for several hours and is served almost everywhere. But, it’s primary designation is as a breakfast meal. You can find the best, freshest pho in the morning hours, cooked for hours the previous night. 

Best Pho: Nothing matches the rich and tasty Pho broth at Pho 2000 in District 1 in Ho Chi Minh City. Yes, it has acquired fame only after President Clinton visited in 2000, and it isn’t the cheapest place to have Pho but it’s iconic, and certainly very yummy.

pho in vietnamese Grab a bite of the world-famous Pho in Vietnam, you’ll never get over how good it is!

2. Banh Mi

A legacy left behind by the French, banh mi refers to a baguette stuffed with sheer goodness and sold on the streets. After the French left Vietnam, their influence remained in the form of the wheat baguette, and this, combined with the veggies and meats of Vietnam, led to the creation of banh mi. This street food in Vietnam is one you can easily find. Nonetheless, you can head to ‘Banh Mi Phuong’ in Hoi An that got international attention after celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain called it the ‘best banh mi in the world’. Do note that due to the (well deserved) hype, the banh mi here is more expensive: about $2 each, whereas street banh mi is $1.50 for 2 sandwiches. 

Best Banh Mi: For a less hyped but equally yummy Banh Mi experience head to Banh Mi Huynh Hoa in Ho Chi Minh City. We challenge you to find a Banh Mi that is as stuffed with deliciousness as this one. 

banh mi in vietnam Nothing beats digging into a fresh Banh Mi with some beer to wash it down.

3. Goi Cuon (summer rolls)

These appetizing spring rolls have a mixture of pork, prawn, vegetables, rice vermicelli and other ingredients wrapped in Vietnamese rice paper. Goi cuon, believed to have originated from China, is seasonal and consumed during the spring, which is how it got its name. It makes for a fresh, light break when you’ve been indulging too much fried food. The vegetables used for the filling are generally from the new season’s fresh harvest, and the rice paper wrapping is translucent, making this not just a tasty, but also a pretty dish.

Best Goi Cuon: You can get spring rolls at any restaurant in Vietnam, but at Thanh Van in Can Tho you can roll your own with some locally famous Nem Nuong, grilled pork sausage, green banana, star fruit (carambola), cucumber and a riot of fresh herbs. Dip this delicious mix into some yummy peanut-and-something-else sauce and take your tastebuds on a journey.

goi cuon summer rolls in vietnam A delicious escape from fried food, Goi Cuon or summer rolls are a must-have in Vietnam.

4. Ban Xeo

Ban xeo is yet another staple of street food in Vietnam, found all over the country. Literally translated as ‘sizzling pancake’, ban xeo is thus named for the loud sizzling sound the rice batter makes when it is poured into the hot skillet. Normally a distinct yellow due to the use of turmeric in the batter, this crispy, chewy crepe is crammed with bean sprouts, shrimp, pork and mung beans. A must-try among street food in Vietnam.

Best Ban Xeo: The best Ban Xeo is had at a place where it’s made fresh and in front of your eyes like at Banh Xeo, Nem Cuon, Quay in the old quarter in Hanoi or at Banh Xeo 46A in Ho Chi Minh City. The first one is a ‘hole-in-the-wall’ kind of place and might only be for the adventurous among you but we guarantee, it’s really good! 

ban xeo , street food in vietnam If you hear a loud sizzle while on a stroll in Vietnam, follow the sound and buy some Ban Xeo!

5. Bun Bo Hue

Bun means noodles and bo means beef, but Bun Bo Hue is most often based on a pork-intensive stock, with small amounts of braised or raw beef added as a garnish. It also has a tinge of spice lent by the use of chillies. This is to be expected of food in central Vietnam. It is a part of the distinctive cuisine of Hue, the former capital of Vietnam and still known as the Imperial City. Naturally, it goes without saying that you’ll get the best bun bo hue in Hue itself. 

Best Bun Bo Hue: You can find multiple equally good restaurants next to each other on Ly Thuong Kiet Street close to the river. Just choose the one that has a free table left!

bun bo hue, vietnamese food Like the name says, head to Hue for the best bun bo hue in Vietnam. Image Credit: Alpha

6. Bun Bo Nam Bo

Bun bo nam bo, heroing beef, is a rice vermicelli noodle dish. It is served with stir-fried marinated beef, bean sprouts, roasted peanuts, fried shallots, fresh herbs, pickled papaya and carrot. Bun Bo Nam Bo is different from other types of noodles that have a broth. It needs a special kind of sweet and sour fish sauce that lends a unique flavour to it. 

Best Bun Bo Nam Bo: Without question, you’ll get the best at Bun Bo Nam Bo Bach Phuong in Hanoi. Good luck finding a table, the wait is worth it! 

bun bo nam bo, street food in vietnam The mouthwatering bun bo nam bo is found all over Vietnam. Image Credit: Guihem Vellut

7. Bun Cha

Originating in capital-city Hanoi, bun cha is a simple yet delicious dish. It consists of a plate of vermicelli (the bun) and a bowl of broth with grilled/barbequed pork. A basket of fresh greens accompanies it. The tantalising sweet and sour broth is a mixture of fish sauce, vinegar, and sugar. Look out for this dish when in Hanoi.

Best Bun Cha: Have it at Bun Cha Dac Kiem – big bowl, tasty sauce, great meat! You know a place is good if both Anthony Bourdain and Barack Obama have endorsed it.

bun cha, vietnamese cuisine The amazing Bun-Cha originated in Vietnamese capital Hanoi.

8. Cao Lau 

Chewy noodles served with pork, crisp greens, crunchy croutons and bean sprouts sounds like just another Vietnamese soup. But this Hoi An specialty is a mystery closely guarded by a few families. The noodles and croutons, made from dried cao lau noodles, have a recipe known only to a few. Additionally, legend has it water for the noodles comes from one special well. It is then mixed with a specific type of ash from a certain tree in Hoi An to create a lye solution. Shrouded in mystery, this dish is a Hoi An specialty and one of its kind, a definite highlight to our list of eating street food in Vietnam.

Best Cao Lau: There is only one city to have Cao Lau and that’s Hoi An. Many restaurants or street food stalls offer it. Since the noodles are made from one consistent recipe the flavour doesn’t change much.  We particularly liked Cafe Cao Lầu Không Gian Xanh or Quán Ăn Ty Ty

cao lau, vietnamese food Cau Lau is not authentic unless it’s eaten in Hoi An. Image Credit: The best Vietnamese food

9. Banh Bao

Yet another Chinese influence, Banh bao literally mean “enveloping cake”. It is a dumpling stuffed with pork or chicken meat, onions, eggs, mushrooms and vegetables. Some variations also have Chinese sausage inside. The dumplings are steamed, and accompanied with a topping of shallots and a tangy dipping sauce in restaurants.

Best Banh Bao: This is a difficult one as you get Banh Bao as a fast snack at literally every corner – it’s like the hot dog for Americans or the samosa for Indians. But we definitely recommend having it in South Vietnam, where we found it tasted the best! 

banh bao, street food in vietnam The soft Banh bao dumplings are best savoured in South Vietnam. Image Credit: Savoury Days

10. Hot Pot

A hot pot is a simmering pot of soup on a portable burner, surrounded with a whole range of ingredients. Rice vermicelli, pig’s heart, liver and kidneys, goat meat, eel, shallots and vegetables, river fish or chicken, clams, mussels, snails, you name it, you’ll find them all here. It is a great communal meal to bond over. People pop things in, scoop them out, share in the meal and generally have a good time. Hot pots can be found in most major metropoles of Vietnam. They’re a fun way of introducing children to the various elements of Vietnamese cuisine. A definite highlight of street food in Vietnam.

Best Hot Pot: Nothing can beat a street-style Hot Pot on a cold winter day in Hanoi. Check out Bum, just north of the Old Quarter for some delicious meat or seafood Hot Pot.

hot pot in vietnam, vietnam street food A hot pot is a great way to bond over a homely meal!

Additional tips

We must warn you, several places with the most delicious food are not high up on the aesthetics scale. However, Vietnamese dishes have hot broths and fresh cuts of meat, killing away any possible germs. So don’t let the makeshift stalls and narrow lanes get in the way. Additionally, the herbs and vegetables used are fresh, and if anything, add a wonderful lightness and crunch to the meal. One of the places you can find rows of stalls selling amazing food is at traditional open-air markets. Here, women run most of the stalls. Grab a seat on a small chair at a table, and prepare for some delicious food! We also recommend eating at stalls that locals can be seen flocking to, irrespective of how the stall may look. A crowd is a sign that the food there is good and many guests mean the food is always fresh.

street food in vietnam, vietnamese cuisine Head to the traditional open-air markets for some fresh street food.

Vegetarian street food in Vietnam

The only other drawback to Vietnamese food is that it gets a bit cumbersome for vegetarians and vegans. Many Vietnamese meals incorporate beef, pork or chicken. But familiarize yourself with the word “chay”, ‘vegetarian’ in Vietnamese, and you’re good to go. Apart from saying it when you go to a stall, several stalls will have ‘chay’ written on a sign. Say it flat and evenly without intonation while pointing to the dish you would like to have. Similarly for the vegans, “toi khong an” means “I don’t eat”, so follow it up with: sua (milk), bo (butter), trung (eggs), nuoc mam (fish sauce), or pho mai (cheese). Almost all dishes have vegetarian variations, and Vietnam has an array of fruits that everyone should try. This gives you enough to get by so you have nothing to worry about.

fresh fruits in vietnam Vietnam is an absolute paradise for fruits, which are all easily available and cheap as well.


A foodie paradise, light on the pocket, and soul-stirring, street food in Vietnam is an experience you must not miss. Major cities have their share of fine-dine restaurants offering western or continental cuisine alongside Vietnamese cuisine, but often, the meals there are twisted to suit more sensitive palettes, and they lose their authenticity. Additionally, the price of street food in Vietnam is the least of your worries, as it is all affordable. We fully recommend embracing the adventure that is street food. Once its done, you’ll never see food the same way again.


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