Vietnamese streets have an incredible variety of food for visitors. Trying Vietnamese street foods gives visitors the opportunity to taste the complexity of flavors arising from the most fresh and simple ingredients used by the vendors. Regardless of the time and the place, there are people preparing food for their customers. While walking through these streets, your sense of smell will definitely catch the wonderful aromas of street food.
Most foreigners have reservations about trying street food because of hygiene and safety concerns. However, when you eat where the locals eat and see the food being prepared, you should be safe. For the adventurous individuals, the following is a list of Vietnamese street foods you can find while strolling Vietnam.
1. Bánh Tiêu
Bánh Tiêu means “Hollow doughnuts“. This tasty snack is prepared using flour and sesame seeds. Some street food vendors may opt to stuff rice cakes (Bánh bò hấp) in the snack’s hollow center. Essentially, the doughnut should be slightly sweet, crunchy, round and light. It goes without saying that the center should be hollow. Bánh Tiêu goes well with a cup of hot coffee or tea. People carry it on their head in a large basket, around the park which is near Notre Dame Cathedral in District 1 or on the sidewalks nearby.
2. Bánh Tráng Trộn
Bánh tráng trộn ranks as one of the best Vietnamese street foods. Although most street foods in Vietnam are sold from rolling metal carts or from “hole in the wall” joints, bánh tráng trộn is sold exclusively by women donning conical hats, in heavy baskets they carry on their shoulders. The best bánh tráng trộn vendors usually have hordes of customers crouching around them waiting to buy their share.
The dish uses a base of rice paper (bánh tráng). These are cut into strips and are always kept very dry. A packet of flavoring condiments like chili powder is added to the strips. Fresh Vietnamese coriander is added into the mix, followed by sour calamansi juice and boiled quail eggs. The ingredients are then mixed by hand and served in a plastic bag with a pair of skewers for chopsticks.
3. Bánh Mì
This baguette sandwich is a staple of the Vietnamese street food scene. Very popular, it can be found in any streets or alleys of Saigon. Bánh mì is perfect for individuals on the go. Street vendors normally sell Bánh mì from labelled carts. The baguettes filled carts are easy to spot. Bánh mì can be taken with a variety of fillings like thịt nguội (ham), chả lụa (vietnamese ham) or trứng chiên (omelet). For the venturous eaters, the cart special known as the bánh mì đặc biệt should do.
For the special, the vendor will ask you to pick a filling and then begin the art of preparing Bánh mì. They first break the bread and spread mayonnaise in it. A thick pate coating of chicken or duck liver is also smeared in the bread. Fresh herbs, pickled daikon, pickled carrots and cucumbers are then added. The filling you opted for is then added with a dash of hot sauce or chili and soy sauce. Visitors can find this meal at the Bánh mì Stall in District
1’s 37 Nguyen Trai or at the Banh Mi Huynh Hoa, also at District 1’s 26 Le Thi Rieng Street.
4. Bánh chuối
Bánh chuối is a Vietnamese bread pudding or banana cake. Although its ingredients vary from vendor to vendor, the main ingredients are bananas, coconut milk, white bread, eggs, coconut milk, condensed milk, sugar, butter, vanilla extracts and shredded young coconut. This popular Vietnamese street food has several variants: Bánh chuối nướng, which is baked in an oven, Bánh chuối hấp, which has rice starch added and then steamed, Bánh chuối khoai – this has slices of sweet potatoes added to it; and finally, the Bánh chuối chiên which is served as a flattened banana. Sounds good enough?
Trying some street food is one the best experiences when travelling to another country. It is safe to try some wonderful Vietnamese street food as you will notice that most street-sellers often wear plastic gloves when handling your food. A tip that most Vietnamese foodies use when looking for street-food is to follow the crowd: if a street-food spot is crowded, it must be delicious, and you should perhaps join said crowd to have a try as well.
About the author
Jane Smith is a travel blogger based in Vietnam, a country she now calls home. She’s also a motorbike tour guide where she shares her passion for Vietnam and Vietnamese street-food.