In Vietnam, street food is everywhere. Early morning markets, roving vendors, and bustling sidewalk stalls all
trade in Vietnam’s famously mouthwatering cooking. There’s so much to taste. Wondering where to start? This handy guide will give you all the tools you need to navigate Vietnam’s street food scene like a pro.
To find the best food in Vietnam, eat when the locals do. In other words: eat early. Everything gets curiously quiet after Vietnam’s mealtimes are over, and it can be hard to find a satisfying option. On the other hand, eating together with the locals is guaranteed fun each time. Strike out just after sunrise for unforgettable bowls of piping hot noodles, hearty rice porridge, or sticky rice cakes dipped in peanuts. The areas near markets are prime spots for morning vendors who feed school children, market sellers, and locals heading to work. Vietnam’s lunch stalls open for business from 11:30am to 1pm. Look for the ever-reliable cơm bình dân: A choose-it-yourself eatery with an array of family-style dishes — fluffy omelette, garlicky greens, caramelised fish and roasted pork — laid out for display and heaped on plates of hot rice. (So good!)
Come 5pm, Vietnam’s restaurants and stalls begin spreading their stools on the sidewalk for the dinner crowd. The hours between 6pm and 8pm are your sweet spot for flaming hotpots, grilled seafood and barbecue sessions in the balmy evening air. The busier the stall, the more likely it’s worth the wait.
“TIP: Instead of soy sauce, the Vietnamese prefer a few drops of fish sauce to season their meals. There are countless grades and varieties of fish sauce, and it’s a staple of any kitchen."
Condiments are essential to the Vietnamese dining experience. On your table, there will often be a jar of light fish sauce, a jar of garlic and chili in vinegar, and perhaps a jam-like chili paste, freshly chopped chili, limes or calamansi, or even a pungent shrimp paste. All these are for you to customise the meal to your liking.
With noodle dishes, a side serving of herbs and leafy greens — mint, cilantro, basil and lettuce — comes free of charge. Fold these into the broth or toss with dry noodles for added crunch and aromatics. For rolls, a stack of rice paper and larger leaves for rolling and dipping is offered. Dipping sauces may range from tangy tamarind, to sweet-and-salty fish sauce to roasted peanut sauce. Your server will be happy to show you the right pairing..