THE CULTURE OF VIETNAMESE STREET FOOD
Image: Street Food Vendor, Hoi An
Vietnam is a food lover’s playground. A country so into its cuisine that before it chased off all its occupational and colonial invaders; it stole their best recipes and a fair few cooking techniques. All this designer grub then got pulled apart and painstakingly ‘paired’ with fresh, locally available ingredients over the generations by Vietnamese street food fusionistas. With an ever-increasing trend towards culinary adventures, street food tours and cooking classes countrywide; there has never been a better time to familiarise yourself with the Vietnamese squat and head kerb-side
Negotiating the cultural maze of these vendors solo in my first few months in Vietnam; let’s just say I got rather over familiar with the Vietnamese squat. That old chestnut “busy is best” can lead you down an uncomfortable path of bowls that brimeth with the kind of offal that takes real guts to tackle. For the culinarily curious, the easiest way to discover Vietnam’s choicest fare is to go guided. To discover Hanoi’s Northern soul try Ha Noi Street Food Tours who are not shy of sharing the city’s secret ‘hot pots’ with a good measure of history, humour and vendor interaction. For a bit of nocturnal back alley adventure in Saigon, you can eat (and drink) street on an After Dark Vespa tour – following in the tread marks of the Ho Chi Minh City cool set.
Should you need a little tastebud tantalising to make the seating downsize to a footstool on the boulevard – these are my top five recommendations for a conical hat interlude at one of the many street kitchens around.
Pull Up A Stool
Image: Bun Cha, Little Menu, Hoi An
Bun Cha on the banks of the West Lake Hanoi. Every afternoon the bun cha ladies smoke up their barbeques and slowly grill deliciously fragrant pork patties, whilst crisping up pork belly to a melt-in-the-mouth status, before serving with a side of bun noodles and crispy greens. Sold?
Image: Pho, Ha Noi
Phở 49 Bát Đàn serves traditional Ha Noi pho from a small shop in the old quarter. The pho here is quite possibly the best we've ever tasted and maintains a nearly perfect ratio of meat to veggies. The broth is phenomenal, and the charming “Vietnamese aunts” who construct each bowl win almost as much praise.
Pho, 49 Bat Dan Rd, Ha Noi 5am-8am
Image: Side Street Seafood Barbeque
Grilled clams Central Coastal beach streets. Having searched the country for better, I’ve not yet found a match for Lien Ca's clam royale; fresh juicy clams marinated with a drizzle of chicken stock, soy, chilli and chives, smashed open and slowly barbequed over smoky coals. Lien Ca, An Bang Beach, Hoi An, Central Vietnam.
Image: Banh Mi Thit Nuong, Hoi An
They say Hoi An does the best banh mi, but we think it's only a fair comparison if you have sampled at least one-a-day from north to south.
In Saigon try the roast duck offered by Banh Mi Nong Tuan (109 Pasteur) and in Ha Noi: the doner kebab.