KERB APPEAL: 

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.

 

Banh Mi Wars
Phuong Banh Mi
Long considered the grande dame of Hoi An’s bánh mì shops, Phuong serves up Hoi An's most sought after banh mi. Phuong's most drawl worthy baguettes come packed with sinful combos of handmade pâté, cured French ham, pork sausages and an optional egg. Or the non-carnivores, there’s the tofu banh mi chay (vegans should hold back on the mayo). 
2B Phan Chau Trinh Street. Open: 6 a.m – 10 p.m
Madam Khanh
Madame Khanh has long held the crown as Hoi An's Banh Mi Queen and having been featured in many an international publication, could very well be the towns most famous octogenarian. For very good reason - the sandwiches here are slathered with an addictive house-spiced mayo and maintain a nearly perfect ratio of meat to veggies. The pate is phenomenal, and the charming “Vietnamese aunt” who constructs them wins almost as much praise.  
115 Tran Cao Van street. Open: 6 a,m – 6:30 p.m ​
Banh Mi Wars
Phuong Banh Mi
Long considered the grande dame of Hoi An’s bánh mì shops, Phuong serves up Hoi An's most sought after banh mi. Phuong's most drawl worthy baguettes come packed with sinful combos of handmade pâté, cured French ham, pork sausages and an optional egg. Or the non-carnivores, there’s the tofu banh mi chay (vegans should hold back on the mayo). 
2B Phan Chau Trinh Street. Open: 6 a.m – 10 p.m
Madam Khanh
Madame Khanh has long held the crown as Hoi An's Banh Mi Queen and having been featured in many an international publication, could very well be the towns most famous octogenarian. For very good reason - the sandwiches here are slathered with an addictive house-spiced mayo and maintain a nearly perfect ratio of meat to veggies. The pate is phenomenal, and the charming “Vietnamese aunt” who constructs them wins almost as much praise.  
115 Tran Cao Van street. Open: 6 a,m – 6:30 p.m  Banh Mi Wars
Phuong Banh Mi
Long considered the grande dame of Hoi An’s bánh mì shops, Phuong serves up Hoi An's most sought after banh mi. Phuong's most drawl worthy baguettes come packed with sinful combos of handmade pâté, cured French ham, pork sausages and an optional egg. Or the non-carnivores, there’s the tofu banh mi chay (vegans should hold back on the mayo). 
2B Phan Chau Trinh Street. Open: 6 a.m – 10 p.m
Madam Khanh
Madame Khanh has long held the crown as Hoi An's Banh Mi Queen and having been featured in many an international publication, could very well be the towns most famous octogenarian. For very good reason - the sandwiches here are slathered with an addictive house-spiced mayo and maintain a nearly perfect ratio of meat to veggies. The pate is phenomenal, and the charming “Vietnamese aunt” who constructs them wins almost as much praise.  
115 Tran Cao Van street. Open: 6 a,m – 6:30 p.m   

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

Bánh Mì

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.

Related posts
The Hoi An Street Food Bible

Image: Hoi An Street Barbecue, thit nuong

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