Out of all the wonderful countries in SE Asia, Vietnam wins it for me. I don’t know if it’s the food, the people, or the fact that this country is so big and cheap, you could stay busy for months here. I’m going to break Vietnam down by some of the best eats I found.
Welcome to the street food capital of the world! For my 5 days I stayed here, I pretty much ate my way through this entire city. When it comes to restaurants, this is something this city lacks in, and it’s not a bad thing. Every 10 feet you walk there is a food stall with little tiny chairs lined up on the sidewalk to set down and eat. Pho is served just about everywhere you look, and its a meal you can’t go wrong with. Specially with the average price of about 20,000 dong. (under $1usd)
Tip: When you eat Pho, there is a correct way. Always look for a big spoon on the table. This is used to roll your noodles around in it and helps you get the broth so you can eat it properly without slurping your noodles up.
I’ve narrowed down 3 of favorite places to eat in Hanoi, and man was it hard. I choose these spots because in the short amount of time I was there, I caught myself wondering back to these places and eating again.
Xoi Yen: When you stumble upon this little shack type restaurant, don’t be alarmed that there are two of the exact same places, right next to each other, with the exact same name. If you’re facing them from the front, go with the one to your left. It will also be the busiest one out of the both of them. Their menu is very simple, sticky rice!! Not only is this yellow sticky rice amazing, you get to pick your toppings. Kind of like Chipotle…..ha! Did I mention their secret is they add lard to the top of the rice before the toppings!!! You think its gross, wait until you try it! It will blow your mind! All for a heavy price of 25,000 dong. ($1.15usd) **depending on your toppings** Don’t forget to add the egg on top!
Bun Cha Nem Cua Be Da Kim: Confused? yeah I was too. Hanoi is known for Bun Cha, which is barbecued pork and a side of rice vermicelli. New Cua Be Da is basically a spring roll. This little restaurant doesn’t even have a menu. And be prepared to wait. If not, you can line up at the tables and be elbow deep next to strangers chowing down on this set meal. No one can speak English, so just hold up 1 finger and nod your head to the wait staff, then wait for the food to come rolling out. This was the biggest meal I had in all of Vietnam, and the only meal I couldn’t finish. It set me back 120,000 dong, which is around $5usd.
Bun Bo Nam Bo: My favorite place to eat. I don’t know if it’s because of the friendly owners, or because of the many flavors they use in their meals that had me craving it everyday. And the name of this little street place says it all. The Bun Bo Nam Bo is to die for! Its pretty much grilled beef noodle salad with pickled vegetables. But the flavors here are absolutely delicious!
By far the cutest place I have ever seen. This little town will steal your heart in no time! There’s not a lot to do in this little place other than to get something tailored. Which for the price, you pretty much have too. It took me a while to find some cheap eats here since its mostly flooded with tourist. But I ended up finding a few places that ended up being pretty good.
Phi Banh Mi: These sandwiches are well-known among the backpacker community around Laos and Vietnam, and for some reason they are the best sandwiches you will ever eat. Whether it’s at 5am walking back from drinking all night, or for a quick but tasty lunch, you can’t beat the price for under a dollar for any meal. All you have to do is look for Vietnamese people pushing around little carts that say Banh Mi. This place is not only cheap, but, has a variety of Banh Mi’s to choose from. And it’s not mobile so you can always count on it being in the same place. It has only one location here in Hoi An. You can’t beat the average price of 15,000 dong either! The owners are super friendly but the space is limited. Get there around lunch time and you will be taking your sandwich Togo.
Tip: Even though a lot of the Banh Mi carts don’t say they include an egg, always ask for it. A fried egg always makes your sandwich that much better!
There are a few Vietnamese dishes that you can only eat in Hoi An. This is because only the locals here now what ingredients to use. Its pretty much a secret. Which is why you have to try these dishes.
Hi Restaurant: Once you cross the bridge to get to the smaller island, hang a left. Theres really only one main road that will wrap you all around the small island. Once you turn left, stay on the road until it turns to the right. You will then notice about 4-5 restaurants that all look the same, but have different names. Hi restaurant is kind of in the middle of them all. All restaurants serve up the same dishes and pretty much have an identical menu. I specially choice Hi because I saw there was more people eating there. And turns out, it was amazing.
There are two main dishes to try here; White Rose and Cao Lau. Both dishes you can only get here in Hoi An. White rose is a local speciality. Its pretty much a dumpling made out
of rice paper, stuffed with meat and shaped into a rose. Its topped with some roasted garlic and served with a sweet fish oil. Cao Lau is made with pork, greens, and noodles. Seems pretty basic huh? Well, there’s a couple of things that stick out in this dish and makes to different from all other Vietnamese dishes. The type of noodles used in this dish are only made in Hoi An by special well water! It’s not a soup like most noodle dishes and there is a large amount of sauce used along with lots of ingredients and topped with, you guessed it…..lard!
Saigon (Ho Chi Minh)
Home of more motorbikes than people, Ho Chi Minh is broken up into districts. I’m just going to be covering District 1, which is the main tourist area of the city. I found myself searching for cheap eats while staying in this crazy area. I didn’t come across much, but I did find some good street food!
Pham Ngu Lao $1 Lady: The name says it all. If you walk down Pham Ngu Lao street, either right before or right after the Liberty Hotel, close to an alley way, there will be a lady standing on the street slinging up some awfully good noodles. She fries up yellow noodles with some greens, tops it with an egg and adds some sweet hot sauce to it, all for, you guessed it…..$1. And don’t worry, I can assure you that you will hear her voice screaming “One dollar, one dollar, one dollar!!!!”
Quan An Anh Map: This little restaurant is tucked away from all the chaos in district 1. There is a little alley way that is right next to the Liberty Hotel that connects Phan Ngu Lao street with Bui Vien street. Walk down that alley and you will run right into it! They have a smaller menu, but mostly everything is around 25,000 dong (a little over a $1) and the portion sizes aren’t bad either.
Pho Quynh: This place won’t be hard to miss, specially if you have done a couple of laps around district 1. It sets right on the corner of Pham Ngu Lao street and Do Quang Dau. There really wasn’t a time that I didn’t walk by this place and it wasn’t packed. I liked this place because they brought you other ingredients to place in your pho. You will get a massive plate of greens, sprouts, peppers, and limes to do a kind of “make it your own pho.” (Hint: use the brown sauce on the table, it adds a lot of flavor!) Prices are cheap for the area, pho starts off around 30,000-60,000 dong.
Banh Mi’s: Once again you will see the carts everywhere here. One of my favorite spots was a lady that has a little shop next to Thu’s Pub. I don know if it was because I always knew should would be there, or because she was super nice, but either or, her sandwiches were always good and you couldn’t beat the price of $12,000 dong (.50 cents)
ABC Bakery: I wouldn’t say this place is your typical cheap eats, but it’s defiantly worth checking out and splurging for. Its location is on Phan Ngu Lao street, you can’t miss it. The pastries and cakes are to die for! And for the most part, reasonably priced.
Phan Boi Chau Night Market:. Here will you find tons of street vendors roaming around selling food for a decent price. If you can, look for the ones that have massive carts of different colored rice. There will be around 6 different colors on this cart, from purple to orange, to black and green. They tops it with coconut cream, sugar, coconut flakes and nuts. It will make you want to search for these rice people everyday!
***Another popular dish in southern Vietnam is called Banh Xeo. It’s pretty much a Vietnamese crepe. I was never a big fan of them. Maybe because my first one I tried wasn’t all that great. They are usually filled beef, shrimp, and sprouts. The crepe itself it made out of rice flour and turmeric. Don’t take my word for it not tasting good. Everyone has their own taste buds