Eating Out in Vietnam

Find out what to expect when eating out in Vietnam…

There are many options in Vietnam for eating out. Everything is on offer, from a quick meal from a cart on the street to western-style cafés or international cuisine.

Street Food

The type of food encountered in Vietnam is also largely determined by the occasion or situation in which it is eaten. Street food is a huge aspect of social life, and people eating on the street can be found almost everywhere, at any time of the day.

For breakfast, people normally eat a hot noodle soup, as yin-yang theory stipulates that eating a hot dish in the morning allows the body to adapt to the heat and keeps a person cool for the rest of the day. Lunch normally involves a plate of rice with a choice of different meat or fish dishes, depending on what the owner of the stall or restaurant has prepared. Barbecued meat, fish and seafood (apart from com suon - the common pork chop and rice dish) tend to be eaten during long evening sessions of eating, drinking and talking at restaurants or on the street, which is collectively known as “nhau”, a Vietnamese institution in its own right.

Some of the favourite fast food choices across the country are the many noodle dishes - pho (pronounced "foh") being the most widespread and common. While appearing as simple rice noodles with either chicken or beef, the broth used to make pho is actually a highly complex and time-consuming ingredient to produce – a common aspect of Vietnamese food. Pho often comes served with a piece of fried flour dough, or quay.

A popular dessert item is chè which can be made out of a variety of ingredients, including fruit, rice, corn, tapioca or beans. These puddings are sold at most food markets or street stands and can be eaten hot or cold. They are usually served in a glass or plastic cup.

People in Vietnam place a high emphasis on freshness and the quality of the food they eat. However, as it is still a developing country, hygiene and food safety standards are not always easy to gauge. While food poisoning is not as widespread a problem as in India or Egypt, it is still possible, particularly when consuming dairy, which is essentially a recent import to the country’s culinary scene.

There has also been a big increase in the amount of western fast food restaurants across the country, with many of the usual household names being found in the big cities.