This is a guest post from Agness of eTramping.

When strolling down the streets of Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City, you can smell the fish sauce, seafood, rice, baguettes and fresh noodles. The smell is so intense you feel like eating all the time.

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Although the food is quick to make, it always contains fresh aromas, herbs and spices. If you ever decide to visit Vietnam, your culinary journey across the “Land of Independence, Freedom and Happiness” will be unpredictable and unforgettable at the same time.

A lunch in Hanoi - fried liver, a few bugs, egg, tofu, veggies and rice.

My lunch in Hanoi – fried liver, a few bugs, egg, tofu, veggies and rice.

Main features of Vietnamese cuisine:

  • Freshness is crucial.
  • Fish sauce is the main ingredient.
  • It’s either very sweet or super salty, extremely cold or hot.
  • The food in Northern parts of the country is mainly influenced by Chinese cuisine thus you can get many deep fried noodles and rice dishes.
  • The food in Southern parts is much sweeter and cooler.
  • Baguettes have been introduced to Vietnamese by French during the colonial times.
  • Rice and noodles are the main part of most meals, served for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
  • A traditional Vietnamese coffee contains a lot of extremely sweet condensed milk.
  • Most of fruits are used as the base for various salads instead of lettuce.

Vietnamese cuisine vs. your budget

Traditional Vietnamese food can be as expensive or as cheap as you want it to be. Dining out in local restaurants is affordable for everyone, no matter if you are a budget traveller or a typical holiday maker. For those whose budget is very low, I would recommend to eat small portions of street food more frequently and avoid junk food restaurants serving pizzas or burgers (Western food). The prices of food vary from 20,000 dong ($1) per bowl of Pho (Vietnamese soup) to 35000 dong ($1.65) for a plate of rice, any kind of meat and some salad. As for the drinks, you should not pay more than 10.000 dong ($0.50) for Vietnamese iced coffee with milk, commonly known as ca phe sua da.

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Most of Vietnamese coffees are served with a tone of ice.

What’s on the Menu:

Pho (Vietnamese soup)

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A bowl of Pho.

Price: 20.000 dong – 40.000 ($1 – $1.90)

Ingredients: Any kind of thin sliced meat of your choice (chicken, beef, duck), flat rice noodles, fish sauce, fresh veggies and herbs such as lettuce, chili peppers, mint, basil or bean.

Where to find it: Pho can be found anywhere in Vietnam – from street vendors to local restaurants, at any time of the day. The best city to experience the real taste and smell of Pho is definitely Hanoi.

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A pho with sliced grilled sausages.

The Pho is a great breakfast or lunch option. It’s very filling and will definitely warm you up!

Cha Gio (Vietnamese spring rolls)

Price: 5.000 dong ($0.24) each.

Ingredients: Pork or shrimps, shredded carrots and mung bean noodles.

Where to find it: There are plenty of local food vendors where locals prepare spring rolls. They are often situated at the street corners.

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Vietnamese spring rolls.

Spring rolls are deep fried and pretty salty. Their “plus” is a crunchy taste and golden brown exterior which will melt in your mouth. They taste best when dipped in nuoc cham (Vietnamese sauce).

Fried sliced potatoes with eggs

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Great breakfast option while in Vietnam (if you dare to have such breakfast).

Price: 5.000 dong ($0.24) – 30.000 dong ($1.43).

Ingredients: Fried egg, deep fried sliced potatoes, sweet chili sauce.

Where to find it: Local food vendors.

One of the greatest advantages of Vietnamese street food is its simplicity, quick preparation and easy access. Every time you are in rush and you want to grab something on the run the food is there no matter where you are and what time it is. One of the quickest and most filling meal is fried egg served with veggies and rice topped with chili and fish sauce. Real yum!

Bugs

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My lunch in Hanoi – crispy bugs.

Price: 8.000 dong ($0.28) per one scoop of bugs.

Where to find it: Local buffet restaurants.

Vietnamese are extremely adventurous eaters. Therefore, Vietnam is a great place to try some food you woudn’t in your home country – bugs, scorpions, frogs or fetal duck eggs. They might not all look very appealing, but they taste equally good. Local bugs are a real treat for Vietnamese so don’t be shy and try them!

Banh Mi (Vietnamese baguette)

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A typical pork baguette in Hanoi.

Price: 20.000 dong ($1) – 30.000 dong ($1.50).

Ingredients: Classic banh mi is filled with sliced pork, cheese and vegetables (onion, lettuce, cucumber, tomato). Vegetarian banh mi is often served with tofu instead of meat and plenty of veggies of your choice. You can also find Vietnamese baguettes with eggs, fries and soy sauce.

Where to find it: They are usually made at Buddhist temples and local food vendors.

Ca phe sua da (Vietnamese iced coffee with milk)

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Vietnamese coffee.

Price: 10.000 dong ($0.50) .

Ingredients: coffee, hot water, condensed milk (extremely sweet) and a tone of ice.

Where to find it: Local coffee shops and bars, street vendors.

Vietnamese coffee tastes so different from any European coffee you tried. It’s very sweet as it contains a lot of condensed milk. As the weather is extremely hot in Vietnam, the coffee is mainly served cold. It will give a boost for the day! If you don’t like coffee, you can swap it for a tea or a fruit drink.

As you can see, there is a huge variety of local treats in Vietnam, from spicy spring rolls to broths. Don’t be afraid of trying new things and experiencing new flavours. Keep mixing food with local drinks and enjoy their freshness.

What’s your favourite Vietnamese food? Share your experience in comments.

Agness bio photoAgness is a Polish vagabond who, after graduation, left her comfort zone and set off for a journey of her lifetime to China in 2011. She has been constantly travelling the world since then (slowly, but surely as she says), living like a local for less than $25 a day. She became a photography passionate and adventure blogger sharing her life enthusiasm and travel experience with everyone around. Read more about her travel adventures and budget travel tips on her blog and follow her along the way on Twitter and Facebook.

 

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