Foodie Travel Diary Pt4: Vietnam – How to Navigate Street Food

by katerina on December 21, 2011

This is part four, the last section of the recap of my travels in SouthEast Asia, if you haven’t yet check out the other installmentsPt1: Hong Kong – Shiny Meats and Chicken’s Feet, Pt2: Vietnam – Noodle Soup for Breakfast and Pt3: Vietnam – A Country of Foodies.

A Food Stall in the Market in Hue

The best food in Vietnam doesn’t cost much and requires no reservation. It usually isn’t hard to find since it is on nearly every corner and hidden down the entry to any alleyway. If you spot a middle aged woman tending to a 10 gallon stock pot or wok, surrounded by plastic tables and giving you a menacing glare you have probably found some delicious food. In Vietnam you should be eating the street food or you will be missing out, however will require a little know how though, so park your scooter and listen to my advice.

First, you need to figure out how much it is going to cost, asking this question after you have eaten is never a good idea as a tourist since you will likely be charged double. The best way to inquire is to point at something and grab a $1 bill (or more specifically a 20,000 VND bill) from your wallet and make eye contact with the vendor, everything is in the area of a $1. If that is the right amount, go ahead and sit – if not they will show you the correct amount the same way and you can decide to stay or walk away.

The Famous Hoi An Banh Mi Cart from No Reservations

Next you will have to get yourself a seat, finding one isn’t usually the problem but navigating a bigger than normal body onto an 8 inch stool can be a challenge. Your knees won’t fit under the plastic table, don’t try or you will see men half your size sniggering at you. I advise locating the corner of a table and eating around it. Before you sit down you may want to make sure you choose a table with utensils and garnishes on it or you will just be getting up again when your food comes.

By the time you have found some amount of comfort your food should arrive, nearly everything you order is ready to be served and at most needs a quick warm up in a wok. Grab yourself some chopsticks, spoon some chili sauce onto your bowl, squeeze some citrus over your food and dig in. If you aren’t sure what to do, a friendly face at another table is quite likely to come Oh, sorry – did you want a napkin? Napkins are very few and far between, but you may find 4″ square pieces of paper or rolls of toilet paper if you are lucky. I suggest you pack wet wipes if you are fussed.

The Lunch Lady in Saigon

Once finished, pay the woman whose food you ate and get out of there. The seating area around a food stall is for the business of eating, not socializing and you may be taking up valuable customer space – especially if you’re a tourist.

Lastly, if you see a great food stall and you want to check it out later I advise you to just sit down right then and there. It might be there later, or it might not – moreover, ask yourself if you will be able to find it again?



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