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If you’re a foodie, the local cuisine of a destination will probably be a key ingredient in your quest for the perfect holiday- no matter where you’re jetting off to.
Here at Rickshaw, we offer the opportunity to really interact with local communities, to better understand the culture and way of life. You can help a local farmer in the rice fields, sample tasty Vietnamese street food with a local and even learn the secrets behind that perfect, aromatic phở.
If you’re looking for un-phở-gettable experiences on your travels, Vietnam will have you at xin chào!
Like lots of street food in Asia, Vietnam’s is cheap, mouth-watering and exotic all at the same time. Over the years Vietnam’s food has been influenced by many of its neighbours. The Mongolians introduced beef, the Chinese popularised stir fry and the French introduced delicious bread, pastries, coffee (with cream) and incredible cakes. Delicious and delightful, with its aromatic, fresh and zesty flavours Vietnamese food is a perfect balance between sweet and sour.
Our favourite spots
If you love street food, you’ll love our food safari around Hanoi’s Old Quarter. You’ll embark on a culinary and cultural journey as you walk through Hanoi with your guide, learning all about local temples and their legends. You’ll taste a range of delicacies, from grilled pork to vermicelli dumplings, and top it all off with a local ‘Bia Hoi’ beer or green hot tea- just like the locals do!
Another one of our favourites is searching for hidden street food hotspots whilst scooting on the back of a vintage Vespa in Saigon. Zip through back streets after dark, sample the best traditional snacks in the city, from pillow cakes to Cha Gio, sip on Vietnamese coffee whilst listening to local live music.
Our favourite dishes
Bún bò xào
Bún bò xào isn’t an ordinary noodle salad. What makes it so delicious and special is that its served in layers of room-temperature rice noodles (bún), topped with pickled vegetables, marinated beef (bò) and loads of fresh garnishes (roasted peanuts, fresh herbs, mint, basil).
Phở is similar to bún but made with fresh rice noodles, a sprinkling of herbs and chicken or beef. With a refreshing but tasty broth, made with herbs and meat, phở is a popular choice for breakfast in Vietnam. You can also customise your phở with herbs like coriander, mint, lettuce, and finish it off with limes or chillies, fish sauce or garlic to give it a kick!
Bánh is the Vietnamese word for “pastry”, and there are a vast number of different kinds of bánh! From bun shaped dumplings (bao) to fried crispy variations filled with tasty treats (xeo) or rice rolled paper bánh, you’re in for a treat if you spot this on the menu!
Goi is essentially a salad minus the standard lettuce you might expect. In Vietnam, they’re typically made with unripe green papaya or mango (and are super-refreshing!).
Goi Cuon are translucent spring rolls packed with greens, coriander and various combinations of minced pork, shrimp or crab. Sometimes known as salad rolls, in some places they’re served with a bowl of lettuce or mint.
One for seafood fans! Oc is a shellfish platter of raw snails, blood cockles, clam, shrimp and crab. Perfect with an ice cold beer!
This dish has grilled, marinated pork, served with white rice noodles and a fish broth – a lunchtime favourite.
Veggie and vegan advice
Veggies & vegans should, unfortunately, avoid Vietnam’s main speciality, Pho, as the broth is made of beef stock. But the good news is there are plenty of other amazing dishes you can eat! Summer rolls (similar to a spring roll, but not deep fried) are filled with tofu & yummy fresh veggies – perfect. Because of the French colonial influence, you can find amazing bread in Vietnam, so grab a mint & coriander Bahn Mi for lunch. You can also enjoy banana leaf or papaya salad for something you definitely don’t find in the UK and some fresh vegan-friendly goodness.
There’s no direct word for vegetarianism but if you say ‘Chay’ it means ‘Eat Like a Buddhist’ i.e. no meat – this will get you by!
Paul’s handy tip:
Pronounced “cà phê trún”, this Hanoi speciality is served both hot and cold and eaten with a spoon. Consisting of creamy, soft, meringue-like white foam perched on dense Vietnamese coffee, the taste is thick and sweet and like liquid tiramisu – hugely decadent and a real treat!
Whilst egg coffee is now served all over Hanoi, for the original and the best, head to Café Giang – humbly hidden on a small lane on Nguyen Huu Huan Street in the city’s old quarter. It may take you a little while to find it, but it’ll be worth every second!
Learn to cook Hanoi Pho Bo
Vegetarian or Vegan?
Replace beef stock with vegetable stock, and oven-bake tofu until crispy or add Shiitake mushrooms in place of the beef (or both!)
For the Broth
• 1kg Beef bones • 2l beef stock • 6 slices root ginger • 1 stalk lemongrass • 2 star anise • 2 cinnamon sticks • 1 white onion, sliced into rings • 4 cardamom pods • 2 shallots • 2tsp salt • 2tsp sugar
For the Garnish
• 300g beef sirloin steak, cut into thin strips • 225g beansprouts • 2 spring onions, chopped • 1 bunch fresh basil leaves • 1 bunch fresh coriander, chopped • 1 bunch fresh mint leaves • 2 limes, cut into wedges • Hoisin sauce • 500g dried rice noodles
- Add water to a large stockpot and bring to a boil. In the meantime, grill the beef bones (to reduce the fat) for about 4 minutes, then add to the water. Sprinkle some salt. Add the rest of the ingredients and simmer slightly for a minimum of one hour, skimming off any fat on the top.
- Arrange beansprouts, mint, basil and coriander on a platter with chillies and lime.
- Soak the noodles in hot water to cover for 15 minutes or until soft. Drain.
- Place equal portions of noodles into 4 large soup bowls, and place raw beef on top. Pour hot broth over noodles and beef. Add herbs and garnish to taste.
For even more Vietnam travel tips, head to our travel guide below.