Vietnamese street food – the dos and don’ts

Vietnamese street food – the dos and don’ts

It can be a little nerve-wracking eating down a backstreet in Vietnam for the first time.

The set-up is different and a lot more intimate than Westerners are used to. Small tables and chairs usually cluster around one or two people cooking from a gas flame and BBQ, so you’re unsure where to sit.

More often than not, there won’t be a menu and if there is one it will be limited. That means you’ll have to go up and see what’s on offer. And, unless you’re fluent in Vietnamese, you’re never 100 per cent sure what you’re getting.

All this can result in tourists going for the more user-friendly, sanitized food establishments or avoiding street food altogether, which is a crying shame.

So here’s a couple of pointers to getting some good street nosh.


  • Grab a seat – trust me this isn’t a wait to be seated culture so get stuck in. If there are no seats left, there will usually be a few extra plastic stools and tables stacked up for busy periods.
  • Go up and have a look at what’s on offer – this can be scary, especially if you don’t speak Vietnamese but once you break the ice, it’s the easiest way of ordering exactly what you want
  • If they have a menu – look out for these words: Ga – chicken /Cac mon rau – vegetables / bo – beef / thịt heo – pork / cua –crab / đậu hũ – tofu.
  • Check out what other people are eating next to you – if it looks tasty, ask to have what they’re eating


  • Wait to be seated – [see above]
  • Be pushed into ordering quickly – the Vietnamese have little patience when it comes to taking your order but don’t feel pressured into ordering before you’re ready. Take your time.
  • Order salad – I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again only eat cooked food

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