Eat & Drink Like a Local

Itinerary Route Map

Showcasing fresh and vibrant flavours, excellent street food and elegant restaurants in restored colonial architecture, Vietnam is packed with superb opportunities for eating and drinking. Cookery classes, market visits and walking tours all make it easy to get to the authentic heart of the country’s culinary heritage.

A Day in Hanoi

  • Surrounded by an array of eating and drinking opportunities, this is how a resident of the Vietnamese capital might fill a tasty day.

Early Morning

  • A local breakfast speciality is bun rieu cua, noodle soup made with a hearty broth using tiny crabs from rice paddies.

Mid-Morning

  • Simple cafes and coffee stalls dot Hanoi and catching up with friends over deliciously strong caphe is virtually mandatory. During summer, tra chanh (iced lemon tea) is equally popular.

Lunch

  • Bun cha (grilled pork with crab spring rolls, fresh herbs and vermicelli ) is the classic Hanoi midday meal.

Mid-Afternoon

  • Hanoi is a city that’s perfect for snacking. Popular on-the-go options include banh ghoi, deep-fried passtries with pork, vermicelli and mushrooms.

Evening

  • After dark Hanoi’s footpaths come alive with simple bia hoi (fresh draught beer) stalls; popular drinking snacks include roast duck and dried squid.

Food & Drink Experiences

  • Plan your travel around these tasty recommendations and understand the essence of Vietnamese cuisine.

First-Night Dining

Welcom to your first night in Vietnam in Ho Chi Minh City, Hoi An or Hanoi. Here’s where to go to get quickly up to speed with the country’s cuisine.

  • Nha Hang Ngon Street-food classics served in a stylish garden setting in Ho Chi Minh City.
  • Morning Glory Street Food Restaurant The country’s diverse dishes are served around a lively open kitchen; Hoi An.
  • Quan An Ngon Bustling showcases of Vietnamese food in restored colonial building in the nation’s capital.

Street-Food Tours

Pull up a squat plastic stool and discover what makes Vietnam’s street food exceptional, usually in the company of a knowledgeable local foodie.

  • Saigon Street Eats Ho Chi Minh City
  • Taste of Hoi An Food Tour Hoi An
  • Danang Food Tour Danang
  • Hanoi Cooking Centre Hanoi
  • Hanoi Street Food Tours Hanoi

Best Fusion Restaurants

Discover the culinary intersection between Western flavours and Vietnamese cuisine at these elegant and innovative big-city restaurant.

  • Pots ‘n Pans Modern spins on traditional Vietnamese cuisine; Hanoi.
  • La Badiane French flavours blend with Vietnamese in this leafy colonial villa, also in Hanoi.
  • Xu Stylish HCMC restaurant-lounge with an inventive Vietnamese-inspired fusion menu.

Beyond Bia Hoi

Downing a few leisurely glasses of inexpensive bia hoi ( fresh draught beer) is an essential Vietnamese experience, but also popular is ruou (traditional liquor made from fruit, corn or rice).

  • Quan Ly Robust options include rice wine infused with ginseng, snake and gecko; Hanoi.
  • House of Son Tinh Elegant Hanoi bar featuring cocktails crafted from high-quality ruou.
  • Quan Kien Serves interesting ruou crafted from apricots, apples and limes; Hanoi.
  • The Hill Station Signature Restaurant Tasting sets of corn and rice wine are partnered with traditional H’mong cuisine and superb views in Sapa.

Vegetarian & Vegan Food

Com chay (vegetarian) restaurants serving vegan food can be found across Vietnam, and around the first and fifteenth days of the Buddhist calendar month, some food stalls substitute tofu in their dishes.

  • Chay Nang Tam Tasty variations on tofu and tempeh; Hanoi.
  • …hum Vegetarian Cafe & Restaurants Excellent salads in an elegant HCMC space.
  • Com Chay Phuoc Around five different daily dishes star at this simple roadside spot in Mui Ne.
  • Lien Hoa Featuring flavour-packed dishes with eggplant and jackfruit; Hue.
  • Au Lac Simple vegetarian food in a destination (Nha Trang) more known for seafood.

Minority Flavours

Curious travellers should seek out the food of Vietnam’s ethnic minority groups, especially in the north of the country. Look forward to occasionally challenging but always interesting dishes.

  • Chim Sao Try the ethnic minority sausages, served with a zingy mint and coriander dipping sauce (Hanoi).
  • Quan Kien Dishes inspired by H’mong, Thai and Muong cuisine (Hanoi).
  • The Hill Station Signature Restaurant Chic and modern decor combines with dishes influenced by traditional H’mong cuisine (Sapa).

Table Etiquette

  • Have your bowl on a small plate, chopsticks and a soup spoon at the ready.
  • Each place setting will include a small bowl at the top right-hand side for nuoc mam (fish sauce) and other dipping sauces.
  • Don’t dip your chopsticks into the central bowls of shared food, but use the communal servings spoons instead.
  • Pick up your bowl with your left hand, bring it close to your mouth and use the chopsticks to manoeuvre the food. If you’re eating noodles, lower your head till it hangs over the bowl and slurp away.
  • If you’re dining in a private home, it is polite for the host to offer more food than the guests can eat, and it’s also polite for guests not to eat everything.
  • Remember not to leave chopsticks standing in a V-shape in your bowl as this is a sign of death.

The Ultimate Vietnamese Food Tour

  • Start in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam’s energetic southern hub, and negotiate the city’s street-food scene on two wheels with Back of the Bike Tours or XO Tours. Discover local dishes like banh xeo (filled savoury pancakes) before exploring produce markets and trying to cooking class with Cyclo Resto. Consider a southern sojourn on Phu Quoc Island, taking in excellent grilled seafood at the Dinh Cao Night Market.
  • Heading north to the riverside town of Hoi An. Once one of Asia’s most cosmopolitan ports with traders from around the world, Hoi An now hosts an international collection of visitors at the town’s many cookery schools. Learn the secrets of local cuisine at the Morning Glory Cooking School or Red Bridge Cooking School, and uncover more street-food secrets with the original Taste of Hoi An food tour. Detour to nearby An Bang Beach for more seafood, and try Hoi An’s signature dish cao lau (Japanese-style noodles with herbs, salad greens, bean sprouts and roast pork) at Mermaid Restaurant.
  • Continue north to Hanoi, reowned as one of Asia’s great cities for street food, and negotiate the bustling labyrinth of the Old Quarter with Food on Foot or Hanoi Street Food Tours. Iconic Hanoi dishes to try while in the city include cha ca (grilled fish with turmeric and dill) at Cha Ca Thang Long, and pho bo (beef noodle soup) at Pho Thin. Learn about northern Vietnamese cuisine at the Hanoi Cooking Centre, and try dishes inspired by Vietnam’s ethnic minorities at Quan Kien or Chim Sao.
  • Next, catch the train north to Sapa, the heartland region of minority groups including the H’mong and the Red Dzao. Experience H’mong-inspired dishes at The Hill Station Signature Restaurant, book in for its cooking class, and toast your new knowledge of Vietnamese cuisine with a ruou tasting set.

Authentic Coffee

Try these places for an authentic coffee experience.

  • Café Duy Tri Dripping with heritage, and virtually unchanged for more than 75 years; Hanoi.
  • Café Pho Co Negotiate your way to a hidden balcony overlooking Hanoi’s Hoan Kiem Lake.

Cooking Courses

Cooking courses in Vietnam can range from a simple set-up in someone’s backyard to purpose-built schools.

  • Green Bamboo Cooking School A charming and accomplished chef offers personalised cooking courses in Hoi An.
  • Hanoi Cooking Centre Excellent interactive cooking classes in Hanoi that include a visit to the market and cooking classes for kids.
  • Saigon Cooking Class Learn from the chefs at Hoa Tuc restaurant as they prepare a mouth-watering three-course meal in HCMC.

How to Eat & Drink

When to Eat

  • Generally Vietnamese eat three meals per day, beginning with a bowl of noodles or chao (rice porridge) for breakfast. Lunch is usually a social affair, often eaten in the company of workmates at a local restaurant or food stall, and dinner is a leisurely meal, usually shared with friends and family. Throughout the day, snacking opportunities also abound, especially in bigger cities.

Where to Eat

  • Throughout Vietnam, food stalls often specialise in just one dish; simple com (literally ‘rice’) restaurants serve the staple along with vegetables and meat or seafood. Vietnamese-style food courts like Quan An Ngon in Hanoi serve dishes from around the country, and more expensive eateries offer Vietnamese classics and Vietnamese-French fusion food, often in restored colonial buildings.