The plentiful food and restaurant choices make choosing where to eat in Vietnam a defining question during your travels in the country. Adventurous eaters in search of great tastes and better value-for-money will revel in the abundant street food options, from steaming hot rice dishes to the ubiquitous pho (Vietnamese noodle soup) – there are cheap and delicious meals available on every street corner, most for as little as one or two US Dollars.
This is not to say that those with more sophisticated palates will be disappointed by the selection of fine dining in Vietnam. In the cities of Ho Chi Minh and Hanoi there are numerous gastronomic experiences to satisfy even the most demanding gourmands. Most 5-star hotels have excellent all day buffet restaurants popular with leisure and business travelers for lunch and breakfast especially.
Those expecting their choice of what to eat in Vietnam to be limited to Vietnamese dishes will be pleasantly surprised on their arrival. Western and international food abounds here now, cooked by a growing influx of Western-trained chefs, eager to make a name for themselves in a city where appetites for creative and quality food are growing with each passing day.
Whether you want to share a well-cooked steak in a romantic French bistro or wolf down a slice of pizza with your buddies, there’s a restaurant in Vietnam for you.
Of course, we shouldn’t overlook the fantastic café culture in Vietnam – with literally hundreds of places to stop for drinking a cup of “ca phé sua da” (iced coffee with condensed milk). Many of these are getting onto the western bandwagon for combining coffee with pastries and cakes, some even go as far as setting up their own in-house bakery.
North Vietnamese cuisine tends to be less spicy than anywhere else in the country – this is because historically the cool climate made it tricky to grow anything with a real kick to it. That being said, there are still plenty of delicious flavours to be found in food here. The ‘bun cha’ (vermicelli noodles and barbecued meat, accompanied with mounds of fresh green leaves) is quite delicious.
Food in the South of Vietnam, around Saigon and the Mekong Delta, tends to be spicier than in the far north, but the people there also have a real sweet tooth – this means plenty of sugar and coconut milk is used in the food. Eaters be warned, South Vietnamese have even been known to add sugar to mayonnaise. The warm weather and fertile soil in southern Vietnam make for ideal growing condition for all sorts of fruits, vegetables and animals. Luckily for hungry travellers, this means dishes in southern Vietnam are defined by the enthusiastic use of garlic, shallots and fresh herbs.
The abundant spices grown in central Vietnam means the cuisine is rich in fiery flavours. Expect colourful, beautifully-presented dishes in Hué and in Hoi An some of the best “banh xeo” (flat pan-fried cake with turmeric, fatty pork and onions) anywhere in Vietnam.
If you want to learn more about Vietnamese food and restaurants, you can also read one of our blog articles: