This street vendor is out just after the sun rises.
Street food in Vietnam is an institution. It’s a way of life. The poor and the rich do it. The young and the elderly. Families and singles. Locals and tourists. Each stand has its specialty and it’s not unusual for a vendor to only offer one item. Delving into the Vietnamese culture doesn’t get any better than at a street food spot where you see all strata of life converging into one delicious spot.
If your lucky, there will be seating.
Seating (if there is any) is very rudimentary---often nothing more than the types of tiny plastic chairs often seen in Kindergartens. (You haven’t lived until you’ve tried to pry yourself out of one of these munchkin size seats.) It’s not about comfort. It’s about comfort food. Service? The server is the chef---service includes handing you your food.
Two years ago I was taken by a foodie in Saigon on a tour of her favorite street spots. In Hanoi, I hired a gourmet cooking company to take me to their hidden street gems. I still dream about both of those evenings. Very different experiences, but both equally compelling for this die-hard foodie.
One of the most unforgettable places was deep in a residential district of Saigon. The streets were so small that no cars could enter…only motorcycles or pedestrians. It was like opening day at Yankee stadium. The streets were mobbed, there was a palpable excitement in the air. All bases were loaded at the vendor who specialized in Banh Xeo…a crispy omelette/pancake filled with fresh veggies. In a hall of fame, this version of Banh Xeo would be served.
Banh Xeo heaven
The duck Pho soup in Hanoi had me at hello. This vendor offered small wooden crates for street-side “dining.” The dishes were washed in front of you right on the street…with the water tossed in the gutter. I adored every sip and morsel of this extremely complex broth laced with star anise… and the perfectly cooked duck. Definitely duck nirvana.
I went back 2 days in a row for this duck Pho
Coming on the February 2016 tour to Vietnam? You’ll visit both of these vendors and several more as we graze through the street foods of these two mouthwatering cities.