By Lisa on Oct 03, 2013 with Comments 4
Where Should I Eat in Vietnam?
This is a question that I once asked and one which I have heard many other visitors to Vietnam ask since.
The answer is simple: eat where the locals eat.
Here in Vietnam I have eaten at several restaurants recommended by guide books. The food has always been good but the places are packed with tourists and are over-priced.
The best way to choose a restaurant in Vietnam is by following your nose and the locals: if it smells good it will taste good. If the locals are eating there it’s because it really is good and because the prices are right.
So go on, give it a go…. Continue past the backpacker hangouts and consider going into one of the places where the plastic stools are so low that you might as well be sitting on the floor, where there are papers and tab ends and bits of left-overs all over the floor, where the favoured drink is warm bottled beer served over ice and where the washing up is done in a corner on the floor in a bowl of cloudy water!
You will not be disappointed; the food will be fresh, cooked to order and mildly spiced with fresh herbs, ginger and perhaps a bit of chilli. This is the way to eat in Vietnam, so ditch the Lonely Planet and get out amongst the people…
Getting to Know the Bia Hoi
When I first arrived in Hanoi after a ridiculous amount of time cooped up on a plane and after a battle of wills with the Russian frontier control, the first thing I looked for was a nice refreshing beer.
I found myself in a Bia Hoi bar with my two travel companions.
I had heard about Bia Hoi, the local refreshment, before I left Spain for Hanoi and I was looking forward to trying it.
Bia is beer and Hoi means gas. Bia Hoi is Vietnam’s version of draught beer but it is very light, quite tasteless and is brewed fresh every day.
The Bia Hoi was not so bad if a little watery. The accompanying food that came out with it came with no explanation and looked a little iffy! But we gave it a go…
Street Food in Hanoi
Small bowls of watery but deadly chilly oil were put in front of us. And then pale looking rolls full of coriander leaves and something rubbery-looking were set out apparently to be dipped in this sauce.
Turned out this was our first introduction to the fresh spring rolls that we would come to know and love.
It was all very tasty and edible and we managed to wolf down a few fresh spring rolls, helped down with this agreeable home brew. My lips were on fire by the time I’d finished though!
From then on we ordered fresh spring rolls wherever we went.
Dirty Food is the Best!
The more street food you eat in Vietnam, the more you love it; we were soon eating in the dirtiest little dives imaginable, where we were the only foreigners to be seen.
We called these tiny and busy street restaurants “Dirty Food” because the places themselves were normally grubby looking and rough. The floors looked like they hadn’t seen a sweeping brush in months and the cutlery was somewhat questionable.
The food though at these street food restaurants was out of this world; it was always full of fresh vegetables and fresh herbs and was always made to order. These places buy their produce in very small portions and when they run out they just go down the street and buy some more because everything is so readily available.
All the guidebooks advise against eating at these kind of places and it is true that food poisoning is no joke. But not once did I even have an upset stomach after eating “dirty food” and the prices we paid we ridiculously tiny.
In my opinion you have not really visited Vietnam unless you have eaten real street food and you have not really visited Vietnam if you have not eaten so much pho that it is coming out of your ears.
And now it is time to discover the delights of pho: Vietnam’s most popular dish…
About the Author: Lisa, born and grew up in England, live in Mallorca, Spain... Have visited more than 20 countries, have twice as many to yet visit, love sharing experiences....