Sticking to the places with English menus and/or staff who speak English means you miss out on some of the tastiest and healthiest food in the world: cheap and cheerful Vietnamese street food. Here’s a quick guide to the 10 most popular street food dishes in Ho Chi Minh City.

 

Ho Chi Minh City’s street food scene can be daunting for first-time visitors. There are food vendors everywhere … but what are they selling? All the signs are in Vietnamese and the displays can be a bit confusing.

Pho

Vietnam’s unofficial national dish originated in Hanoi, but the dish evolved as it traveled throughout the country. In Ho Chi Minh City, pho is served with an abundance of fresh herbs and a range of condiments so each diner can create something that pleases their palate. The most common type of pho is pho bo, or beef pho, followed by pho ga, or chicken pho. It’s possible to find vegetarian, seafood and even pork pho.

 

Pho is a dish that’s usually eaten out because it takes many hours to prepare and has many ingredients, many of which are considered medicinal. Star anise and cinnamon are believed to have anti-bacterial and anti-viral qualities, which can be boosted with the addition of pickled garlic, bean sprouts, and a generous handful of herbs.

Photo Source: Avlxyz

Hu tieu

This pork and rice noodle dish can be served “wet” as a soup or “dry” like a plate of noodles with a small bowl of broth on the side.

 

Believed to have been created a few hundred years ago by Chinese people living in Southeast Asia, versions of hu tieu can be found in Vietnam, Cambodia, and Thailand.

 

In Ho Chi Minh City, two types of hu tieu are served: hu tieu My Tho from the Mekong Delta town of the same name, and hu tieu Nam Vang from the Cambodian capital of Phnom Penh (Nam Vang is the Vietnamese name for Phnom Penh).

 

While there is no hard-and-fast recipe for these two versions, generally hu tieu Nam Vang contains slices of offal, such as pork liver and heart, and hu tieu My Tho has prawns, quail eggs, ground pork, pork ribs, and sometimes slices of squid.

 

The dish is usually served with a platter of herbs, including edible chrysanthemum, chives, lettuce leaves, as well as bean sprouts, sliced chili, and lime wedges.

Photo Source: Ekkun

Banh xeo

In Southern Vietnam, these sizzling savory pancakes are giant bright yellow affairs, stuffed with pork, prawn, and bean sprouts. The pancakes are served with platters of leaves, which are used as wrappers.

 

To eat, tear off a chunk of the crispy pancake and place it in the center of mustard or a lettuce leaf, add a selection of basil, balm, and perilla leaves and roll up into a giant green cigar. Dip the end in the nuoc cham dipping sauce and enjoy!

 

Banh xeo is named for the sizzling sound the pancake batter makes when it hits the hot wok: xeo. Banh means cake, so the literal translation of this dish is “sizzling cake”.

Photo Source: Stuart_spivack

Banh canh

One of the more filling Vietnamese noodle soup dishes, banh canh starts with a pork broth, which is sometimes thickened with a little cornstarch. The noodles, made from tapioca, are fatter and chewier than plain rice noodles.

 

Popular with penny-conscious students, banh canh is a simple soup served for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

 

Common varieties of banh canh include

  • banh canh gio heo: served with pork knuckle and sliced pork
  • banh canh cua: with crab meat
  • banh canh cha ca: with fish sausage
  • banh canh ca loc: with snakehead fish from the Mekong Delta

 

Some street vendors in Ho Chi Minh City serve banh canh with long, skinny fried Chinese doughnuts to add more bulk to the dish. The doughnuts should be torn into bite-sized chunks and added to the soup.

Photo Source: Avlxyz

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