How To Choose The Right Street Food Stall In Vietnam

What’s up vicarious readers, expats, and other random people?

Today I’m going to talk about the wonderful topic of finding good street food in Vietnam. Not the actual food you should eat, but the process of choosing the right food stall.

Yes, there is an art to choosing the proper food stall. One wrong stall and you might end up on the toilet for days. Hopefully it isn’t a squat toilet…

Anyway, we all know the stereotypes about eating street food in Vietnam (or Southeast Asia in general). You might even believe some of these:

  • “The food will make me sick!”
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  • “Restaurant food tastes better!”
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  • “The street vendors will rip me off!”
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  • “The kitchen isn’t hygienic!”
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How the f**k do i choose the right street food stall?

Only eat at stalls with lots of locals

This is the best method to find that good Saigon street food. If the locals are spending their hard earned money on food at a street stall, then you can bet Dong to dumplings that the food is excellent. Keep in mind the average local earns around $400 per month… that makes a \$1 bowl of pho kind of expensive.

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Avoid anything with raw meat

Avoid any food with raw meat (like sushi) in the meal. More specifically, if you see some delicious sushi sitting in the warm street stall, then avoid that stall. Even worse, if you see flies landing on the sushi like it’s a fresh piece of dog poop.

Avoid stalls with TOO many foreigners

This ties back into the stall with lots of locals, but different. Street food stalls with lots of foreigners might be good, especially if the foreigners are expats.

However, as a general rule of thumb these stalls won’t have the best prices in Saigon. You might pay 50k VND ($2.20) for your meal instead of 25k (\$1.10). Not the end of the world, but not a true Saigon street food experience.

Avoid empty street food stalls

No one sitting on those little plastic chairs eating food?

Best to avoid the stall. The ingredients won’t be fresh, which increases the chances of some gross stuff growing on it that can make you sick.

There is one caveat to this rule though. Some food stalls become ghost towns from 2PM-5PM when everyone is at work. Either don’t eat at those hours or roll the dice.

How do I pay?

You can hand motion for the price before sitting down. They’ll figure out a way to tell you the price even if they don’t speak English. They want your money. Trust me.

I personally just sit down and let them bring the food to me. I then stand up to leave and ask the price in Vietnamese. This is how the locals do it:

“Bao niêu?” (flat tone)

Keep in mind saying “how much?” in Vietnamese is borderline useless unless you know how to count in Vietnamese (not hard).

Can I still eat at restaurants?

Sure. Vietnam is a *free* country. You can eat wherever you want.

My personal recommendation is to avoid restaurants unless you want some yum yum food from other cultures. Keep in mind that the western restaurants will cost about the same as the United States.

Plus, why are you eating at western restaurants if you’re traveling in Asia?

Final Thoughts

Roll the dice. Eat the street food. The sea of motorbikes whirring by, the tiny plastic stools, and the humid heat are all quite an experience while eating your food.