Vietnam is a country with a rich culture and an even richer cuisine.
While you might have had some pho back home and enjoyed it, that soup isn’t even comparable to the every-day eats of the Vietnamese. People travel from all over the world to gorge themselves on the food of this country – and for good reason. It’s unique, delicious, cheap, and healthy to boot!
A food tour is mandatory for anybody visiting Vietnam. However, it can be difficult to choose one when there are so many options! It can also be difficult to guide yourself if you don’t speak Vietnamese, that’s why we recommend a guided food tour.
Advantages of a Guided Food Tour in Vietnam
- Get the local’s perspective – Find and taste what a local considers to be good, authentic food. Skip the tourist traps and get straight to the good stuff!
- Avoid scams – While, fortunately, scams are rare – it sometimes happens. Be sure to book with a trusted source like ConBeo. We vet all tour operators carefully to ensure authenticity.
- Get the best price for food – You can avoid the “foreigner’s tax” (an underhanded markup on price) by sticking with a local Vietnamese guide. They’ll make sure you get the best deal on anything you buy.
- Safety – In general, Vietnam is a very safe place. If you’re concerned about safety, having a guide to tell you where to go and to lead you will keep you as safe as possible.
Types of Food Tours in Vietnam
If you’ve never been to Vietnam you might be surprised by the coffee. It has a more bitter, yet full-bodied, flavor that tastes quite foreign to many people.
That’s because in Vietnam almost all coffee is made with robusta beans instead of the arabica beans that are standard for the rest of the world. In fact, Vietnam is the world’s foremost producer of robusta coffee beans.
It stands to reason that a different coffee is prepared differently – and it is! There are many ways to drink Vietnamese coffee, each more delicious than the last. A common theme is that the drinks tend to be on the sweet side.
Coffee tours in Vietnam are designed to expose you to loads of different coffee (and tea) styles in a short amount of time. Expect to visit five or six coffee shops and sample lots of yummy drinks.
Note that these tours usually take place from morning to early afternoon. Don’t drink coffee any later than that – robusta beans have twice as much caffeine as your arabica beans!
Street Food Tours
The street food in Vietnam is unparalleled by any other country in the world. The enormous variety of food types you can get from a cart is astounding, and the taste is nothing to sneeze at either.
The sheer abundance of food carts, street restaurants, bicycle salesmen, and cute old ladies with food is incredible in and of itself. You seriously can’t walk 10 meters without having the opportunity to grab a snack or sit in a tiny plastic chair with a bowl of soup.
Honestly, there’s nothing you can get in a restaurant in Vietnam that you can’t also get on the street. Many times the street food variant is better, not just cheaper.
All that is common knowledge here in Vietnam and so street food tours are possibly the most popular kind of food tour. Bring a buddy because you’ll have so much food you won’t be able to eat it all.
- Best Saigon Vegan Tour : The Saigon Scooter Vegan Tour is one of our favorites. There’s a surprising amount of vegan food here in Vietnam – and it’s really, really good. This tour isn’t strictly street food, but you’ll be on the street most of the time.
Regional Cuisine Tours
Vietnam’s long and storied history has led to several distinct regions, each with their own culture and cuisine. The typical fare at a home in Hanoi (northern Vietnam) is quite different than what a family would enjoy in Da Nang (central Vietnam) or down in Ho Chi Minh City (southern Vietnam).
North Vietnam is where the famous pho soup originated. They also have a heavy emphasis on savory, peppery dishes – you’ll have a lot of stir fry up in Hanoi. South Vietnam is known for sweet and spicy dishes, often at the same time! Their secret ingredients are coconut milk and chili peppers (ideas borrowed from Cambodia).
No matter what city you’re in you’ll be able to try the cuisine of any region. Vietnamese love variety, and you’ll usually find differently-styled restaurants on every block.
- Best Saigon Cuisine Tour: We recommend the Saigon Scooter Food Tour. Get your bearings in the city from the back of a motorbike while you travel around sampling local delicacies!
Vietnam has the double advantage of an enormous coastline and a vast river network in the Mekong Delta. If food that swims is your favorite, you’ve come to the right place.
There is an abundance of very fresh seafood all along the skinny country of Vietnam. Few cities are very far from the ocean or river. You can find any kind of shellfish, crustacean, fish, octopus, squid, and even some more exotic fare like sea cucumber.
For the most part, the seafood is unassumingly integrated into everyday dishes. You might find some crab meat in your breakfast soup without knowing you ordered it!
Most seafood tours will start at the pier or a wet market so you can see where your food is sourced. Then you’ll duck into a nearby restaurant to try just about every fish you saw in the market!
Drinking is an important social convention in Vietnam. Many people end their day sharing a beer with some friends while sitting at a sidewalk restaurant. It’s the preferred method of decompression.
Foreigners visiting Vietnam might be surprised at the variety of alcohol available to them! You can find a mixture of other Asian drinks, notably sake, imported wines, and a huge selection of beer.
Vietnam doesn’t have a great climate for growing grapes. There aren’t many domestic wineries – even Vietnamese will recommend you stay away from the local vintages. They do, however, have an excellent, burgeoning craft brewing scene.
The local draft beers are quite good too – see if you can tell which one is actually brewed from rice!
Drinking tours in Vietnam can vary dramatically. In Ho Chi Minh City you might get sucked into a Bui Vien drinking tour – expect to visit a bunch of loud, flashy bars filled to bursting with young Vietnamese and intoxicated Westerners.
Alternatively, there are a lot of nicer high-end bars in the same city that have a reasonable price tag and a much better atmosphere.