Eat Like a Local in Vietnam

By Danika Garlotta
February 19, 2015
Lonely Planet - Hanoi, Vietnam
Lonely Planet

Danika Garlotta and her husband Chris are traveling around the world and sharing their experiences at

Vietnamese food is without a doubt, one of my favorite cuisines. My husband Chris and I love its creative ingredients, and that mix of sweet, sour and spicy flavors! Although we were excited to visit Vietnam in general, we were more excited to taste everything and eat our way through the various cities we were visiting like Hanoi, Hue, Hoi An, and Saigon.

Of course, being a huge country, the various regions of Vietnam (north, central, and south) each had their own unique food styles. We felt lucky that over the course of three weeks, we'd have the chance to try the food from so many different parts of the country. No matter where we went, we were able to find vietnamese staples like Pho and Bun Cha, but we were surprised by the variation from one city to another -- for instance, the Pho you order in Hanoi is almost completely different from the Pho you'll get in Saigon.

Another thing that surprised us was that each of the three regions we visited had very different dining cultures (at least from what we could tell). In Hanoi, the north of Vietnam, the places we ate were basically "mom and pop" street food stalls. In Hue and Hoi an, the central region of Vietnam, things were a little more developed, and we found a broader selection of traditional restaurants. In Saigon, Vietnam's largest city, we were able to find everything from amazing street food to fine dining all on the same street.

Below are a few tips for eating some of the best Vietnamese food we tried, while on our 3 week tour of Vietnam in July 2014. I know we are missing a ton of dishes on this list, so let us know about your favorites in the comments!

Tips for eating in Vietnam:

One thing we quickly learned, was that eating in Vietnam is a very different than eating in a Vietnamese restaurants in the US or Europe.  Below are a few things to keep in mind when while looking for a bite to eat in Vietnam.

Be adventurous: Many restaurants in Vietnam (especially Hanoi) don't always look like traditional restaurants in the US or Europe. Sometimes, the "restaurant" is the front room of someone's house, and they serve food to you in what is essentially their living room. Sometimes the "restaurant" is just a grill setup over an open fire on the sidewalk. If you see people sitting on little plastic stools, go ahead and join them. We did this many times, and had amazing meals, and never died. It's perfectly safe.

Look for locals: This golden rule of eating in a foreign city applies anywhere, but especially for Vietnam. If you look into a place and see nothing but wide eyed westerners looking back at you, run away. Often times this tactic does mean that you will end up going into places that may appear to be less than "100% sanitary" (though you'll get over that quickly in Vietnam), and they most likely will not have a translated menu for you. Deal with it. Find someone who is eating something that looks good and point to it when you order. Odds are you'll get delicious, authentic food, and for a fraction of what you'd pay in a restaurant that caters to foreigners.   

Don't always expect to get a menu: Many places we ate in Vietnam only served 1 dish. You basically walk up, grab a stool, and within 30 seconds someone walks over and puts down a bowl or plate of what ever it is that restaurant makes. It could be skewers, bun cha, pho, or something else you may not always recognize, but whatever it is, that's what you're going to eat, there are no substitutions. 

Drink beer: It's hot in Vietnam, and nothing helps cool you down like a glass of beer. You'll see it for sale everywhere. We bought some from an old lady selling it out of her house, and we sat with her on little stools on the sidewalk and drank a few bottles. Also, a bottle of beer is cheaper than a bottle of water in Vietnam, use that to your advantage, and remember beer is 95% water anyway! Cheers!

Speaking of Beer, try Bia Hởi This is a dirt cheap local style of Vietnamese beer. Expect to pay a few pennies for a glass. Bia Hởi literally means fresh beer. It's brewed each the morning and is sold later that day! Don't be turned off when you see it served with large amounts of ice. It's surprisingly refreshing and when it's hot and humid (even inside the air conditioned rooms), you'll be thankful.  

Our favorite food from Hanoi:

Bun Cha: The signature dish of Hanoi.  Follow your nose to a smoky street-side grill and chances are you'll find Bun Cha. You'll be given a mound of grilled pork neck, fried spring rolls, salty-sweet broth, slices of green papaya, rice noodles, and fresh herbs. Mix everything together and enjoy. 

Morning Glory Salad: Although we found this everywhere in Vietnam, we first tried it in Hanoi. It's a crispy vegetable that is stripped down to be noodle like and we ate in variety of different ways. My favorite was eating it raw with grilled beef on top and that tangy sweet sauce, Vietnam does so well. 

Phở: There is a big difference between Phở served in Hanoi and Saigon. In Hanoi you get wider noodles, a darker broth and my favorite - a strong anise and cinnamon flavor. If you're used to getting all the different garnishes (herbs, lemon, different types of meat, etc) you'll have better luck in Southern Vietnam.

Bahn Mi: A baguette sandwich that is given a Southeast Asian twist by stuffing it with pâté, mayonnaise, pickled carrots and daikon, jalapeños, cilantro and cold cuts. Although we found Bahn Mi everywhere in Vietnam, we liked it best in Hanoi. Most of the stands we came across only had 2 basic types; Banh Mi Pate (where you choose your meat), and Banh Mi Trung (egg), which is the best breakfast sandwich you'll ever have

Che Thap Cam / Red bean, Ice Drink: A little bit of column A and a little bit of column B, that's the gist of che thap cam. Whatever the dealer is selling, she'll spoon in a smidgen of each. You'll most likely receive layers of beans, jellies, tapioca, coconut milk, shaved ice and more beans. 

Our favorite food from Hoi An:

Cao Lau: This is probably one of the most famous dishes to come from Hoi An. It's a pork noodle soup made with fat yellow noodles, slabs of tender pork, bean sprouts, fresh greens and crispy croutons. What makes this dish special is the noodles must be made with the water from one of the closely guarded ancient Cham wells hidden throughout Hoi An.

Banh Bao Vac: A delicious shrimp or pork dumpling that when steamed looks like a white rose. Topped with crispy shallots and a tangy dipping sauce, this is one of my favorite appetizers.

Com Ga Hoi An: Otherwise known as chicken rice and pretty much available at every restaurants.  

Central Food Market: Although we didn't get to visit this so called "foodies paradise", we had heard enough good praises from credible sources, that this is the best place to sample all of Hoi An's unique dishes. 

Our favorite food from Hue:

Banh loc tran: What I conside the equivalent of the Banh Bao Vac (white rose dumplings) of Hoi An. These dumpling like ravioli's are made with a tapioca flour-based dough and stuffed with a generous portion of shrimp and pork.

Banh Beom: Steamed rice cakes, that are topped with dried shrimp, pork cracklings, shallots and herbs.

Banh Khoai: Banh khoai literally means "delicious cake" and is served open face. The crispy pancakes are traditionally filled with pork, shrimp and sprouts serve with fresh greens and fermented soy bean peanut sauce.

Mystery Chicken: I'm not sure exactly what we ate, but one afternoon our tuk-tuk driver took us into a food market in Hue, where we were led to a pair of small plastic stools sitting in 2 inches of some rancid looking water. At first we were a little unsure, but after noticing we were surrounded by 10 other Vietnamese locals all chowing down, we decided to give it a go. It's a good thing we did, because next thing you know the woman reaches over and gives us 4 skewers of mystery chicken (at least I think it was chicken). Honestly it was so good that we ended up ordering many more skewers, and after a few cans of Huda beer, we didn't even care if it was chicken or not, as it was so damn good. 

Our favorite food from Saigon:

Bun Thit Nuong Cha Gio - A combination of grilled meat, fried spring rolls and sweet and sour sauce all on top of rice vermicelli noodles, fresh lettuce and herbs. Best served street side on a child's stool. 

Phở: The Phở  served in Saigon seemed to come in much larger bowls, smaller noodles and with all the delicious accoutrements I could want - mint, cilantro, bean sprouts, sawtooth herbs, lime and hoisen sauce. 

Ca Phe Da: More commonly known as Vietnamese Iced  Coffee.You can find this almost anywhere in Vietnam and it's so much more than just coffee. It's dessert, it's energy, it's just delicious! It's made with coarsely ground Vietnamese-grown dark roast coffee, individually brewed with a small metal French drip filter. It's then poured into a cup containing as much sweetened condensed milk, stirred and poured over ice. Chris drank like 4 of these a each day. 

Square One Restaurant: Ok, this one is not a dish, but an actual restaurant. Located inside the Park Hyatt hotel, this was one of the best meals we had in Saigon. We wanted to dress up a bit and see what the fine dining scene was like in Saigon. With an open kitchen and chic decor, we dined on authentic Vietnamese dishes and had great wine and cocktails. 

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Honeymoon Paradise for Less (You MUST See the Perks!)

Real talk from a bride-to-be: Never did I fully comprehend the huge buildup and subsequent letdown of sketching out a honeymoon plan until I got engaged. Years ago, before even I met my fiancé, I naturally assumed that the grown-up me would go on a romantic, Ulysses-esque epic honeymoon journey. Maybe we'd see the Acropolis in Athens, swing through the Piedmont region of Italy to sample Barolos, stop in French Polynesia to admire exotic birds from an overwater bungalow, take the train to the South of France for aromatherapy in fields of lavender, taste street food in Thailand, and then spend a night or two in L.A. in a hotel with a full view of the Hollywood sign en route home to New York... I'm exaggerating, but you get the idea. I was gonna go big. Now close your eyes and imagine the sound of a record needle screeching and young dreams shattering, because that's what happened when I entered the preliminary figures for my wedding budget into an Excel spreadsheet. That initial lump sum of money that would have been perfect for embarking on a mini 'round-the-world excursion quickly got chopped in half, and then in half again, and then in half again due to the cost of having to actually get married and hold a reception. Whatever amount is left over is fair game, but waving buh-bye to all of that cash is, ironically, heartbreaking. To all the brave couples who eloped; created a honeymoon registry on a site like Honeyfund, Zola, or Blueprint Registry; or threw a modest wedding in order to spend on a massive trip later, you have my utmost respect...and envy. Like many of you who are mapping out a post-wedding escape, I'm going to have to cut honeymoon costs where I can once we nail down a destination. But if there's one thing I believe, it's that Budget Travelers shouldn't have to sacrifice the perks they fantasize about in order to vacation within their means. In that spirit, we found six affordable honeymoon resorts and hot spots that not only welcome newly married couples, but offer a slew of free extras—we're talking complimentary bubbly, on-the-house farm-to-table meals, and free activities like nighttime concerts. Because when you're looking to take a breather from wedding madness and get to know your partner better, those little add-ons are priceless...or so I've heard. Negril, Jamaica: Sunset at the Palms Prepare for Romance with a capital "R" at the all-inclusive, adults-only Sunset at the Palms resort, which consistently gets high marks from travelers for its romance quotient and intimate, tropical atmosphere (think 10 acres of lush gardens and rustic, elevated treehouse-style bungalows with Asian-inspired decor). Cost: From $226 per couple, per night, all-inclusive Perks for lovers: Stay five nights or more and get a free bottle of champagne and 15 percent off spa services. (Mention the Free Honeymoon Package.) An upgrade to the Romance at Sunset package that includes a massage and four-course dinner is available at an extra cost, but if you're trying to work within your budget (and who isn't), the Sunset chain offers a honeymoon registry through Honeymoon Wishes so your guests can gift you everything from safaris to indulgent spa services like milk-and-honey body wraps. There is, however, a service and handling fee of up to 9.65 percent that you and the gift purchaser are responsible for, so if that bugs you, you might be better off asking for cash-stuffed envelopes instead. Walla Walla, Washington: Marcus Whitman Hotel How does a no-cost glass of wine or two sound after all that anticipated wedding hooplah? If your answer is "oustanding," consider Washington's wine country, says Dr. Pepper Schwartz, author of Places for Passion. The Marcus Whitman Hotel downtown can serve as home base. "There are numerous wine tasting places within a few blocks, many of which will not charge for the chance to sample their wines," she says. Cost: From $125 per couple, per night Perks for lovers: The Marcus Whitman has a free hot breakfast, and complimentary wine from surrounding tasting rooms is plentiful, even on non-"barrel" weekends, when winemakers show off their new vintages and dole out samples. Check out the Walla Walla Valley Wine Alliance's website for more information. Nassau, Bahamas: Breezes Resort & Spa Who wants a free wedding? "Super-inclusive," no-tipping-allowed Breezes Resort & Spa on Nassau's Cable Beach offers a complimentary Endless Love package that provides a wedding planner, cake, officiant, marriage license, bouquet/boutonniere, champagne, music and festive decor, and four guest passes. Also available gratis upon request: a sand ceremony, jumping the broom, and a unity candle lighting. 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Punta Cana, Dominican Republic: Barceló Bávaro Beach If a veritable king and queen's banquet of honeymoon perks at a value rate appeals to you and your new spouse, Punta Cana, in the Dominican Republic, offers nice extras for cheap, says Susan Breslow, honeymoons expert at One example: the adults-only, all-inclusive resort Barceló Bávaro Beach, a 589-room behemoth with nine à la carte restaurants perfect for having romantic dinners sans the buffet-table lines. Cost: From $168 per person, per night, all-inclusive Perks for lovers: Barceló's In Love package is completely free. Here's what you get: a room upgrade, late check-out, a bottle of sparkling wine delivered to the room, honeymooners' T-shirts (because why not?), a 15 percent discount on spa services, a 10 percent discount on tours with Vacaciones Barceló, and a printed picture from the photo shop. Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania: Glasbern Inn R&R is inescapable at the Glasbern Inn, a country retreat that offers elopement packages (larger, full wedding packages are available too). As honeymoon accommodations go, relationships expert Schwartz says the half-timbered rooms, fireplaces, and beautiful grounds are darn near unbeatable, especially in the wintertime. Cost: From $150 per couple, per night Perks for lovers: A full country breakfast for two is included, as are free farm walking trails for private strolls. Even one of the least expensive Main Barn rooms has a whirlpool and a separate private sun room. Do you have any honeymoon-planning advice for me? I need all the help I can get! Tell me your best advice in the comments.


10 Great Movies Set in Miami

This article was written by Mike Richard on behalf of The warm weather, beautiful beaches, and over-the-top luxury of Miami have made it the ideal location for a number of Hollywood films. From the gritty, gangster drama of Scarface, to the hilarious humor of The Birdcage, to the non-stop action of Miami Vice, here are ten of the greatest movies ever set in Miami, Florida. #1: Ace Ventura Pet Detective (1994) To call Ace Ventura a “great” movie is more than a stretch. But what other movie starred Dan Marino, a stolen dolphin, and Jim Carrey in his film debut? By those standards, it’s certainly unforgettable. The film included an array of key Miami locations, including Miami Beach, Virginia Key, Joe Robbie Stadium (now Sun Life Stadium), and the Orange Bowl. #2: Caddyshack (1980) After more than thirty years, Caddyshack is still the yardstick by which all male-centric comedies are measured. With heavy-hitting comic all-stars Rodney Dangerfield, Chevy Chase, and Bill Murray, all directed by the legendary Harold Ramis, it’s no doubt the greatest golf comedy of all time. Most of the film was shot just outside Miami at the Rolling Hills Golf & Tennis Club in Davie and the Boca Raton Hotel & Country Club. But the climax scene where Dangerfield ravages a marina with his yacht was filmed on Biscayne Bay. #3: Marley and Me (2008) This film is arguably the saddest pet movie in recent memory. Starring Jennifer Aniston and Owen Wilson, Marley and Me follows their trials and tribulations as new pet owners. The not-at-all surprise ending stays true to John Grogan’s book, ultimately forcing viewers to question why they subjected themselves to such heartbreak. The film uses a variety of Florida locations, including West Palm Beach, Fort Lauderdale, Hollywood, Miami, and Dolphin Stadium. #4: The Birdcage (1996) In one of Robin Williams’ and Nathan Lane’s funniest films ever, they play a gay night club owner and drag queen, respectively. When their son’s new and very conservative in-laws plan to come to town, they’re forced to act the part of a heterosexual couple and hilarity ensues. The film was shot almost entirely in key locations around Miami, including the historic Art Deco District, Miami Beach, and The Carlyle Hotel. #5: There’s Something About Mary (1998) The Farrelly brothers brought their trademark, low-brow grossness to Miami in There’s Something About Mary. Ben Stiller stars as a lovable geek who fails to take his dream girl, played by Cameron Diaz, to the high school prom. With the help of a moronic private investigator, he attempts to track her down years later and things go horribly awry. While some of the movie was filmed in the Farrelly’s hometown of Rhode Island, the majority of it was shot in and around Miami. #6: Scarface (1983) In one of his best roles—if you can overlook the horrible accent and over-the-top Cuban stereotyping—Al Pacino stars as a Cuban-American who comes to America in search of opportunity. Scarface chronicles his sharp rise and dramatic fall in one of the greatest classic gangster movies of all time. Few films have so deftly captured the drug-fueled excesses of 1980s Florida. Large portions of the film were shot in Miami Beach, at the Fontainebleau Miami Beach Hotel, and around South Beach. #7: Any Given Sunday (1999) In yet another pivotal role for Pacino, he stars as Coach D’Amato of the Miami Sharks football team. The film chronicles his reaction to several years of slumping attendance, a losing streak, and pressure from the team’s new owner (played by Cameron Diaz). 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Ice Trekking on the Viedma Glacier

This article was written by Will Collier on behalf of Say Hueque, a company specializing in tours to Argentina and Chile. You may have heard of Argentina's famous Perito Moreno Glacier, but did you know that it's not the biggest glacier in the country? While Perito Moreno may be the most popular among tourists, the largest in Argentina is actually the Viedma glacier. Located in the Los Glaciares National Park, the Viedma glacier has a total area of 380 square miles and flows directly from the South Patagonic Ice Field, eventually feeding the Viedma Lake with its runoff. Much like Perito Moreno, there are a number of ways to view the enormous ice formation, the most interactive: trekking on the glacier itself. Just outside the town of El Chaltén, known throughout the country as the trekking capital of Argentina, the Viedma glacier is largely unknown in comparison to Perito Moreno. Despite being the largest glacier in the country, Viedma remained relatively hidden until recent years when the town of El Chaltén was established. With the creation of El Chaltén came wider access to Viedma, although the more established town of El Calafate, with its close proximity to Perito Moreno, still remains much more popular among visitors to Patagonia. For this reason, those interested in glacier trekking have a unique opportunity to get up close and experience Viedma with smaller crowds. There are three different excursions visitors can choose from, depending on the desired level of difficulty and length of time you're spending in the area. The shortest and least difficult is the six-hour Ice Trek Excursion, which is recommended for people in generally good physical condition. Also available is the Viedma Pro Excursion, which has lasts nine hours and is a popular option for beginners. The longest one is the Full Day Excursion, which lasts 12 hours and is recommended for people who are physically fit and agile. All three excursions include your trekking gear and are known for offering an extremely unique and intimate experience to their guests. If you're interested in glacier trekking and looking for a more intimate experience than what is currently available at the Perito Moreno glacier, trekking the Viedma glacier is a perfect alternative.


How to Eat Your Way Through Nova Scotia's Chowder Trail—Recipe Included!

Mmmmm...Chowder Trail. Pardon us as we go all Homer Simpson just thinking about Nova Scotia's 60-plus destinations where you can try fresh, hot Atlantic seafood chowder. Throw the kids in the backseat and drive along the 4,700 miles of the Atlantic Canada province's coastline, sampling soups as you go. Before you set out on the road, download a 2015 "chowder passport" from Nova Scotia's website (it's valid from May to October of this year), peruse the official Chowder Trail Map, then collect "stamps" as you try each chowder. That's fun all by itself, but you'll also have a chance to win swag like restaurant gift certificates and a seafood knife set. Here are some unique flavors we came across—each clocking in at about $5 to $10 a bowl—and where in Nova Scotia to get them, plus a sweet deal on a budget-friendly Nova Scotia inn where you'll want to rest up between bellyfuls: Hearty, inventive local chowders to taste-test in Nova Scotia: 1.       Smoked seafood chowder, made with scallops, mussels, shrimp, and smoked haddock: Salt Shaker Deli, Lunenburg2.       Bacon, corn, and prawn chowder: The Biscuit Eater Café & Books, Mahone Bay3.       Chipotle mussel chowder: Old Orchard Inn, Wolfville4.       Curry lobster chowder: Seasons by Atlantica, Halifax5.       Haddock chowder: Trout Point Lodge, East Kemptville6.       Cape Breton seafood chowder, made with haddock, scallops, lobster, bacon, and potatoes: Panorama at Cabot Links, Inverness Where to stay: From June 15–Sept. 15, Ye Old Argyler Lodge, an oceanfront B&B in Lower Argyle, will offer a Lobster Culinary Adventure for foodies who like to know exactly where their dinner (and breakfast) comes from. Chef Jonathan Joseph escorts guests to a nearby wharf to select their lobsters, prepared for a lobster supper for two (rooms from $145, lobster package $100, Hungry yet? Even if you weren't planning to visit the northeast (this year, anyway), you can have a taste of Nova Scotia by following this recipe from Rhubarb Restaurant in Indian Harbour: Root Vegetable Seafood Chowder Recipe Rhubarb Restaurant chef Jon Geneau buys his lobster at Ryer Lobsters, just down the road from Rhubarb. And the root vegetables aren't far away either. Ingredients: 6 quarts water2 tbsp salt1 lobster (about 1.5 lb)1 lb mussels1/3 cup butter1 cup diced Spanish onion1 carrot, cubed½ stalk celery, sliced1 cup cubed potato¼ cup cubed turnip¼ cup cubed parsnip4–6 oz smoked Atlantic salmon, thinly sliced½ lb haddock, cubed1 cup heavy cream (35 percent MF)2 tbsp lemon juiceSalt and pepper to taste½ cup chopped parsley Directions: 1. In a large pot, combine water and salt and bring to a boil. Cook lobster for 12 minutes. With tongs, remove the lobster and let cool enough to handle. Strain cooking liquid into bowl, setting aside 3 cups. Discarding the shells, remove lobster meat and break into bite-sized pieces. Set aside. 2. Under cold running water, scrub (and debeard if necessary) mussels, discarding any that are damaged or do not close when lightly tapped. Set aside. 3. In large saucepan over medium heat, melt butter; sauté onion until translucent, about 5 minutes. Do not let brown. Stir in carrot and celery; cook, stirring often, for 5 minutes. Stir in potato, turnip, and parsnip and reserved cooking liquid. Simmer until vegetables are tender. 4. Gently stir in salmon, haddock, lobster, and mussels. Cover and simmer until mussels have opened and fish flakes easily with a fork, about 5–6 minutes. Remove and discard any unopened mussels. Gently stir in cream and lemon juice. Cook until heated. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Sprinkle each serving with parsley. Serves: 4–6