Food and Drink
and drinking in Vietnam
Within tourist areas, a wide range of food acceptable to
the international palate is freely available, restaurants
are usually clean and menus often have English translations.
Elsewhere, the variety is far less, dishes and menus are
often unrecognizable and preparation and eating areas are
a long way from international standards of hygiene. Having
said that, few visitors seem suffer food-related illnesses
during their stay!
from the most expensive establishments, hotel food is nearly
always offered as a buffet with a mixture of Asian and international
dishes. Although the quality may be good, the variety is often
unimaginative. Haivenu usually leaves you to your own devices
in the evening so that you can choose the type of food and
level of restaurant that you prefer.
also offer an 'eat street' alternative in Hanoi, whereby you
can sample the bewildering array of specialist pavement 'cafés'.
Our staff will be pleased to accompany you to the places where
the locals eat - the food will be wholly authentic, delicious
and cost a fraction of restaurant prices.
expect Western-style 'hygiene' though - however, we've taken
plenty of our guests to 'eat street' without a single stomach
upset! On tours including meals, we use the best available
restaurants. In remote areas without suitable restaurants,
picnic meals will be provided.
Vietnamese food is mostly nutritious and healthy. Cooking
methods are confined to grilling, frying, boiling and steaming,
as ovens are not used. The staple is rice, either as grain
or flour. The cuisine varies according to the region. In the
north, it is comparatively bland, with a strong Chinese influence.
Food in the Hue area is spicier, with some French touches.
In the south, dishes with hot spices proliferate. Each area
has its own local specialities.
Vietnam has wide variety of soft drinks, ranging from ‘Coke’
and ‘Pepsi’ produced here under licence to locally produced
fizzy drinks and ‘energy-boosting’ concoctions. Fruit juices
are ubiquitous, ‘nuoc chanh’ (water, lemon juice and sugar)
being very popular. Fresh orange juice and other sweet fruits
are sometimes served with added sugar or salt – watch the
person making it and stop them if necessary. Also very popular
with visitors are fruit ‘shakes’: chopped fruit with ice,
water and milk frothed up in a blender.
coffee is mostly grown in the Central Highlands. Robusta is
the usual variety served in Vietnamese establishments – black,
thick, and very strong. The minority of Vietnamese people
who drink coffee usually mix it with condensed milk – definitely
an acquired taste for most foreign visitors. In the cities,
smoother Arabica coffee and fresh milk is becoming popular.
Vietnamese coffee look for the sign 'Trung Nguyen' - they
are franchised cafés, very common throughout Vietnam. For
Western-style coffee, visit the tourist areas.
curious, and expensive, variety is ‘Weasel Coffee’. Arabica
beans are fed to a weasel. They pass though the animal’s digestive
system, are excreted whole, collected, and processed. The
passage of the beans through the creature’s intestines is
supposed to create a more mellow flavour.
tea is mainly green, sometimes with flavourings, and drunk
without milk or sugar from small handle-less cups. This is
the drink traditionally offered to people visiting families,
friends, offices, shops and so on. Black tea is also popular,
but drunk without milk. If you want a traditional cup of tea
with milk, stick to the tourist areas - elsewhere you're likely
to end up with lukewarm water with a tea bag and condensed
range of alcoholic drinks in Vietnam is limited. Apart from
expensive imported wines and spirits, most drinks available
are domestically produced variations on rice wine, or lager-type
beer. Rice wine is drunk neat, often direct from the fermentation
jar via a bamboo straw, or distilled into a spirit, usually
mislabelled as ‘vodka’. The wine is also used as a base for
the addition of plants, barks or animals. These are usually
drunk for their ‘medicinal’ purposes – snake wine is very
popular with men who believe it enhances virility.
the north, 'medicinal' wines and spirits can be found easily
- definitely worth a tasting session. In Hanoi, there is a
restaurant that specialises in fruit wines and liqueurs from
the hill tribe villages - our staff will be pleased to escort
you and help you to return to your hotel.
comes as variations of locally-brewed French-style lager,
and as ‘bia hoi’. Also known as 'fresh beer’, bia hoi is relatively
low in alcohol, produced daily, and served ice-cold. It’s
cheap, ubiquitous and delicious on a hot day!