The standard Vietnamese greeting isn’t “how are you”, but “have you eaten yet?” (“ăn cơm chưa?”) — which should give you an idea of the centrality of food in Vietnamese culture.
Vietnamese cuisine is fresh and fragrant, cooked quickly, and loaded with pungent fish sauce, shrimp paste, zingy chilli, and aromatic flavours like lemongrass, ginger, lime and basil. Every region of the country has its own local delicacies, and you could fill a whole holiday with all the organic farms, cooking classes, street-food tours and trendy fusion cuisine on offer.
Vietnam just gained its first Michelin-starred restaurants and first published Michelin guide. But outside of restaurants, these are the experiences our team love to get you beneath the surface of Vietnamese food culture – plus introduce you to some of the most knowledgeable, friendly and charismatic people we know.
1. Street food tour, Hanoi
Imagine the quintessentially chaotic Asian city, with scooters weaving between pedestrians and rows of old-fashioned shops selling everything from copper pots to cakes, and it’s quite possible you’re imagining Hanoi.
To get to the heart of a Vietnamese city, team up with a local guide – your passport to the beating heart of the Hanoi street food scene. This tour is all about taking you inside the culinary traditions of the capital via its tastiest street-food treats and giving you an insight into the real lives of the Vietnamese people.
2. Craft Beer by Vespa, Ho Chi Minh City
Ho Chi Minh City is more internationally mined and cosmopolitan than its northern counterpart, Hanoi. And while it’s notorious for its scooter-snarled streets, Saigon (to its friends) is perhaps less well-known for its rapidly expanding craft beer scene. Combine the two with a bar-hopping Vespa tour; your driver and guide will share their knowledge of brewing process and ingredients as you weave amongst the city streets, stopping off at independent brewers to sample small, homemade batches of beer.
3. Private cookery class with Chef Duc, Hoi An
Hoi An is best known for its beguilingly lantern-strewn streets and timber-framed shophouses lining a river busy with sampans. And it is picturesque. But for us, Hoi An’s appeal lies in its mouth-watering food experiences.
Top of that list is a half-day cooking experience with Duc Tran, head chef at some of the town’s best restaurants and a stalwart of the Hoi An food scene. He’ll guide you through the food market to meet favourite local vendors and stock up on ingredients before heading to his restaurant for a lesson in Vietnamese culinary delights.
4. Home cooking with Chef Ai, Hanoi
If you ask us, there’s no better way to kick off your trip to Vietnam than with this cooking class at the home of Vietnamese MasterChef finalist Chef Ai.
The experience starts with a visit to the local wet market, where Ai will guide you between mountains of fresh herbs and teeming buckets of crabs to pick out ingredients for the lesson. Then, after returning to Ai’s home kitchen, you’ll learn how to make a selection of dishes loaded with aromatic herbs, spices and sauces. This isn’t just an insider’s introduction to the flavours and textures of Hanoian cuisine, it’s a window into Vietnamese daily life – and the things you learn will set you up to make the most of the (many, many) gastronomic opportunities that await you on the rest of your trip.
5. Half Day Morning Guided Tour – Saigon’s Coffee Culture, Ho Chi Minh City
Sipping a sweet iced coffee at a street-side café is an unmissable Vietnamese experience – but there’s more to it than just a few ground beans and some condensed milk: these days, Vietnam is a bona fide, world-class, bean-brewing pro.
Delve right into local life with a visit to a 90-year old coffee house, before learning how to make and enjoying the Vietnamese speciality – coffee with egg. With tips about expert brewing techniques and how to judge the quality of a blend, you’ll be a Vietnamese coffee aficionado in no time.