This is something not only foreign visitors but also most Vietnamese ask themselves about street food. No matter how good it smells and tastes, the food needs to be clean and fresh, guaranteeing health for any eater. Let’s go through some data and find out ways we could best enjoy Vietnam Street Food.
What do health reports say about Vietnam Street Food?
There hasn’t been any official health reports about the safety of Vietnam Street Food. The reason is there are thousands of food stalls in an area, let alone a city. Pop-up sidewalk stalls or casually walking from street to street vendors are hard to keep track of since they can be anywhere at different times of the day. Though daily or monthly health and safety check on food stalls have been carried out by Vietnam Ministry of Health, there are still some very alarming issues that the authorities hardly manage.
The ugly truth about Vietnam Street Food is that most vendors or store owners haven’t been well informed about health safety. So the chance of food poisoning or other health related issues is higher. Street food for that reason is not recommended by health inspectors.
How do Vietnamese react to this?
Most Vietnamese, to be honest, are pretty nonchalant to the alarm raised by health inspectors. For years, the natives have always been in love with the street food. A habit has been shaped. You wake up and grab something fast from the food stall next to your house. When you go out with your friends, the sidewalk food stall is the most ideal place for some casual conversations.
One of the reasons most people still prefer street food is how cheap it is yet still satisfy your full stomach. A deeper explanation for this lies in the cultural experience street food has created for the local. Restaurants or luxurious places are only formal or special gatherings while sidewalk food stores are everyone’s go-to place when they’re hungry.
What can you do to best enjoy Vietnam Street Food?
While the authorities are still struggling to have a better control of the situation, there are still some ways we can enjoy Vietnam Street food yet protect our own well being.
1. Avoid raw meat or raw vegetable
Make sure to avoid raw meat since dishes using raw meat put you in a very vulnerable position of getting health issues. Raw vegetables - a common side dish in street food are hard to tell too since some do not wash it properly. You can avoid eating raw vegetables or ask the vendors to dip them in boiling hot water.
2. Do not drink tap water
Tap water in Vietnam is not guaranteed like such in the US or other Western countries. Nowadays, most Vietnamese families have a water purifier in their house. If not, they usually boil water and let it cool down for drinking. Travellers can bring your own bottles and ask for clean water from hotels or buy bottled water from the convenience store.
3. Steaming hot food is safer
While we can not have full control of how vendors cook their food, we can still observe and make decisions ourselves. It’s recommended to eat only steaming hot food since it reduces your chances of getting food poisoned.
4. Avoid exotic dishes
There are some very strange dishes that even locals do not recommend. While you can be adventurous or experimental with those and let things be, it’s best to avoid blood pudding (tiết canh) and pufferfish (cá nóc).
5. Choose the right food stalls.
Protect your health by only choosing food stalls that meet basic health requirements. Those are the ones whose vendors or cooks use gloves, where food is preserved inside a three-side glass and ingredients are clean and fresh. If some can not meet those basic requirements, consider leaving them out of your options.
6. Always peel the fruit
It’s a habit for most foreigners to eat fruit without peeling. But in Vietnam, always wash the fruit carefully with a bit of salt or vinegar in the water. Then peel them before you eat. This is to get rid of all the dirt or pesticides or chemicals.
7. Ask for guidance from the locals
It would be ideal to have a local friend. They will know which is good to eat or not. You can also use Google or food apps like Lozi or Foody to read reviews of previous eaters.
8. Eat in reputed restaurants
In general, reputed restaurants are a lot safer when it comes to food safety. Street food is not explicitly found on the street but a lot of restaurants still offer you a wide range of street food that are healthy, safe to eat and as good as those you find out there. Lang Lieu Restaurant is one of those!
In the end, the answer to the title is both yes and no. Vietnam Street Food is still safe if we prepare ourselves carefully.
If you want to enjoy Hanoi food street but still safe and good for health, come to Lang Lieu restaurant. In addition, the bold atmosphere of Vietnam in Lang Lieu will make your culinary experience more complete!