In a series from Buffalo Tours’ resident foodie and local Vietnamese food expert, Thu Phan breaks down what you need to know about what you’re eating, how to find it, and what to know before you dig in. This installment is all about the Vietnamese snack foods that often get overlooked!

Ever found yourself out of ideas when it comes to Vietnamese street fare that aren’t noodle soups? Although pho, bun, and mien are almost always my answers to “What’s for lunch”, there are times when noodles and soups are just not right. Fortunately for us, the streets are filled with tasty Vietnamese snack foods and here’s a guide to the best of them!

Banh Cuon

Steamed Rice Rolls

banh cuon

No Hanoians grew up without this artful creation. Banh Cuon is a wrap made from thin wide sheets of steamed fermented rice batter, rolled over seasoned ground pork with minced wood ear mushroom. A portion typically has 5-10 rolls to be dipped in a fish sauce mix and accompanied by some herbs on the side. It is of course incomplete with out my favourite part, Vietnamese pork roll (cha lua).

Where to eat this:
Ba Hoanh, 66 To Hien Thanh, Hanoi
Thanh Van, 14 Hang Ga, Hanoi

Banh Goi and Banh Ran

Pillow Cake and Fried Cake


Don’t let the translation fool you, these are not cakes! Rather they are fried street snacks and are generally savoury rather than sweet. Often sold together, banh goi and banh ran are my favourite winter snacks. Banh goi which translate to pillow cake, is a sort of Vietnamese calzone (although smaller in size), stuffed with seasoned ground pork, minced wood ear mushroom and quail eggs. Banh ran, literally fried cake in English, has a bit more variety than the pillow cake. It’s a deep fried glutinous rice ball that’s either a salty snack or a sweet treat. The salty version’s stuffing is similar to banh goi, whereas the sweet version is loaded with mung bean paste and coconut. Like most entries on this list, banh goi and salty banh ran needs a good fish sauce mix with pickled daikon and carrots. Throw in some herbs to balance out the crunchy rich taste, and there you have it, your perfect light lunch or afternoon snack.

Where to eat this:
52 Ly Quoc Su, Hanoi

Banh Beo

Steamed Rice Cake

If you get the chance to visit Hue, do not leave without giving this a try! Typically, a plate is stacked with slices of steamed rice batter, shaped by tiny bowls and showered with savoury toppings. Literally translated to water fern cake due to its shape, it’s a specialty of the ancient capital. Toppings include mung bean paste, dried minced prawns or crispy fried shallots. Get started with this dish by pouring sweetened fish sauce on top, before you simply scoop up a whole slice with some lettuce and enjoy.

Where to eat this:
Banh beo nam loc ba Do, 71 Nguyen Binh Khiem, Hue

Banh Nam

Flat Steamed Rice Dumpling

Growing up with my grandmother, a true Hue-ian and a spectacular cook, I had the chance to taste the best of Central Vietnam’s cuisine, including Banh Nam. The basic ingredients are very similar to banh beo, as both are made with steamed rice batter and minced prawns. Banh nam however is rectangular in shape, no bigger than your average smart phone and wrapped in banana leaves. It is also accompanied by some sweetened fish sauce, which you can pour generously on the plate.

Where to eat this:
Banh beo nam loc ba Do, 71 Nguyen Binh Khiem, Hue

Banh Xeo 

Vietnamese Crepe


Often referred to as Vietnamese crepe or pancakes in the west, this savoury egg-based treat, is a thin layer of batter fried crspy and topped with shrimp, beansprouts and pork. Then, the dish is folded over (sort of like an omelet) and served.  I prefer the Hue style of cooking it, as it’s smaller, with a thinner and crunchier crust. The best way to eat this is simple and perfect.  Just wrap a bite sized piece of banh xeo in lettuce, dip it in tuong, a fermented soybean paste and munch away!

Where to eat this:
Banh Khoai Lac Thien, 6 Dinh Tien Hoang, Hue

Banh Khot

Vietnamese Mini Fried Pancakes

banh khot

What exactly is banh khot? If I had to boil it down, I would say it’s tapas sized rice pancake topped with prawn, onions and sometimes minced pork. This Southern treat often comes with sweetened fish sauce, lettuce and herbs. To eat it like a local, simply wrap banh khot in veggies, dip it in the sauce and enjoy! You can find this goodie in the Delta, but also as far north as Nha Trang.

Where to eat this:
Banh Khot Co Ba Vung Tau, 102 Cao Thang, District 3, Ho Chi Minh City

Banh Trang Nuong

Vietnamese Pizza


A new invention from the South, banh trang nuong is a Vietnamese variation on a pizza! It is in fact however much lighter in taste and serves more as a snack than the full meal, it’s deliciously original. Made by covering rice paper in egg yolk, topped with onions and other items before being chargrilled, giving it an awesome smokey flavour. The toppings vary according to the restaurant but sausages, seafood, and ham are Vietnamese favourites.

Where to eat this:
53-57 Cao Thang, District 3, Ho Chi Minh City

Banh Gio

Pyramid Rice Dumplings

If you are in need of a quick take away breakfast dish, then banh gio is the way to go! Shaped like a pyramid, formed when the cook wraps banana leaves around the dough, it’s made of rice flour stuffed with minced pork, mushroom and dried onions. Surprisingly, a few dashes of chilli sauce is all you need as a dressing.

Where to eat this:
Number 5 Thuy Khue, Hanoi

Pho Cuon

Vietnamese Fresh Rolls

Contrary to its misleading name, pho cuon is similar to a fresh spring roll with unsliced pho noodle sheets used as the wrap instead of rice paper. Inside lie decadent strips of sautéed beef, onions and basil. I recommend ordering 5 to 10 rolls per person, but if you love this dish as much as I do, go for 20! Don’t forget to dip these in provided fish sauce for the full flavour.

Where to eat this:
Pho cuon Huong Mai, – 25 Ngu Xa, Hanoi
Pho cuon Duy Map – 79 Truc Bach, Hanoi

Bot Chien

Pan-fried Rice Flour Cake

The first dish I tried when I first arrived in Saigon, Bot Chien is essentially savoury pan-fried squares that are crispy on the outside but smooth and soft on the inside. Best served fresh off the stove with scrambled eggs or omelet, and some spring onions sprinkled on top, what really pulls this snack together is the dressing! A blend of fish sauce, vinegar, soy sauce and chili sauce, it’s packed with southern flavour. As with many Vietnamese dishes, pickled daikon and carrots are served as sides to freshen up the rich taste.

Where to eat this:
190 Hai Thuong Lan Ong, District 5, Ho Chi Minh City
Dat Thanh, 277 Vo Van Tan, District 3, Ho Chi Minh City



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