Written by Sharon Phu (Yale University) Student Correspondent CET Vietnam, Spring 2018
I didn’t know how to order food when I first came to Vietnam. So without further ado, here are some key phrases for all your food ordering situations.
- To get waitstaffs’ (or anyone’s) attention, Vietnamese people typically yell out “[insert appropriate pronoun here]-ơi.” What are the pronouns, you ask? The basic list includes chú (for a man who is your father’s age or a little older), cô (for a woman who is your mother’s age or a little older), anh (for a man who appears your age or older), chị (for a woman who appears your age or older), bạn (gender-neutral term for someone who appears the same age as you), and em (gender-neutral pronoun for someone younger than you).
- To order, say “cho em [insert name of food here]. If you don’t know the name of the food you’re ordering, point and say “cho em cái này,” which means “please give me this.”
- I don’t like spicy food so I learned very early on to say “em không ăn cay,” which translates to “I don’t eat spicy.” Another way to say it is “em không ăn ớt,” which means “I don’t eat chili.”
- I didn’t realize I was sensitive to MSG until Julia mentioned the key phrase “drunk sleepy.” It also makes my heart rate increase noticeably a little bit after I finish eating. To avoid zoning out completely during class and also in the spirit of trying to be more healthy, I request “không bột ngọt,” which means “no MSG.”
- The word “thêm” means add. So if you want extra meat in your bowl, you can say “thêm thịt.” Extra veggies is “thêm rau.”
- If you want to take something to-go, just say “mang đi.”
- When you’re done eating, just call over one of the staff and either say “trả tiền” or “tính tiền” to let them know you’re ready to pay.
- Eating with friends and want to pay separately? Say “trả tiền riêng” or “tính tiền riêng.” On that note, trả chung/ tính chung means pay all together.
After looking through past posts for inspiration, I also realized that there was nothing yet for “good eats recs” near CET. No worries though, because ya girl here has been keeping a list over the course of last month.
Alley 18 is full of tasty food for low prices. Unfortunately I don’t have pictures of every store front there, but it’s a very cozy alley. Everything is easy to find and the prices range from under $1 to $1.75.
For stores that are open through the day, there’s:
- bánh canh cua– Crab noodle soup. Delish.
- bún bò huế — A type of beef noodle soup that’s much different from phớ. There’s two places in the alley that serve it. Personally, I like what the store on the right-hand side of the alley serves more.
- bún thịt nướng—Rice noodles served with barbecued pork, veggies (bean sprouts, carrots, daikon, cabbage, herbs), a deep-fried spring roll and however much fish sauce you want.
- bánh cuốn—Meat and mushrooms wrapped in rice dough. Served with bean sprouts, mint, and fried onion. I get this for breakfast sometimes; the ladies who work there are super friendly (as are literally every food seller in Alley 18).
There are some foods and drinks that are only available from cart owners in the morning, such as sweet potato (khoai lang) and fresh milk/soy milk/green bean milk/I love milk (sữa tươi/ sữa đậu nành/ sữa đậu xanh/ tôi rất thích uống sữa).
The phớ shop (the one that’s further down the alley) is also only open in the morning. Not sure if I’d recommend it though; the phớ I got there had a funny taste the first and last time I tried it. Maybe it was just that one time though *shrugs*.
At night, if you walk all the way down to the end of the alley, you’ll find a hủ tiếu (another kind of rice noodle soup) cart surrounded by low plastic tables and chairs. The hủ tiếu there is pretty good and super cheap. I like to get hủ tiếu mì, which is half rice noodle, half egg noodle, and sliced pork meat on top. I also like to say “thêm sườn,” which means “please add pork bones too.” The cart owner also serves hủ tiếu bò viên (rice noodle soup with beef meatballs) and hủ tiếu hoành thánh (rice noodle soup with Vietnamese wonton).
My favorite stop in Alley 18 is actually *cue heavenly choir*… the sinh tố (smoothie) cart!
It’s fresh fruit smoothies for 20,000 đòng or less depending on what you get. I love the mango smoothie (sinh tố xoài) and the custard apple + strawberry smoothie (sinh tố mãng cầu và dâu).
This post is running long but I have just a few more recs to include:
- Fantastea, now known as Trà Tiên Hưởng has bubble tea and regular tea. It’s also a nice place to do homework. Julia reccommends their tea macchiatos. It’s located on the way to Alley 18, at 15i Nguyễn Thị Minh Khai.
- Bisteak! Or steak. It’s located across the street from Highlands Coffee, the one at 27B Nguyễn Đình Chiểu. Try it for dinner because this place doesn’t exist during the day. Literally.
- Bánh Cuốn Hồng Hạnh is a restaurant that serves Huế food. It’s at 17 Nguyễn Thị Minh Khai.
- Get all the bánh mì you could ever want at Bánh Mì Hồng Liên, located at 18A1 Nguyễn Thị Minh Khai. My favorite is their omelette bánh mì, and yes I would recommend asking them to add pâté. Yum. They also have sticky rice, baked desserts, and burgers (though I haven’t tried those yet).
- For the best phở (with broth) in 5 minute walking distance, try Phở Cao Vân located at 25 Mạc Đĩnh Chi, Đa Kao, Quận 1, Hồ Chí Minh. It’s just past KFC.
- Check out Alley 12 for a small fruit market. There’s a vegetarian place there I like, and there’s also a small restaurant called Ngò Rí where they serve food family style. Ngò Rí changes up their menu daily. It’s good to go earlier because they run out of certain dishes pretty quickly.
- Alley 19A has some good phở khô (beef noodles without broth) and bún chả (grilled pork floating in fish sauce and a bit of bamboo, rice noodle, and of course, lots of herbs).
- Hello Weekend is a cool market that happens every other weekend at the stadium near Alley 12. There’s some decent food to be tried there.
- Lastly, if you’re looking for a dessert place, try Ba Tròn. It’s located at 016 Chung Cư A3 Phan Xích Long in the Phú Nhuận District.