by Sally Writes

One of the most thrilling places to eat in Vietnam is at the traditional open markets, where single-dish stalls are in abundance. Women chefs are predominant here, cooking up old family recipes. While Vietnam does not offer a classic barbecue to which the Western palate has grown accustomed, the country does offer safe, smoked foods. However, as in most places around the world, it’s hard to know which of these markets is safe. Know how to determine a safe place to eat and learn what foods to order to satisfy your cravings for smoked meat.

Scanning for safety

Many times, the best smoked meats are found at the open markets mentioned above. However, travelers must be careful when eating food in new areas, as not all food safety standards are the same all over the world. There are things to look for when traveling around Vietnamese cities before choosing a market to make sure it is a safe place to eat. Look for a stall with high turnover, and remember that it will be worth your health to wait in line. The food will be freshest at these locations, since it is being sold continuously and must be replaced more often. Watch the plate being prepared, and don’t be afraid to reject it if the food appears to be mishandled. Finally, read reviews from fellow travelers on specific markets to see how others have rated the booth’s safety. If others have not reported illnesses from a specific booth, chances are you won’t get sick, either. 

Dishes using smoked foods

Bun cha is among the most popular dishes using smoked food in Vietnam. This lunchtime favorite includes seasoned pork and marinated pork belly. These parts are cooked over charcoal to a delicious charred crisp. The meat is then served over rice noodles with herbs and fish broth. Vietnamese tea smoked chicken is another smoked meat dish, but its similarity to American barbecued chicken ends there. It is smoked over spices that deliver more of a kick than simple barbecue sauce. Szechuan peppercorns and raw ginger give this smoked meal a unique, unforgettable flavor.


Traveling in Vietnam is a beautifully fulfilling experience, from the scenery to the local food. Make sure the food is safe, however, and search for smoked meats when the desire for barbecue flavor takes hold.