Pull up a plastic stool in a back alley and treat yourself to these local specialties, which are nearly impossible to find stateside.
1. MINI RICE PANCAKES
If you spot a vendor pouring batter onto a griddle with little indents, stop immediately for banh khot, spongy rice-flour pancakes topped with shrimp or minced pork and served with a mess of fresh greens and herbs.
2. CHICKEN STICKY RICE
Look for one of the many signs advertising xôi gà. It translates simply as “chicken sticky rice,” which does no justice to its complex taste. In with the shredded chicken, you might find crispy fried shallots, mint, or sausage.
3. TAMARIND CRAB
To make cua rang me, chefs stir-fry pieces of fresh crab with pork belly, garlic, tamarind, and sugar (which caramelizes in the wok). To really enjoy it, pick up a Vietnamese baguette and a cold beer or three.