Best tabletop grill: Sure, you could cook at home, but it’s far easier to do it at Bo Nuong (80 Pho Duc Chinh, Ba Dinh). Like the other sidewalk joints on this popular hotpot-and-grill street, ‘Grilled Beef’ is packed nightly with crowds of young people charring generous strips of chilli-marinated meat over tabletop burners. Strewn with a colourful array of eggplant, tomato and scallions, the pre-assembled platters offer a balanced meal with minimal effort. All you have to do is stick everything on the grill and relax with a tra da.
Best poultry: Skip Chicken Street and head to Vit Co Van Dinh (9 Hong Ha, Hoan Kiem), where toothsome duck grilled to order is served alongside fresh herbs, cucumber and rice vermicelli. If you still have room, talk your companions into trying a plate of salt-crusted fried duck. Don’t be fooled by the highway rest stop atmosphere; the tender meat is 100 percent worth the dusty drive up the dike road.
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Best skewers: Although the words on the awning translate as Chinese barbecue, most of the kebabs at Do Nuong Trung Hoa (66 Hang Bong, Hoan Kiem) don’t betray any clear geographic origin. Pick out a basket of skewers, from giant snails to mushrooms smothered in bacon, and fight your way through the crowd for the staff to grill them over sizzling coals. Despite the occasionally bizarre meat choices, the cooking is stellar, with eggplant, tofu and okra turning out as tender and flavourful as pork and beef.
HO CHI MINH CITY
Best tabletop grill: Amid the quan oc’s and chestnut roasters of District 4’s street food strip Vinh Khanh, newcomer 33 Moc Quan (33 Vinh Khanh, Q4) is making a dent in the city’s grill-your-own traffic. Like other spots in Ho Chi Minh City’s street food district, it’s rammed with people nightly, chowing down on the usual suspects of shrimp, octopus and pig — as well as other less emphatically recommended selections. The style is bricks-on-the-table, with burn marks underneath — as you’d expect from its name, ‘Rustic Quarter’ — and the selection is categorical and inexpensive.
Best poultry: Drop a few thousand on the chicken leg and thigh over rice at the com tam place to the right of 288/6 Le Van Luong, Q7, and you’ll be in poultry heaven, as well as weird word-of-mouth heaven. To the other side of the place with the address is a small garden café, where you can relax with a nuoc mia, some primal beats from the nearby university-catering seafood joint and some tenderly-marinated-scrap-loving dogs. If you’re adventurous, digest your meal on a little walk through the canopied garden supply bearing the address you’ve been orbiting, past clay pots, bonsais and the occasional reclining Buddha, to a decaying 10-metre tall prayer island blocked off from the too adventurous. This weird wonder is just one of the things that keeps us making the trip out.
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Best skewers (and octopus): Just off the corner of Tran Nao and Luong Dinh Cua in District 2 lies the city’s best octopus barbecue, surrounded by an assortment of plate-your-own skewers and other sundry grillables. Okra is interspersed with seasoned pork, while chicken feet and liver compete for space with frog and the safest-looking seafood your little heart could desire. But the bach tuoc nuong is the one that gets first billing on the sign at Thao Thang 1 (Tran Nao 1, Q2), for good reason. The grilled octopus bursts with the flavour of a dignified marinade and a timely exit from the sea — the octopus secretes its own water, helping balance juiciness against smoky char.
Still Hungry? Check out our other cover stories about the best of Vietnam's Street Food
Get your taste buds going with Defining Street Food, a journey into the change world of grub in Vietnam
Test your culinary skills with Learning to Cook Street Food, an exploration of how to whip up the delicious Vietnamese delicacy of Banh Xeo
Try a taste of the hottest sauces (literally) in Vietnam, with Some Like It Hot
Finally, find out how Western influences are changing the face of street fare in Vietnam, with Streetifying Western Food