The Real Cost of Eating Only Vietnamese Food

We like to challenge ourselves, set targets and play little games to make the week even more exciting. This week our challenge was simple – only eat vietnamese food! It sounds simple, we are living in Vietnam after all. But there are two sides to that coin. Yes we are surrounded by new, flavorful and interesting foods but there are times when you miss home and just want to chow down on a juicy burger, or find all the cheese that this city has (it’s not a lot). So we wanted to see if we could do it, and to see how we would feel afterwards. Would we feel healthier? Lighter? After occasionally eating Western food our wallets certainly were. Don’t get me wrong, Western style food is still cheap when comparing to Western style prices, but for Vietnam, it can be a bit pricey. For example, there is a particularly good burger joint in the city, and for a burger, fries and a beer, its going to cost you 5 dollars or 120,000 VND. If we were in America or England, I’d bite your hand of for that deal; but when I tell you that 120,000 VND could buy you 12 Banh Mi sandwiches, or 6 bowls of bun cha you can see that eating Western food is not the most sensible thing to do.

So on a Wednesday morning, we waved goodbye to pizza and pasta; sat down on a pair of tiny plastic stools at a small plastic table underneath the sweltering Vietnamese sun, grabbed a pair of chopsticks and dug in. Disclaimer: There is so much more to Vietnamese food than Pho!

Below is our week and a breakdown of our foodie adventure.

-Wednesday-

Mì Quảng (thick noodles with peanuts and peanut sauce, pork and quail egg and fresh herbs) 20,000

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Bún Thịt Nướng (vermicelli noodles in a peanut sauce and chilli jam with grilled beef and fresh herbs)
25,000

La Rue (the cheapest canned beer in Da Nang)
11,000

Total cost for day 1: 56,000 vnd or $2.51

-Thursday-

Alana: Com Ga (Chicken and Rice from a restaurant)
40,000

Sam: Bun Cha Giỏ (vermicelli noodles with spring rolls and a cold vinegar and light fish broth) 30,000

Coconut Coffee (Coffee with thick fresh coconut cream)
40,000

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Alana: Mì Quảng Xao Chay (Fried thick noodles from a vegetarian restaurant)
25,000

Sam- Mì Quảng Chay (Mì Quảng from a vegetarian restaurant)
20,000

Total cost for Day 2:
Alana-105,000 vnd or $4.70
Sam- 90,000 vnd or $4.03

-Friday-

Bo Ne (platter of fried egg, beef, pate, a meatball and Cha, a vietnamese processed meat, served with bread, equivalent to an English breakfast)
35,000

Cafe Sua Saigon (vietnamese coffee with condensed milk, iced)
15,000

Work meeting food (We had the equivalent of a vietnamese panini-no cheese of course. But doesn’t free food always taste better?)
Free!

Bia Hoi (A pitcher of fresh beer, not always the strongest but it’s cold and dirt cheap!)
20,000

Total cost for Day 3: 70,000 vnd or $3.14 

-Saturday-

Bún Thịt Nướng (vermicelli noodles in a peanut sauce and chilli jam with grilled beef and fresh herbs)
25,000

Bun thit noung

Dragon Fruit-12,000, Pineapple-15,000 and Watermelon-45,000 (from store)
36,000 each

Kem Bơ (mashed avocado and ice cream)
15,000

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Bánh Tráng Trứng (crispy rice paper with meat and egg and herbs grilled on top…kind of reminds me of a quesadilla)
25,000

Total for Day 4: 101,000 vnd or $4.53

-Sunday-

Bun Cha (vermicelli noodles and grilled beef with a cold vinegar and light fish broth with vegetables and fresh herbs)
20,000

Bun Cha

Kem Bơ (mashed avocado and ice cream)
15,000

Bruschetta type thing (mayonnaise and grilled meat on toasted bread…maybe not traditional but hey it was at the market and it had a Vietnamese name so it still counts right?)
25,000

Bành Gối (pastie filled with minced pork, glass noodles and mushrooms)
15,000

Milk Tea with Cocopuff style topping (basically cereal in a drink…again it was at the market so it counts!)
30,000

Total for Day 5: 105,000 vnd or $4.71

-Monday-

Frog Porridge (ok this is from Singapore but it’s popular here. Rice porridge with frog in a thick spicy sauce with lemongrass)
40,000

Frog

Matcha Smoothies (matcha with coffee or other flavorings…we could drink them all day)
60,000

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Noodle soup (cheap and quick noodles on the street near our work, delicious but we don’t know the name we just sit down and they bring some over!)
10,000

Huda (Beer, a step up from La Rue)
15,000

Total for Day 6: 125,000 vnd or $5.61

-Tuesday-

Cà Phê Kem (vietnamese coffee with ice cream..can you tell we like ice cream?)
40,000

Vũ Điệu Hawaii (a coconut stuffed with rice and vegetables from a vegetarian restaurant)
60,000

Cau Lầu (thick noodles with pork and crispy fried dough with a meat broth and fresh herbs) 25,000

Total for Day 7: 125,000 vnd or $5.61

-Wednesday-

Bánh Căn (crispy small pancakes filled with egg and spring onion served on greens with papaya)
15,000

Bánh Mì Op La (baguette filled with fried egg, pate, mayonnaise, and chill sauce. Our particular favorite spot makes it so spicy but so good)
8,000

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Banh Bao (steamed dumpling filled with minced pork and a quail egg)
10,000

Huda (Beer)
15,000

Total for Day 8: 48,000 vnd or $2.53

-Grand Total for the Week-

Alana: 735,000- $32.96

Sam: 720,000- $32.29

Alana’s verdict: It was much easier than I thought it would be! It’s only a week but I definitely thought I would slip up and get some chips between my classes. Food is so easy in Vietnam, there is delicious and cheap food all over the streets. Looking at this list, drinks almost always cost us twice as much as food! Vietnamese coffee is very good and cheap but I’m obsessed with the matcha drinks here. Bun Thit Nuong is definitely the winner of my tastebuds; the grilled beef and the peanut sauce! So good! I loved everything we have tried so far in Vietnam except for half hatched eggs…the taste wasn’t bad but I couldn’t get it out of my head what exactly I was eating. Our list of Vietnamese food we want to try is always growing so maybe we will do a month challenge soon!

Sam’s verdict: You know what, I started out enthusiastically, and after a week I’m even more excited about exploring this cuisine. There is a lot of ‘just going for it’ when eating out here. Most of the food vendors are just stalls on the street with no English translation and so once you’ve got a rough idea of what you’re ordering, you just have to roll out your best attempt at pronunciation and wait for the pleasant surprise. And pleasant surprises are what they are. There was nothing we ate that I didn’t like, in fact its harder trying to narrow down something to have as a favorite. Bun Cha is an amazing dish, but if pushed, I’m gonna have to say that Bo Ne takes the crown. A baguette, beef, pate, egg, cha and a meatball all served on a sizzling platter. Breakfast, lunch or dinner its a meal I’ll always return too.

 

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