What Vietnamese souvenirs are worth buying in your trip to Vietnam?
Even being a Vietnamese, this question popped up in my mind multiple times, especially towards the end of my trip back home. I know that many folks traveling to Vietnam have the same question when heading back.
In this post, I’ll round up all the fantastic Vietnamese souvenirs that make for perfect gifts abroad. These are the local crafts or goodies that are a bit tricky to snag outside Vietnam.
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Vietnamese Souvenirs: Local Tips
To avoid tourist traps, hone your bargaining skills when shopping, especially in bustling tourist areas or local markets.
Ask for half the price the sellers offer, feign disinterest, and if the seller calls you back willing to sell the product just slightly higher than your offered price, it means your negotiation was on the mark.
More about Vietnamese Cuisine and Travel:
Coffee, originally a French culinary heritage in Vietnam, has seamlessly integrated into Vietnamese contemporary culture.
If you’re thinking about souvenirs from Vietnam, coffee is a must. Whether you’re into instant or ground coffee, high-altitude Arabica or fine Robusta coffee, there’s a ton of choices to match your vibe.
Check out my post on Vietnamese coffee brands – it’s got everything from the popular ones to gourmet and specialty brands.
Apart from coffee, tea is another Vietnamese souvenir I highly recommend. Vietnam ranks among the top 10 largest tea-exporting countries globally. The popular teas in Vietnam include black tea, green tea, and oolong tea.
The crème de la crème are the floral-scented teas, such as jasmine tea (trà nhài), chamomile tea (trà hoa cúc), and especially lotus tea (trà sen). Delicate green tea leaves are infused with lotus, chamomile or jasmine using a traditional method that takes nearly a month of meticulous work.
You can find tea in supermarkets or specialty stores. Besides, when you visit Huế, the imperial capital of Vietnam, don’t forget to try the royal tea.
If you’re not a fan of caffeine, there’s also a variety of herbal teas made from local herbs that are challenging to find outside Vietnam, such as artichoke tea, bittermelon tea or hibiscus tea.
You might be wondering why bother bringing Vietnamese chocolate back home when you’re in North America or Europe, where Hershey and Lindt bars readily line the supermarket shelves.
Well, it all comes down to the fact that cocoa trees thrive best in tropical zones around the Equator, known as the “cacao belt” and Vietnam is right in the heart of it.
Leading the charge in introducing Vietnamese chocolate to the world is Maison Marou, a French-founded chocolate brand in Vietnam.
Since then, numerous local artisan chocolate brands have emerged, not only crafting high-quality “beans-to-bar” chocolate but even delving into the unique world of “tree-to-bar” chocolate (which makes up only about 1%, probably even less, of the world’s chocolate production).
Keep an eye out for some fantastic Vietnamese artisan chocolate brands like Maison Marou, The Stone Hills, Belvie, and Alluvia.
Dried Fruit Chips
Dried Jackfruit Chips, known as “Mít Sấy” in Vietnamese, are an addictive snack that none of my friends in Germany can resist. They’re crispy, with a subtle sweetness, and pack way more flavor than your regular potato chips.
I also recommend dried sweet potato chips, banana chips, and taro chips. They’re all delicious!
While the go-to brand is Vinamit, other brands work just fine too. The quality across different brands isn’t too distinct, so feel free to explore!
Dried Tropical Fruits
Make sure to enjoy the tropical fruits while exploring Vietnam. There are plenty of exotic fruits like mango, coconut, durian, mangosteen, rambutan, lychee, longan, dragon fruit, water apple, soursop…
Also, you could pick up dried tropical fruits as souvenirs to bring back home. I always bring a bunch to share with my friends in Germany. They’re not only delicious but also offer numerous health benefits.
You can easily find these products at major supermarkets in Vietnam, L’ang Farm, or Vinamit stores. My favorites are dried banana, dried sweet potato, and especially dried persimmon (a must-try!!).
Peppers & Spices
Peppers are also a specialty of Vietnam, especially on Phu Quoc Island. Ground pepper is a staple in various soups and stews, such as Phở Bò Sốt Vang (Red Wine Beef Stew Phở), and also in cooking beefsteak.
When traveling in Vietnam, especially on Phu Quoc Island, you can visit the pepper farms and find a full range of options, from black peppercorns and white peppercorns to ripe peppercorns and even fancy red peppercorns with sweet, fruity, peppery flavors.
Phu Quoc pepper sauce is also worth buying. It’s made from Phu Quoc peppercorns, sugar, and Phu Quoc fish sauce. It’s amazing and convenient for Vietnamese cooking, from marinades to braised dishes like Cá Kho (Caramelized Fish) or Thịt Kho Tiêu (Braised Pepper Pork).
Besides peppers, if you’re a true epicure, I recommend trying Mắc Khén (a type of native peppercorns in the Northwest region of Vietnam, similar to Szechuan peppercorns but with a distinctive flavor and fragrance) or Hạt Dổi (“Dổi” seed), a spice known as the “black gold” of the Northwestern mountain forest.
Both “Mắc Khén” and “Hạt Dổi” can be found in major supermarkets (DHfoods brand).
If you are a fan of Pho, don’t forget the Pho spices. You can buy black cardamoms, star anises, Saigon cinnamon separately and make Pho spices yourself, or opt for ready-mixed Pho spices that include all the ingredients.
These high-protein snacks are among my favorites. The beef jerky (bò khô) in Vietnam differs significantly from the one found in the West; it’s seasoned with local ingredients like lemongrass, annatto oil, and five-spice powder.
In addition to being a snack, beef jerky serves as a popular topping for various street foods like Bánh Tráng Nướng (Vietnamese Pizza) or Gỏi Đu Đủ Khô Bò (Beef Jerky Papaya Salad).
Nuts & Seeds
These delightful and nutritious snacks are vegan-friendly and totally worth bringing home! Cashews and macadamias are more budget-friendly in Vietnam, and don’t forget to try lotus seeds , a Vietnamese specialty.
In Vietnam, these nuts are often seasoned with various flavors like coconut milk, coffee, BBQ, wasabi, tomyum, and more.
You can easily grab them at any major supermarket, and my go-to brand is Tân Tân. Their coconut peanuts have been my favorite snack since childhood.
Well, if you’ve fallen in love with Vietnamese cuisine during your travels and are thinking about recreating those dishes back home, I recommend stocking up on some essential seasoning sauces.
It’s much more convenient, especially if you want to whip up dishes like phở, bún chả Hà Nội (rice noodles and grilled meatballs), canh chua (sweet & sour soup), cá kho (caramelized fish), thịt kho (caramelized pork), bò kho (Vietnamese beef stew), lẩu (hotpot), and Vietnamese sate sauce (lemongrass chili oil).
These sauces can be a bit challenging to find with an authentic flavor outside of Vietnam. They are always a must-have in my luggage as an international student in Germany.
However, if you’re itching to dive into Vietnamese cuisine by making everything from scratch, don’t forget to check out my blog ;).
You can spot these in supermarkets, and among my preferred brands are:
- Barona (their hotpot and Phở seasonings are incredibly delicious and convenient)
- DHfoods (a variety of local dipping sauces and natural spices)
- Chinsu (a go-to for chili sauce)
- Cholimex (known for its chili sauce and sate chili oil)
- Vianco (their five-spice powder and Vietnamese curry powder are must-haves)
Vietnamese high-quality fish sauce goes beyond Red Boat. If you’ve got a little extra room in your luggage, I recommend grabbing some local fish sauce.
In Vietnam, numerous fishing villages have a rich tradition of crafting fish sauce, particularly in central Vietnam and on Phu Quoc Island. Some even are the family-owned fish sauce brands with an impressive history of almost 100 years. In Phan Thiết, Bình Thuận, there’s a Fish Sauce Museum that narrates the 300-year history of fish sauce making in this region.
The best fish sauce is the first-pressed fish sauce (nước mắm nhĩ) with a nitrogen level ranging from 35 to 43 degrees (the higher nitrogen level, the more protein content and umami flavor it has).
Vietnamese people often use first-pressed fish sauce for making dipping sauce (like nước chấm dipping sauce) and use fish sauce with a lower nitrogen level for seasoning.
The ultimate fish sauce is the one with only fish and salt in the ingredient list, but personally, I don’t have any problems with MSG (well, I’m Uncle Roger’s niece, after all! 😄).
Here are some local brands offering premium fish sauce that I’d like to recommend:
- Phú Quốc: Thanh Hà, Khải Hoàn, Hưng Thịnh, Hạnh Phúc. All of these are family-owned fish sauce brands with several decades or even nearly 100 years of experience in making fish sauce.
- Phan Thiết: Nước Mắm Tĩn. They offer premium fish sauce made from anchovies and sea shrimp with a nitrogen level degree of 45-60.
- Nha Trang: 584 Fish Sauce. My hometown is renowned for producing premium fish sauce from high-quality anchovies and sea salt.
- Đà Nẵng: Nam Ô Fish Sauce. Nam Ô stands out as one of the oldest traditional fish sauce villages in central Vietnam.
If you’re a fan of dishes like Bún Bò Huế (Hue-style spicy beef noodles), Bún Đậu Mắm Tôm (Rice Noodles with fried tofu and fermented shrimp paste), or Chả Cá Lã Vọng (Turmeric fish & dill), don’t forget to pick up some “mắm tôm” and “mắm ruốc” to spice up your dishes.
They are shelf-stable, and trust me, finding a good Vietnamese brand abroad can be a bit tricky if you’re not in a bustling Vietnamese community.
Bánh Đậu Xanh (Mungbean Cake)
Mung bean is a popular ingredient in Vietnamese cuisine, used in both savory dishes and desserts.
Bánh Đậu Xanh is a specialty from Hải Dương, a province in northern Vietnam near Hanoi. This mung bean cake is made from mung bean powder, sugar, cooking oil, and lard. It’s perfect to enjoy with a cup of hot tea
Ô mai, a specialty of Hanoi, the capital of Vietnam, is a delightful treat made from preserved salted or sugared fruits. It shares similarities with Japan’s Umeboshi (pickled Japanese plums).
The popular fruits used in Ô mai are apricot, plum, peach, tamarind, pink lemon, star fruit, kumquat, and especially dracontomelon (sấu), an iconic fruit of Hanoi. When you find yourself in Hanoi, make sure to explore many “Ô Mai” stores along Hàng Đường Street.
Hoian Coconut Crackers
Bánh Dừa Nướng (Coconut Crackers) is a specialty of Hoi An. Made from coconut, sugar, and glutinous rice, these treats are irresistibly crunchy, nutty, gluten-free, and absolutely addictive.
Bánh Pía (Teochew “Pia” Pastry)
Beyond France, Vietnamese cuisine also draws inspiration from Southern Chinese cuisines, giving rise to dishes like Bò Kho (Vietnamese Beef Stew), Bò Bía (Spring Rolls with Chinese Sausages), and this delectable Bánh Pía.
Bánh Pía, a specialty pastry initially made by Teochew immigrants in Southern Vietnam, boasts a flaky crust similar to puff pastry. The filling is often mung bean paste with a durian flavor.
While sharing some similarities with Bánh Trung Thu (mooncake), Bánh Pía is a year-round favorite. For durian fans, Bánh Pía is a must-try. If durian isn’t your thing, there are plenty of other flavors available, such as taro or black sesame.
My all-time favorite Bánh Pía are from Tân Huê Viên; their Banh Pia have been around since 1985, and they are absolutely delicious!!
Tailored Clothes in Hoi An Ancient Town
First up on my non-food souvenir list – custom-tailored clothes, a real specialty in Hoi An!
You can have your dream outfit perfectly fitted to your size and style in just a few days (around 4-5 days for something fancy like a suit or prom dress). The quality is top-notch, and the prices? Well, they’re pretty darn good compared to what you’d find in Western countries.
Đông Hồ Paintings (Tranh Đông Hồ)
Đông Hồ Paintings boast a rich history spanning 300 years. They have evolved into a vibrant symbol of Vietnam’s folk culture, offering a glimpse into the communal life of the Vietnamese people in the past.
Đông Hồ Paintings find their canvas on Dzo Paper (Giấy Gió), crafted from the bark of the tree sharing its name. Traditionally, artists use a palette of all-natural hues: burnt bamboo leaves for black, cajuput leaves for green, copper rust for blue, pine resin for amber, and a blend of crushed eggshells mixed with paste for white. Finally, the painting is covered by a layer of sticky rice paste to make it resistant to the environment.
These make for cherished souvenirs if you want to take a slice of Vietnamese culture back home.
Tribal textiles from ethnic minorities are also unique souvenirs you could consider buying, especially if you plan to travel to mountainous forest areas like Sapa or the Ha Giang loop. Scarves, bags, pillows, wallets, or purses with tribal patterns are handmade by ethnic minority artisans, and you can’t find them anywhere else outside Vietnam.
Áo Dài and Nón Lá
Áo Dài (Vietnamese traditional costume) and Nón Lá (Vietnamese conical hat) are traditional symbols of Vietnamese culture. You can experience wearing Áo Dài and Nón Lá in Vietnam, especially in ancient cities like Hoi An or Hue.
If you fall in love with them, there are many stores that can tailor Áo Dài to your size, while Nón Lá is easy-to-buy all over Vietnam.
Vietnamese water puppetry is like a gem in the ancient Asian puppet tradition.
Here, the water itself becomes the stage for the puppets, symbolically connecting to the paddy fields and embodying Vietnam’s agriculture-centric culture. The performance is complemented by background music played by a traditional Vietnamese orchestra. It’s an experience not to be missed when visiting Hanoi.
Water puppets are undoubtedly a souvenir that’s worth buying if you’re interested in this traditional performing art.
Other Handicraft Items & More
Vietnam is a haven for craft fans! In addition to all the wonderful items I mentioned earlier, you’ll discover a wealth of crafty and eco-friendly products from intricately carved wooden statues, beautiful ceramics, luxurious silk to a variety of bamboo and wooden creations.
I recently came across a heartwarming story about a French-Egyptian tourist in Hanoi. He purchased a paper horse, a ritual item in Vietnamese culture, intending to bring it back home. Unfortunately, due to various reasons, he had to leave it at Noi Bai airport.
This story captured the attention of the Vietnamese public, leading a group of locals to buy another paper horse and send it to his house in France. Now, this little horse accompanies him from France to Egypt.
When I stumbled upon his Instagram post featuring his Vietnamese souvenirs, I couldn’t help but say “wow.” As a Vietnamese, I felt touched and impressed by how deeply a foreigner could connect to our culture through the items he brought back from Vietnam.
These include Bánh Cốm (Young Green Rice Mochi) with a very short shelf life, Điếu Cày (Vietnamese Tobacco Pipe), glasses specifically for Bia Hơi (Vietnamese fresh beer), Nón Cối (Vietnamese army hat), and even a sedge mat and a sedge pillow…
Here are my recommendations for the Vietnamese souvenirs and local gifts that are worth buying during your trip to Vietnam. Save or pin this fantastic guide so you always know where to find it. If you have any questions about Vietnamese cooking, travel or culture, just feel free to ask—I’m more than happy to help you.