Anthony Bourdain in Vietnam:
The Complete Country Guide
Vietnam. It grabs you and doesn’t let go.Anthony Bourdain
Once you love it, you love it forever.
It’s hard to write an introduction for a country like Vietnam, in the context of Anthony Bourdain’s travels there. There was, perhaps, no place on earth that he more enjoyed visiting, more relished in eating its cuisine, or felt more at home outside his own country. Vietnam was special to him… what more can I say?
Anthony Bourdain visited Vietnam several times, filming eight episodes in total across three of his four shows: A Cook’s Tour, No Reservations, and Parts Unknown. (Never for The Layover, probably because its major cities are not standard layover airports.)
Whether you plan to visit Vietnam or just want to watch Bourdain at his best in his favorite place to be, you can’t go wrong by spending time watching or learning about his trips. Below you’ll find a complete guide to all eight episodes and all the places visited by Anthony Bourdain in Vietnam, as well as what he ate at each one.
Anthony Bourdain’s Vietnam Episodes
As Vietnam was one of the most-filmed destinations that Anthony Bourdain visited, I thought it would help to start with a list of all eight episodes he filmed. Of course, he usually visited at least one city or region within each episode, so it’s really just best to watch them all if you’re planning a trip and/or want to see why Tony fell in love with this place
- A Cook’s Tour, Season 1: “Eating on the Mekong”
- A Cook’s Tour, Season 1: “Foods That Make You Manly”
- A Cook’s Tour, Season 2: “My Friend Linh”
- No Reservations, Season 1, Episode 4: “The Island of Mr. Sang”
- No Reservations, Season 5, Episode 10: “There’s No Place Like Home”
- No Reservations, Season 6, Episode 10: Central Highlands’ (2010)
- Parts Unknown, Season 4, Episode 5: “Vietnam”
- Parts Unknown, Season 8, Episode 1: “Hanoi”
Now ready to dive in and learn about all the places visited by Anthony Bourdain in Vietnam? Let’s do it.
Along the Mekong
As some of Anthony Bourdain’s first adventures in Vietnam (during A Cook’s Tour) included a journey to communities along the Mekong River, this seemed like a fitting place to start the list of all the places he visited in the country. For this part of his travels, he was joined by restaurateur Philippe Lajaunie, his former boss from Les Halles.
That trip included a visit to Can Tho, a town in the Delta, where he visited Cai Rang Floating Market for Vietnamese coffee and beef Phở for breakfast. Next, Bourdain sits down for a local meal with a Delta farmer; he enjoys very different dishes at that meal than in other parts of the country: water apples, clay-baked duck, duck and banana blossom soup, and Mekong Delta moonshine (rice whisky).
Following that, Tony heads to Nha Trang, where he has lobster “blood” followed by lobster with pepper-lime juice, along with fried grouper with spicy red chili sauce. Lastly, he visits Bao Dai Villas – home of the former and final monarch of Vietnam – where he has traditional Bird’s Nest Soup made with quail eggs and rock dove meat.
While part of the episode focused on Vietnam’s “Central Highlands” (No Reservations, season 6, episode 10), I thought it was worthwhile to call out Da Lat specifically as Tony spends relatively more time in this city than other, smaller destinations.
Called “the Switzerland of Southeast Asia,” Bourdain spends a bit of time exploring the different mix of ethnic groups in Vietnam and trying some different foods too. At Mi Quang Bun Cha Chao Vit, he eats cabbage, cauliflower, carrot, and onion salad on a crispy rice cake with sesame; boiled duck in spicy sweet; and Cháo Vịt (duck congee).
He also visits Linh Phuoc Pagoda, where he enjoys a vegetarian meal with the nuns: dishes feature mushrooms, young banana, starfruit, and rice, as well as a tofu sour soup.
Ha Long Bay
Ha Long Bay is arguably the most iconic destination in Vietnam, so it’s no surprise that Anthony Bourdain spent time here as well. The first time he visits is during season 1 of No Reservations, “The Island of Mr. Sang,” where his fixer Linh takes him to the island of Tuần Châu. There, the eponymous Mr. Sang prepares a multi-course dinner for his guests: spring roll made of cabbage, bean shoots, pork, shrimp and eggs; chicken, onion, and chili salad; stir-fried squid with sauce; and char-grilled clams.
His second visit occurs during his final trip to Vietnam (Parts Unknown, season 8). First, he sets sail with a private charter on Emeraude Classic Cruises. With the boat all to himself and his friends (including Linh), Tony enjoys Vietnamese coffee, gin and tonics, and grilled squid caught from the bay. Then, he enjoys a meal of water spinach and locally caught fish with a fishing family from Ha Long Bay, and talks about the future of their lifestyle in such a popular destination.
For the Vietnam destinations that Tony visited more, I won’t go into as much detail here; instead, you can click through to learn more about each place he ate and what he ate.
For example, Bourdain visited Hanoi four times, to film season 2 (episode 12*) of A Cook’s Tour, season 1 (episode 3) and season 6 (episode 1) of No Reservations, and season 8 (episode 1) of Parts Unknown. Here’s where he ate:
- Ahn Tuyet
- Bún Chả Hương Liên
- Bún Chả Nem Rán
- Bánh Cuốn Nóng Kim Thoa
- Bia Hải Xồm
- Bun Oc Pho Co
- Bun Suon-Thit-Mong Gio-Luoi
- Hang Gai Street
- Hanoi Tết Market
- Lu Quán
- Nhà Hàng Phương Dung
If you want all the details, be sure to check out my complete guide to the places visited by Anthony Bourdain in Hanoi.
Ho Chi Minh City
Anthony Bourdain also spent a fair amount of time in Ho Chi Minh City – formerly called Saigon –, the capital of Vietnam. He eats a number of different foods here than in Hanoi (and elsewhere in Vietnam); here’s where he ate:
- Bahn Xèo
- Ben Thanh Market
- Bien Chung Han
- Cháo mực Thanh Sơn
- Cơm Niêu Sài Gòn
- Nhà Hàng Hương Rừng
- The Lunch Lady (Nguyễn Thị Thành)
- Thu Vien Bibliotheque Cafe (La Bibliothèque)
For a full list of what he ate at each place, be sure to check my guide to the places visited by Anthony Bourdain in Ho Chi Minh City.
Bourdain didn’t spend as much time in Hội An, but it’s still a great option if you find yourself on this central coast city. Here’s where Tony ate:
And again, I have a guide to the places visited by Anthony Bourdain in Hội An.
Similarly, Tony didn’t spend a ton of time in Huế, but certainly showed off some of the unique foods you can find in this city. Here’s where to go if you want to follow his lead:
I have all the details in my guide to the places visited by Anthony Bourdain in Huế.
In the Central Highlands
Finally, I would be remiss if I left out the smaller places that Anthony Bourdain visited in Vietnam’s Central Highlands. While these destinations are not on as many travelers’ itineraries, they are still worth visiting – especially if you enjoy visiting Vietnam as much as Tony did.
During A Cook’s Tour, his first trip, Bourdain spent time in the area around Mai Châu – this is where he had the memorable “squeezel” dish of porcupine and moonshine. He also visited Lok Village, where he had a local meal of bamboo rice, grilled meat, fish, and other homemade dishes, washed down with rice whisky.
During a return trip to this region to film No Reservations, Tony was again tricked into eating an unusual meat – this time at Hồ Suối Vàng Lake where Linh ordered him a meal of grilled wild boar and Java Mouse Deer in fermented soybean batter. He also sat down for a local meal with an elder Vietnamese couple who are masters of the traditional instruments and musical epics of Vietnamese culture; they shared Larb (pork nasty bits with red chili sauce), fish and eggplant soup, bamboo-cooked rice, and rice wine.
There you have it: a very comprehensive guide to all of the places visited by Anthony Bourdain in Vietnam, both the cities and regions, as well as all the restaurants (that are still open today). Have any questions about the places Anthony Bourdain visited in Vietnam? Let me know in the comments below.