Buying Beef in Vietnam

Beef stall at a Vietnamese market
Beef stall at the market.
I consider myself a bit of a meat connoisseur. I worked in the meat department of a grocery store from the age of 16-21… some of the best years of my life — not really.

Since coming to Vietnam, it’s been a struggle finding the right cuts of meat to buy. The pieces are all there, but they don’t cut it up the way the western world does. Steaks and roasts meld into one. I find myself staring at hunks of meat for abnormally long amounts of time, trying figure out what part of the cow it came from. Is this a piece of butt or a flank? If I stare at it long enough maybe it’ll come to me. Of course, reading the label doesn’t help. In Vietnam, they write everything in Vietnamese — go figure. Translating the text usually leaves me even more confused. For example, thịt thăn viền mỡ will translate to loin fat rim, but it’s actually a strip steak/striploin/club steak, or porterhouse/boneless sirloin in Australia. Even more difficult is buying the beef at the market where there are no labels, only a blood covered man with chunks of dead cow. By the way, if you are going to buy your beef at the market I suggest going early. They will run out of certain cuts, and the meat isn’t refrigerated so the longer it sits in the sun, the better your chances are of getting sick. That being said, as long as it doesn’t smell rancid and you cook it properly, you should be okay. It’s fresh at the market — most likely killed that day, but the supermarket sometimes has an advantage that goes by the guttural sound Úc, which means Australia. Australian beef is better than Vietnamese beef. The cows are often shipped over live, so you’re not even giving up that much freshness. Watch for those two magic letters on your beef labels, kids.

A chart that shows cuts of beef in English and Vietnamese
Vietnamese/English Beef Cuts Chart

Have a look below for some beef related English to Vietnamese translations or download the PDF version so you can print it and bring it with you to the grocery store. Much like in English, there are multiple terms for cuts of meat, so there may be a few different translations. Also, in my research I found some words that were used to describe very different parts of the cow. I tried to determine the best and most accurate translation, but if there are any mistakes please let me know. The last thing I want to say about beef in Vietnam — it isn’t great. Far from it actually. In soups like pho and bun bo Hue, it’s fine because it’s cooked slow and it absorbs the fantastic broth. A steak, on the other hand, isn’t going to be even close to the quality you’d get in Canada or USA (two of the best countries for beef in the world). I’ve sat in restaurants chewing on a piece of beef like a dogs trying to crack through a bone. Sometimes my jaw gets too sore and I have to spit it out. If you are buying beef to cook, make sure you cook it slow and buy a decent cut. If you are ordering beef in a restaurant, I recommend soups, luc lac, bo kho, or bo ne.

Buying Beef in Vietnam English-Vietnamese Translations PDF

Beef Terminology

  • Ba chỉ – plate
  • Bă vai rút xương – Boneless shoulder
  • Back Ribs – Xương sườn
  • Bắp bò – shank
  • Bịt tết – steak
  • Bò úc – Australian beef
  • Bò xay – ground beef
  • Các miếng bít tết nhỏ – Skirt steak
  • Cổ bò xương số 7 – 7 bone pot roast
  • Đấu nạc lưng – Blade
  • Đùi bò – thigh (top round or topside rump)
  • Filê – Tenderloin
  • Lõi mông – Eye of round
  • Màng vai nhỏ – Chuck roll
  • Mông – round
  • Mông dưới – Bottom round
  • Mông trên – Top round
  • Nạc cube – Cube roll
  • Nạc đùi gọ – Silverside
  • Nạc đùi ngoài – Outside
  • Nạc đùi trong – Topside round
  • Nạc lưng – Striploin
  • Nạc thăn – Knuckle/Sirloin tip
  • Nạc vai – boneless shoulder, chuck
  • Nạm bò – boneless beef topside
  • Nạm thăn – Flank steak
  • Quay – roast
  • Rút xương – Boneless
  • Sườn – ribs
  • Sườn cốt lết – Spencer roll
  • Sườn để nướng – Rib steak
  • Sườn non – Short ribs
  • Sườn vai – Blade
  • Thăn chuột – Short Loin
  • Thăn ngoại – sirloin
  • Thăn ngoại dưới – bottom sirloin
  • Thăn ngoại trên – Top sirloin
  • Thăn nội – tenderloin
  • Thăn phi lê – Fillet mignon
  • Thăn vai – Rib eye
  • Thăn viền mỡ – striploin
  • Thịt bụng – flank
  • Thịt cổ bỏ – Neck
  • Thịt đùi – Sirloin Butt
  • Thịt đùi ngoài – Outside Flat
  • Thịt đùi trong – Eye of Round
  • Thịt mông bò – Rump
  • Thịt nạc thăn – Top sirloin
  • Thịt thăn nội – Tenderloin
  • Thịt ức – Brisket
  • Thịt vai – Chuck
  • Ức bò – brisket
  • Xương – bone
  • Xương hình chữ T – T-bone