Here are 10 Vietnamese dishes you simply must try while visiting Vietnam.
Beloved both in and outside of Vietnam, Pho is the best-known Vietnamese dish around.
The foundation of all Pho is broth and rice noodles. Chefs add a variety of ingredients to this base, and the broth itself can be either chicken or beef. A similar cooking style suggests that Pho is an adaptation of the French dish Pot Au Feu.
Of course, the Vietnamese have added their inimitable touches to this continental stew. Today, you can enjoy different types of Pho everywhere you go in Vietnam. Beef, chicken, seafood, pork, and vegetarian options are available. It is a favourite type of street-food and considered the national dish of the country.
2. Banh Mi
The Banh group of foods comprises steamed rice and rolls in various forms. The quintessential Vietnamese sandwich, Banh Mi is the best known of these.
Introduced by the French, baguettes have become an art form in Vietnam. They're light and fluffy on the inside, crisp and crunchy on the outside and you can get them with a combination of fillings, although pork is the traditional hero of this dish, but chicken and vegetarian options are also available. The meat nestles in a bed of coriander, chilli, cucumber, spring onion, soy sauce and pickled carrots.
Banh Mi is the ultimate grab-and-go meal for tourists on the move in Vietnam. Renowned food critic Calvin Trillin even once said that “The Banh Mi sandwich is really the only good argument for colonialism.”, referencing how it’s a result of the fusion between Vietnamese and French culinary culture.
3. Banh Xeo and Banh Khot
These pancakes made from rice flour and turmeric powder are another street food favourite. The batter is combined with morsels of pork, bean sprouts, shrimp, and herbs, before frying. Next, it's rolled up in a lettuce leaf and served with fish sauce for dipping.
Banh Khot is a bite-sized version of the above except it contains a single shrimp per serving.
These delicious nibbles are a treat to enjoy at street side cafes during your travels around the cities of Vietnam.
4. Banh Cuon
Bahn Cuon tips the pancake scales in a totally different direction.
These paper-thin sheets of rice flour batter are steamed in a wok and then topped with goodies. Mushrooms and pork with deep-fried shallots are the norms for this dish.
Nuoc Cham dipping sauce with lime, garlic, and chilli completes the picture.
5. Goi Xoai
If pan-fried treats are not on your waistline's wanted list, there's always salad, i.e., Goi. These delicious, healthy creations reach far away from bog-standard Western salads.
In Vietnam, they lose the lettuce, in favour of thinly sliced mango or green papaya and a range of fresh toppings. Try your Goi with banana flowers, cilantro, crushed peanuts, and pickled carrots. Meat lovers can add shrimp or slivers of beef to get their fix.
A drizzle of Nuoc Cham sauce adds the final flourish to this refreshing dish.
6. Bun Cha
This Hanoi specialty is one of several tasty dishes based on rice vermicelli. Vietnamese Bun Cha is usually served with grilled pork sausage patties, herbs, bean sprouts and pickled veggies.
Rice vermicelli is also a favourite in various Vietnamese noodle dishes, like Bun Rieu.
7. Bun Rieu
Bun Rieu is a fragrant noodle soup made with tomato and crab broth. It is usually topped with pork meatballs or pork knuckles. For braver eaters, other variations feature snails, blood cubes, and vegetarians will be happy to see fried tofu is another option.
The fresh sour flavour of Bun Rieu makes it a popular summer dish in Vietnamese restaurants.
8. Goi Cuon
This is the low-fat version of spring rolls, Vietnam-style. Chinese spring rolls are always served fried.
Goi Cuon is a thin layer of rice paper (Banh Trang) hiding a filling of pork, prawn, and vegetables. Hoisin sauce usually accompanies a plate of these for added indulgence. CNN recognizes this treat as one of the world's most delicious eats.
When fried, these delicacies are called Cha Gio.
Minced meat and vegetables are usually the centrepieces of fried spring rolls in Vietnam. Sometimes chicken, crab, and shrimp are also used. In the north, you could encounter snail meat when biting into your Cha Gio.
In Vietnam, it is traditional to enjoy Goi Chun and Cha Gio with a large group of friends.
9. Cao Lau
Hailing from the central Vietnam town of Hoi An, Cao Lau is a delicious medley of textures and tastes.
In this concoction, thick Udon-like noodles speak of Japan, while won-ton crackers hint at Chinese influence. The pork and herbs are indisputably Vietnam-inspired.
Purists do not consider this dish to be authentic unless it's made with water from the local Ba Le well.
10. Bun Thit Nuong
Vermicelli noodles, grilled pork, scallions or prawns, crushed peanuts, and a drizzle of Nuoc Mam make up this all-star creation. Fresh basil, pickled carrots and mint add a dash of colour.
This wholesome dish is popular across Vietnam, except in Hanoi, where Bun Cha takes its place.
Discover More Vietnamese Dishes
Most Vietnamese food is best enjoyed while in Vietnam itself, as foreign recreations can’t seem to quite recreate the unique flavours offered here.
There's nowhere better way to appreciate Vietnam food culture than in the local markets and busy restaurants of this fascinating place. Here, local chefs will show you how it's done and introduce you to the kind of meals that no other cuisine can imitate.
You can prepare for your trip by reading our blog to find out more about Vietnamese dishes and culture as you follow our adventures. Keep in mind that your options are beyond pho and banh mi. You can try whatever you want to experience the distinctive flavour of these meals.
Can we interest you in a Vietnam adventure of your own?