Vietnamese food: 45 dishes to try in vietnam

     

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For us, Vietnam giới is one of the world’s best countries for food. We’ve been to lớn Vietnam giới several times now and Vietnamese cuisine always leaves us wanting for more.

My most recent visit to lớn Vietphái nam was a month-long stay in which I explored the country’s diverse cuisine from north to south. I ate my way through Sapa, Hanoi, Hue, Hoi An, Saigon, and the Mekong Delta with the goal of writing a Vietnamese food guide that showcased the best and most interesting dishes Vietphái nam had to offer.

If you’re wondering what to lớn eat in Vietnam, then this food guide will be very useful to lớn you. It lists 45 of the most delicious Vietnamese dishes you can have sầu throughout the country. In trying these dishes, I hope you fall in love with Vietnamese food as much as we have sầu.

This food guide tells you what to eat in Vietphái nam but if you’re looking for the best restaurants and street food stalls in key cities in Vietnam, then be sure khổng lồ check out our Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), Hue, and Hoi An food guides as well. Enjoy!


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WHAT IS VIETNAMESE FOOD?

If I were to use one word lớn describe Vietnamese food, it would be “balance”. Balance is important in all types of cuisine but it seems to lớn be of particular importance in Vietnamese cuisine.

Vietnamese cuisine aims to lớn strike a balance in different aspects of its food lượt thích taste, nutrients, and presentation, and it does so by paying attention lớn five sầu elements per aspect.

In spices used for example, a balance is sought between sour, bitter, sweet, spicy, & salty. In presentation, cooks ayên khổng lồ have sầu the colors green, red, yellow, trắng, & blaông chồng in their food. Vietnamese food is considered one of the healthiest cuisines in the world và this is due in part to lớn a balance of nutrients lượt thích carbohydrates, fat, protein, minerals, and water.

I noticed this Yin & Yang in Vietnamese food when we ate deep-fried dishes lượt thích nem cua be and banh goi in Hanoi. We’re presently living in the Philippines so I’m used to eating deep-fried spring rolls similar to nem cua be.

Our fried spring rolls are typically served with just ketchup or vinegar so I often find them lớn be one-note & unctuous. In Vietnam giới however, they’re served with a Vietnamese dipping sauce made with water, cucumber slices, fish sauce, và other ingredients. They’re also served with a heaping bowl of fresh greens lượt thích lettuce, coriander, perilla, and mint which you would dunk inlớn the sauce & eat with the fried bits of food.

So in spite of the Vietnamese spring rolls being deep-fried và oily, the experience of eating them was surprisingly refreshing, và much of that had lớn vày with the balance of ingredients, sensations, and temperatures.

It was an eye-opening experience for me, one that gave me a better understanding and appreciation for the food in Vietphái nam. I was a bạn after that.

WHAT TO EAT IN VIETNAM

To help organize this Vietnamese food guide, I’ve divided the dishes by category. Some Vietnamese dishes can fall in more than one category so I tried organizing this danh sách as best as I could. Clichồng on a link lớn jump khổng lồ any section.


VIETNAMESE NATIONAL DISHES

1. Pho

Pho is one of the most well-known examples of Vietnamese food. Like banh mày and goi cuon, it’s one of the most popular foods in Vietphái nam và regarded as a Vietnamese national dish.

Pho is a noodle soup that originated in the north but it’s now popular throughout Vietnam. Regardless of where it’s from, it’s made with four basic ingredients – clear stoông chồng, rice noodles (called banh pho), meat (typically beef or chicken), và herbs.

The origin of pho can be traced to lớn early 20th century Nam Dinc Province in northern Vietphái mạnh. The higher availability of beef due to lớn French demvà resulted in a surplus of beef bones which were then used as the base for modern pho.

With the Partition of Vietnam in 1954, over a million people fled from the north khổng lồ the south, bringing with them their affinity for this beloved food. This helped popularize pho in other parts of Vietnam, which in turn led to lớn further development of the dish.

Unconstrained by the culinary traditions of the north, variations in meat and broth appeared, as did additional garnishes lượt thích lime, bean sprouts, culantro, cinnamon basil, hoisin, and hot chili sauce. Today, several varieties of pho exist, most notably pho bac or “northern pho”, & pho Sai Gon or “southern pho”.

Northern pho tends to lớn use wider noodles & a lot more green onions. Garnishes are generally limited only lớn vinegar, fish sauce, và chili sauce. Southern pho, on the other h&, has a sweeter broth và is topped with bean sprouts và a wider variety of fresh herbs.

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2. Banh Mi

Like pho, banh mi is a Vietnamese food favorite. Even if you aren’t that familiar with Vietnamese food or have never been lớn Vietphái nam, chances are you’ve sầu at least heard of banh mày. It’s considered a Vietnamese national dish và can be found pretty much anywhere in Vietnam giới.

Strictly speaking, “banh mi” is the Vietnamese word for the baguette which was introduced by the French during the colonial period. But when most people say “banh mi”, they’re referring specifically to the baguette sandwich made with different types of meat, vegetables, và condiments.

Pork is frequently used in the sandwich in many forms lượt thích pabửa, grilled patties, Vietnamese sausage, cold cuts, terrine, and floss. Commonly used vegetables include cucumber slices, coriander, pickled carrots, và shredded radish. But like any sandwich, you can basically put whatever you want in a banh mi so there are many varieties made with other ingredients as well lượt thích duông chồng, egg, grilled chicken, fish cake, etc.

No matter what you put in a banh ngươi, what makes this sandwich truly special is the bread. They make it so crusty and crunchy on the outside but soft và pillowy on the inside that it sort of crumbles in on itself when you take a bite. It is so good & one of my absolute favorite foods to lớn eat in Vietnam.

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3. Nem Cuon / Goi Cuon

Known as nem cuon in northern Vietnam giới và goi cuon in the south, these fresh spring rolls are a Vietnamese national dish. They’re traditionally made with shrimp, pork, vegetables, herbs, and rice vermicelli wrapped in banh trang (Vietnamese rice paper).

Goi cuon is often served with a peanut hoisin dipping sauce along with other sauces lượt thích nuoc mam pha or fish sauce. Soft, light, and savory-sweet, goi cuon is a delicious và refreshing Vietnamese food favorite. If you prefer deep-fried spring rolls, then there’s an equally popular version of this dish called thân phụ gio (called nem ran in the North).

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STARTERS / SIDES

4. Banh Cuon

Have you ever had those slippery rice noodle rolls served at Chinese dyên sum restaurants called chee cheong fun? Banh cuon is similar lớn that. It’s a northern Vietnamese dish that’s become popular throughout Vietphái nam.

Banh cuon are rice rolls made from a thin sheet of steamed fermented rice batter filled with seasoned ground pork & wood ear mushrooms. Topped with herbs and fried shallots and served with a bowl of nuoc cmê say (Vietnamese fish sauce), they’re typically served with a side of gio lua (Vietnamese pork sausage), sliced cucumber, and bean sprouts.

I was watching them make it in Hanoi & one woman would ladle a scoop of the batter onto a convex metal surface where it would quickly solidify inkhổng lồ a thin delicate sheet. Another woman would then fill it with ingredients & roll it up before cutting with scissors into lớn bite-sized pieces. All of this happened with a quickness and fluidity of motion that was mesmerizing khổng lồ watch.

Banh Cuon is typically made with pork (banh cuon nhan thịt) but you can have them filled with other ingredients as well, like shrimp (banh cuon nhan tom tuoi). They’re delicious no matter what they’re made with – soft, slippery, and a little gummy with bits of crunchy fried shallots và fresh herbs.

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5. White Rose Dumplings

Like cao lau, banh bao banh vac (or White Rose Dumplings) is a regional Vietnamese dish available only in Hoi An. The recipe for banh bao banh vac is a well-guarded secret that’s been kept in the family for three generations.

Invented and popularized by the grandfather of the owner of White Rose Restaurant, banh bao banh vac is made with translucent white dough filled with spiced minced shrimp or pork. The wrapper is bunched up lớn resemble flowers which is how the dumplings get their English name. They’re topped with crispy fried shallots & served with a special dipping sauce made with shrimp broth, chilies, lemon, & sugar.

Walking inside Hoi An’s Central Market, I saw many Vietnamese food stalls selling “White Rose Dumplings”. I thought they were knock-offs of the original but as it turns out, nearly all the white rose dumplings sold in Hoi An are supplied by White Rose Restaurant.

When you take a bite of these dumplings, you may notice that the skin is firmer & chewier than traditional Chinese dumplings lượt thích har gow. I read that the dough is made with water drawn from the Ba Le Well, so that may have sầu something lớn vày with its chewier texture.

It’s said that the water is filtered & purified 15-20 times before being mixed with the rice paste lớn khung the airy dough. Whatever the secret is, these dumplings are delicious and a must-try in central Vietphái nam.

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6. Banh Hue

Banh hue refers to lớn a family of rice flour cakes popular in Hue & central Vietphái mạnh. Types of banh hue include banh beo, banh nam, banh loc, banh ram it, banh uot, & thân phụ tom.

Banh beo is perhaps the most well-known among muốn Hue’s family of rice flour cakes. At its most basic, it consists of a steamed rice cake topped with dried shrimp & pork rinds, but it can be topped with other ingredients as well like scallions, roasted peanuts, mung bean paste, và fried shallots. It’s served with a side of nuoc cham.

The different types of banh hue vary in presentation, ingredients, và method but they all seem to be made with rice flour và shrimp in some size. Because they nói qua similar ingredients, they taste relatively similar – silky, soft, & loaded with umangươi.

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7. Chao Tom

Chao tom is a specialty of Hue in central Vietnam giới. It consists of prawns that are seasoned and mashed into lớn a paste before being wrapped around a stiông chồng of sugar cane. The chao tom is then steamed khổng lồ mix its shape before being grilled or deep-fried.

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To eat, you cut the meat off the sugar cane và wrap it in lettuce with fresh herbs và some sweet chili sauce. Smokey, savory, & sweet, it’s a springy shrimp appetizer that’s always been one of my favorite Vietnamese dishes.

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8. Bo La Lot

Thit bo nuong la lot, or bo la lot for short, is a Vietnamese dish made with ground beef wrapped in wild betel leaves & grilled over charcoals. It’s one of the more quality & interesting food favorites you’ll find in Vietphái mạnh.

What makes bo la lot special & quality are the betel leaves. Seasoned ground beef is wrapped in piper lolot leaves from the Piper sarmentosum plant, then placed over a charcoal grill lớn cook. Soon as the leaves are heated, they’re said khổng lồ emit a quality, incense-lượt thích fragrance that’s both medicine-y & perfume-y.

I stood watching the lady grill our bo la lot and though the smell wasn’t as pungent as I expected it lớn be, I did get a whiff of its distinctive sầu aroma. An aromatic food, it smelled pretty much how it looks – very green.

We tried bo la lot in Ho Chi Minch City but I believe it’s a food you can find throughout Vietnam giới. If I underst& correctly, the main regional differences lie in what spices are used to season the beef.

To me, bo la lot tasted like heavily spiced hamburger meat wrapped in a smokey, peppery, aromatic leaf. Served with rice paper, fresh greens, rice vermicelli, pickled vegetables, & nuoc cđê mê, it’s interesting & fun to lớn eat and makes for great beer chow no matter where you are in Vietnam.

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9. Sup Bap Cua

Sup bap cua is Vietnamese crab & corn egg drop soup. We first heard about this dish on the Saigon episode of Luke Nguyen’s Street Food Asia. I love sầu crab and egg drop soup is one of my favorite comfort foods, so this was one of the dishes I was most excited khổng lồ try in Vietphái nam.

The soup contains crab meat, shredded chicken, whole quail egg, corn, mushroom, loads of coriander, và ribbons of dropped egg in a broth thickened with tapioca starch. It’s typically served in a plastic cup & seasoned with sesame oil, pepper, & chili.

We were having a seafood feast along Vinch Kkhô giòn Street in Saigon when a motorbike carrying some type of street food rode by and parked a few meters down the road. I didn’t notice it at first because I had my face latched onto lớn a crab claw, but when Ren told me a sign saying “sup bap cua” was pasted on the side of the man’s styrofoam box, I jumped up & practically flew to hyên.

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10. Bun Dau Mam Tom

Bun dau mam tom may be the most polarizing dish on this list. I enjoyed it because I’m used to lớn the taste of fermented shrimp paste, but it clearly isn’t for everyone.

Bun dau mam tom refers khổng lồ a platter of bunched up rice noodles, deep-fried tofu, sliced cucumber, & fresh herbs. If you get the version with meat, then you can expect things lượt thích fish balls and steamed pork as well.

What makes it off-putting for many is the Vietnamese mam tom dipping sauce. It’s made with finely crushed shrimp or krill that’s been fermented for weeks so it’s extremely pungent. Only try this if you have sầu a daring palate.

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11. Banh Cong

Banh cong is a popular food in southern Vietnam. It’s a muffin-shaped snaông chồng made with mung beans, taro, and whole shrimp with their heads và shell still intact.

To make, each ingredient is layered in the deep ladle-like tool used khổng lồ cook it. Once layered, the ladle is filled with a rice và wheat flour mixture before being topped with shrimp & submerged in oil to deep-fry.

After a few minutes of frying, the banh cong is removed from the ladle & served with nuoc mam & the usual basket of Vietnamese fresh greens. As you can see below, the cake’s coating is crisp but the inside is soft & muffin-lượt thích in texture.

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12. Nem Cua Be

Nem cua be is a type of thân phụ gio or deep-fried spring roll made with crab meat. It’s a specialty of Hai Phong, a coastal province east of Hanoi in northern Vietnam.

Aside from crab meat, the deep-fried rolls also contain pork, egg White, kohlrabi (cabbage), carrot, wood ear mushroom, bean sprouts, and vermicelli. As previously described, it’s commonly eaten as a side dish together with bun thân phụ.

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13. Bot Chien

Bot chien is a classic Vietnamese street food from Saigon. TV chef and restaurateur Luke Nguyen described it as one of his favorite foods growing up.

Bot chien is basically rice flour mixed with tapioca starch that’s steamed, cooled, then cut into lớn flat squares before being pan-fried in lard with some egg và green onions until golden brown & crispy. If you’re familiar with Malaysian or Singaporean food, then you may find it similar to lớn char koay kak or cnhị tow kueh (“carrot cake”), except is isn’t made with any daikon radish.

Bot chien is much crispier than Malaysian char koay kak but still chewy & gummy on the inside. It’s served with a refreshing side of green papaya salad và a thickened sweet sauce lớn offset the oiliness.

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14. Banh Trang Nuong

Banh trang nuong refers khổng lồ round crunchy rice crackers cooked over charcoal and topped with any number of ingredients. They’re a popular night time snack food that’s often referred to as “Vietnamese pizza”.

To make, quail or chicken egg is beaten và mixed with spring onions before being poured over Vietnamese rice paper. This keeps the rice paper from burning và holds all the toppings together.

Toppings vary but we had them on this food tour in Saigon and one was topped with shredded chicken và another with beef. The cracker is ultra crisp và eggy and goes very well with beer.

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15. Banh Goi / Banh Tom

I don’t know if there’s a collective term for these deep-fried Vietnamese fritters. The famous street food stall we went lớn in Hanoi had trays full of different types of pre-fried dumplings. Point khổng lồ whichever ones you want and they’ll throw them inkhổng lồ a pot of hot oil lớn refry and crisp up.

One of the more popular types of Vietnamese fritter is banh goi (lower half of plate) which is like a Vietnamese empanadomain authority filled with minced pork, mushroom, glass noodles, và a quail egg. The filling is placed in the center of the pastry skin which is then folded và pinched closed in a half circle before being deep fried to lớn a golden crisp.

Banh goi means “pillow cake” because it’s shape is said to resemble a pillow. Next khổng lồ the banh goi below is banh tom which is like a Vietnamese sweet potakhổng lồ shrimp fritter.

Whichever fritter you order will be served with a basket of fresh greens và a dipping bowl of nuoc ctê mê. Dunking the fried cakes into this bowl with a few greens was pure magic.

Despite being deep-fried, I was surprised by how refreshing the dumplings were because of the greens & dipping sauce. There was virtually no hint of its oiliness! This experience taught me a lot about the Yin và Yang of Vietnamese food.

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16. Banh Xeo / Banh Khoai

Banh xeo is another Vietnamese food favorite. It’s a crispy crepe made with fried rice flour batter filled with pork belly, shrimp, green onions, và bean sprouts.

To make, the batter is poured inkhổng lồ a hot skillet then filled with the ingredients before being folded in half like an omelette. They actually look like omelettes because of their shape và color but they aren’t made with any eggs. They get their yellowish color from turmeric mixed into the batter. The name banh xeo literally means “sizzling cake” because of the sound it makes when the rice batter hits the hot skillet.

Banh xeo is eaten by wrapping pieces of it in rice paper (banh trang) with fresh herbs like coriander, mint, và perilla before dipping inkhổng lồ nuoc mam pha (or nuoc cham). Despite being fried, you don’t really notice the oiliness too much because of the fresh greens & fish sauce. Crisp on the outside but moist on the inside, it’s delicious và a lot of fun to eat.

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Banh khoai phong is a very similar dish that you can find in Hue. It’s basically a much crunchier version of banh xeo, perhaps due to lớn the addition of soda water in the batter.

It’s also served with a side of fresh leafy greens, herbs, và a few slices of star fruit or young banamãng cầu. But unlượt thích banh xeo, banh khoai vệ isn’t wrapped in rice paper và it’s served with a hoisin dipping sauce instead of nuoc cđắm đuối.

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17. Gio Lua / Cha Lua

Known as gio lua in northern Vietphái mạnh và cha lua in the south, this is a comtháng type of Vietnamese pork sausage that’s often served in many Vietnamese dishes lượt thích bun thang and banh mi. It’s made by pounding pork until pasty, then seasoning it with spices & nuoc csay đắm.

After being seasoned, the mixture is then tightly wrapped in banana leaves and boiled. The cylindrical banana leaf parcel is submerged vertically in boiling water & typically left to cook for about an hour. A common way lớn tell if the sausage is ready is lớn drop it onto lớn a hard surface. If it bounces, then it’s good.

Aside from finding it in many dishes, we bought phụ vương lua at Gio Cha Minc Chau in Saigon upon the recommendation of our homestay host. We were looking for interesting Vietnamese souvenir food items to bring baông chồng trang chính & she suggested cha lua.

The sausage is already cooked so all you have sầu to vày is slice it và pan fry before eating. If you like SPAM, then you’ll probably enjoy this. It has a slightly gummy và chewy texture that’s reminiscent of fish cake.


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