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Must Try Vietnamese Food Favorites That You Will Love

Must Try Vietnamese Food Favorites That You Will Love

Are you visiting Vietnam? It would be best if you don’t miss out on experiencing and tasting Vietnamese delicacies. Why? Since Vietnamese culture and cuisine are highly flavorful and unique. It draws influence from the many different cultures, traditions, and rich history. Vietnamese cuisine can be an absolute treat for your taste buds with abundant healthy herbs, rice constituents, noodles, and sauces.

The Vietnamese stem most of their beliefs from the philosophies of Wu Xing, i.e., five elements of nature and the concept of yin and yan (opposite characteristics of any element uniting to form a whole). They thus focus on five kinds of tastes, sour, sweet, salty, spicy, and bitter, and instigate the flavor through the sense of touch, smell, sight, sound, and taste.

Fresh vegetables, fish sauce, bean sauce, rice noodles, shrimp paste, etc are considered staples in a Vietnamese meal. Geographical differences bring some culinary variations to the table. For example, Chinese influences are evident in the nation’s Northern region with ample use of soy sauce and less spicy food. In contrast, the South reflects influences from Thailand and Cambodia. The Central region has plentiful spices yielded in the mountainous stretches and boasts of zesty flavors.

Vietnamese kitchens are well known for fresh cooking with little use of oils and mostly boiled or stir-fried vegetables to ensure freshness and retaining original tastes. The use of dairy is also limited. Bountiful broth dishes have become a signature of the culinary culture that has now spread worldwide, impressing food lovers from different corners of the Earth.

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Vietnamese Food Guide

What to eat when in Vietnam? During my solo trip to Vietnam, it was a delight to try different delicious Vietnamese cuisine. But I preferred to have all vegetarian food in various local restaurants located in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. Those who are not meat lovers can still enjoy all popular food items, namely Spring Rolls and Banh Mi, without any meat. Check out this Vietnamese food guide and the listed must-try food items when visiting Vietnam.

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PHO (NOODLE SOUP)

Pho, pronounced ‘fuh’, is probably the most famous Vietnamese dish in the world. It is a versatile dish that can be consumed any time of the day, primarily meant for breakfast and lunch or lunch.

Pho is seen as traditional Vietnamese cuisine, but its origin is often traced back to a dish made by the French during their regime in Vietnam, called “Pot Au Feu.”

Vietnamese Noodles Soup (Pho)
Veggie Vietnamese Noodles Soup (Pho)

It consists of a clear beef (Pho Bo) or chicken (Pho Go) broth with added spices to impart a flavorful tang. Thin rice noodles are served in the broth with ample herb flavorings. Toppings like thinly sliced ribeye, chicken breasts, and beef balls are added for a rich flavor. The garnish of bean sprouts, sliced red chilies, cilantro, basil leaves, and lime squeeze are also added. Tofu makes for a vegetarian alternative to pho soup.

The classic Vietnamese Pho soup is a must-try that is sure to leave you wanting more.  I had Veggie Vietnamese Noodles Soup from the roadside food stall in Ho Chi Minh City. It was indeed a healthy addition of Pho for vegetarians.

BANH MI (BAGUETTE SANDWICH)

The French influence on Vietnamese is heavily visible in the food like the Banh Mi which is French Baguette sandwiches. They’re rolled with delicious fillings like Cha lua or boiled pork, pork liver pate along with mayonnaise spread, and slices of cucumber, chopped carrot, radish, and red chili.

A range of meats and pates are available all over the country. This one is a result of blending varying cultures and the use of numerous raw materials.

I enjoyed eating Banh Mi or Banh My without any meat with the famous Hanoi Egg Coffee.

Vietnamese food Banh Mi
Banh Mi

BUN BO NAM BO (BEEF ON RICE NOODLES)

Bun Bo Nam Bo is a delicious beef dish with a nice rice noodles base topped with mild slices of grilled beef and peanut toppings. A variety of fresh green herbs are added for an intricate flavor. The dish is served with Nuoc Cham which is an aromatic sauce with chilies and unripe papaya.

The hot, sweet, salty, and sour flavors make the sauce a signature Vietnamese side dish.

The combination is a complete winner and shouldn’t be missed out on by beef lovers.

Vietnamese rice noodles
Vietnamese rice noodles
Slices of grilled beef and papaya salad
Slices of grilled beef and papaya salad with fresh herbs

CA FE TRUNG (EGG COFFEE)

The coffee culture in Vietnam is elite with unabashed French influence. However, apart from the conventional coffees, a special dessert invented in Hanoi is quite famous. Popularly known as the Ca Fe Trung, or the Egg coffee, this unique dessert consists of condensed milk, sugar, and egg yolks.

The weasel coffee is yet another option with a more French flavor. If you wish to try a more authentic and unique take on coffee, make sure to give the fancy Egg Coffee a try.

BUN CHA (GRILLED MEATBALLS)

Bun Cha is a delicious street dish perfect for lunchtime. This dish is parallel to hamburgers or meatballs, but the taste, feel and aroma of the complex Vietnamese flavor stay unmatched.

Barbecued pork is laid on a base of rice noodles with herb flavorings and a flavorful broth. Cilantro, shiso, lettuce, banana blossoms, and bean sprouts all make for great toppings to the broth and multiply the goodness of the flavors multifold.

This dish is served with Nuoc Cham (dipping sauce) to make for a heavenly combination.

Hanoi Top Things To Do - Street Food Tour
Hanoi Street Food – Grilled Meatballs

GUI CON (SUMMER ROLLS)

Gui Con is the perfect Vietnamese dish to try as it is so much healthier and tastier for those who love eating spring rolls. It is packed with minced pork or barbecued pork strips or shrimp along with green veggies and coriander. These translucent rolls dipped in an elite peanut sauce make for a mouthwatering cuisine that would leave you flabbergasted.

They are often consumed as starters before the main dish, aptly starting the meal with a bang.

Vietnamese Spring Rolls (Nem)
Vietnamese Spring Rolls (Nem)

It is best to go with Veggie Spring Rolls with fried onions and sauces for those who don’t take meat. Veggie Spring Rolls, locally known as Vietnamese Nem.

BANH XEO (SIZZLING PANCAKES)

Another French influence is evident in the savory Banh Xeo, a crisp and flavourful rice paper crepe. It’s stuffed with fresh greens, eggs, bean sprouts, shrimp, and cooked meats. This crepe is fried and further wrapped in lettuce sheets. Additional garnishing of mustard, mint, and basil leaves is done to enrich the flavor.

It’s usually served with Nuoc Cham as a side dish making for a surreal combo. However, these sizzling yellow pancakes bring the pleasures and satisfaction of fine dining in the humble streets.

Cuisine of Vietnam - Steamed rice pancakes
Steamed rice pancakes

It was interesting to see the processing of steamed rice pancake which is locally known as Banh Cuon. Each thin pancake is made with rice sheets.

I liked the mouthwatering taste of rice pancakes with the Kumquat flavor dipping sauce.

MI QUANG (NOODLE SOUP)

Vietnamese food includes plentiful noodle soups and broths, all of which have a unique zest to them. MI Quang is an economical and customizable noodle dish consisting of cooked meat over yellow noodles, with toppings of quail eggs, peanuts, mint, shrimp fresh herbs, mussels, eels, and tangy oils.

It is a classic dinner meal with turmeric-flavored broth and wide rice noodles. Fish sauce and Chilli sauce are served as dips along with the noodle soup.

Yellow noodle soup with toppings of eggs
Yellow noodle soup with toppings of eggs

CHA CA (TURMERIC FISH)

Cha ca is one of the best seafood dishes available all over Vietnam. It includes a white fish marinated in butter and lightly sauteed with spring onions and dill. It is served with rice noodles and peanut toppings.

Seafood is particularly famous in the waterfront profile areas like Da Nang, which boasts various delicious seafood dishes, including Cha Ca and Caramelized Fish.

Cuisine of Vietnam - Cha Ca
Cha Ca – Turmeric Fish [By Phương Huy, CC BY-SA 4.0 Wikimedia Commons]

THIT NUONG (GRILLED PORK)

Thit Nuong is the perfect dish for all barbeque lovers with the marinated pork braised over open charcoals along the roadside. It works best as a quick snack or starters.

Thit Nuong can also be used as a base for various other dishes like Baguettes to make Thit Xien Banh Mi or topping over noodles to make Bun Thit Noung and in stuffing spring rolls to make Banh Uot Thit Nuong.

Vietnamese food is highly diverse and unique and cannot be fully savored in one go. Once you try it, you are destined to crave for more. Vietnam also houses the cheapest beers in Southeast Asia, known as Bia Hoi. These cheap beers are more of an experience as they aren’t for the taste but the feel. The entire culinary experience is one of a kind and shouldn’t be missed during your Vietnam trip.

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What to eat in Vietnam - Vietnamese cuisine

Do you have any particular food choices from Vietnam? Share your must-try Vietnamese cuisine.

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