There are many foods to try in Vietnam that are unique. Here is our list of the must-tries while visiting the country.
1. Bún chả
Best place to try: Bun Cha Dac Kim, Hanoi
Originating from Hanoi, Bún chả is a bowl of deliciousness in the form of rice vermicelli noodles in a flavoursome broth topped with grilled/BBQ pork and pork meatballs. A plate of herbs will be served alongside the dish so you can add at your own discretion.
2. Cao lầu
Best place to try: Hội An
Cao lầu is THE dish of Hội An that you simply have to try. The dish consists of noodles that can only be found in Hội An sitting in a tasty broth, with beansprouts, herbs and topped with pork (sometimes crackling too)!
The special Cao lầu noodles are all made by hand by a local family who invented the recipe. Their unique colour and flavour come from being soaked in water with ash made from burning wood. Agreed, it sounds interesting (disgusting) but don’t knock ‘em til you try ‘em! We loved it so much we have even recreated a Cao lầu recipe on our Youtube channel, Two Souls One Spoon.
Best place to try: Phở Sướng, Hanoi
This dish is a favourite from the country which can be enjoyed at Vietnamese joints around the globe. For those of you who have never heard of it, Pho is a soup made up of broth, rice noodles herbs and meat – usually beef (bò). Taste and thickness of noodles differ from place to place, so it’s always good to try this staple time and time again.
4. Bún Bò Nam Bộ
Best place to try: Bún Bò Nam Bộ Bách Phương, Hanoi
Bún Bò Nam Bộ is one of the best foods to try in Vietnam. A strong statement, I know, but I had never come across it anywhere before visiting Hanoi, and indeed, haven’t since. This beef noodle salad contains so many textures and flavours making it tasty in so many ways. The chefs at Bún Bò Nam Bộ Bách Phương have got this dish down to a T.
A base of lettuce is topped with warm vermicelli noodles, thinly sliced beef, peanuts, dried onions and green papaya. Cam sành (mini green sour oranges) are provided on the table to squeeze into the salad as well as light soy sauce.
5. Bánh mì
Best place to try: Bánh Mì Phượng, Hội An
Literally translating to ‘bread’, Bánh mì is a mini baguette originating from Vietnam’s past French influence. Sometimes eaten plain, Bánh mì is generally eaten cut in half and filled as a sandwich. Fusing the two countries together in terms of flavour, regular fillings include pork prepared in different ways (sausage, grilled, shredded, floss, etc) chicken, mayonnaise, cheese, pate and eggs amongst other things.
Best place to try: Hội An
Cơm gà translates to chicken rice and that is exactly what it is. It may sound simple but Vietnamese cơm gà makers around the country have perfected this dish.
7. White rose dumplings (banh bong hong trang)
Best place to try: White Rose Restaurant, Hội An
Pork and prawn filled sticky rice paper dumplings accompanied with a sweet, salty and spicy dipping sauce. One family of Hội An (now in their third generation) has the private recipe for these special white dumpling delicacies and is said to make and provide white rose dumplings to every restaurant in Hội An.
8. Egg coffee
Best place to try: Passionfruit coffee Hội An
Egg yolk, sugar and condensed milk are whisked up. Think meringue mix before it’s cooked, then topped on a coffee. This sweet, sticky and rich coffee is served in a cup/pot which sits in a bowl of hot water to keep warm. It is often accompanied by a cup of green tea to be drunk as a chaser. ‘Food’ – maybe not, however, many places all over Vietnam serve this drink and it’s got enough sugar in it to keep you going for a few hours.
9. Morning Glory
If you’re a fan of spinach, Morning Glory is one of the best foods to try in Vietnam and potentially the whole of South East Asia! Eat this delicious vegetable as a starter or side dish, or even as a main course if paired with rice. Often sautéed in garlic, chilli, oyster sauce and soya paste amongst a few other things, this crunchy vegetable is packed with flavour and is a great way to get in one of your five a day.
10. “Happy Water”
Vietnamese happy water is homemade rice wine. We first came across it in Northern Vietnam – while staying in a rural village in Sapa, and at every homestay along the Ha Giang Loop. This alcoholic drink is poured into a shot glass and will often be followed by a chant of Một – Hai – Ba – dzô (translating to 1,2,3, cheers). Or in Hmong (the language of the Hmong people in Sapa) – ‘Tchonka’.
How to say Cheers in Vietnamese
Best place to try: Pizza 4p’s
I know, I know, putting pizza in a ‘foods to try in Vietnam’ post is unheard of. But, before you judge or close this post, if you do like pizza, hear us out! Pizza 4’Ps is a franchise across Vietnam that create a Japanese\Italian fusion of flavours on their wood-fired pizzas. What’s more, they actually have their own farm and cheese studio near Da Lat where they produce fresh ingredients and make eight different types of cheeses every day.
Best place to try: Chu BBQ Dalat
Surprised as we were to find out that BBQing is a common method of cooking in Vietnam? Vietnamese widely use and love pork, and often BBQ it for some of the famous dishes. But the type of BBQ we’re talking about here is ‘do it yourself’. There are eateries all over Vietnam which bring a BBQ along with any raw meat/fish/veg you fancy to your table. The atmosphere is great, and cooking your own food at the table makes for a fun dining experience, especially after travelling for so long.
Another method of self-cooking popular in Vietnam is via hotpot. A big simmering pot of stock (and a gas burner to place it on) is brought to the table along with any ingredients you choose. You then cook the ingredients by placing them into the pot, similar to fonduing. Common ingredients include meat, seafood, vegetables, herbs, and mushrooms.
14. Ice cream rolls
Originating 10 years ago in Thailand, this frozen dessert trend soon spread to neighbouring countries and even globally. Although not native to Vietnam, if you come across this popular street food, you’d be missing out if you just walked on by. Fresh ingredients of your choice are added to a milk, cream and sugar base and frozen on the spot.
15. Gỏi cuốn – Vietnamese spring rolls
When it’s hot and sticky and you’re after something fresh, there’s no better food to try in Vietnam than these fresh spring rolls. Rice paper is rolled up with vermicelli noodles, herbs, and often prawns or pork and served at room temperature.
16. Vietnamese pancake (Bánh xèo)
These crispy, light and airy savoury pancakes are filled with a variety of ingredients ranging from prawns to meat and/or vegetables. Bánh xèo are absolutely delicious and can most commonly be found being sizzled up in street food markets. We have added it to our foods to try in Vietnam list as we made them in our Vietnamese cooking class in Hội An and loved them!
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