Vietnamese food is known to be both healthy and robust in flavour, thanks to its generous combination of fresh herbs and greens, paired with rice, noodles, seafood, pork, and beef. While many cities such as Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City offer plenty of fine-dining venues and five-star hotel restaurants decked out in extravagant settings, some of the best (and most authentic) Vietnamese delicacies are found at roadside eateries, vibrant street markets, and humble-looking restaurants. A typical meal includes rice or noodles, a meat or seafood dish, a vegetable dish, soup and nuoc cham (fermented fish sauce) for dipping, each of which can easily customise according to your preference. Here’s a helpful guide on what to eat in Vietnam, most of which can be enjoyed just about any time of the day. While most are familiar with pho or spring rolls, there’s a wide range of Vietnamese dishes only available in specific regions so be sure to try them out during your visit. Tooreest App will help you taste terrific Vietnamese foods. Local tour guides will help you to eat outstanding food from reliable eateries.
The bánh family includes some steamed rice cake-like dishes. So soft and delicate, my favourite was this bánh cuốn straight from the steamer. Our Tooreest guide took you a third-generation bánh cuốn master in Hanoi who will mesmerise you with her skills. She ladled each scoop of the rice flour-based batter onto the steamer, covering it with a lid for a matter of seconds, then carefully transferred the gossamer-thin sheets with a bamboo stick onto a tray to be filled with minced mushrooms and pork. Each bite is topped with deep-fried shallot bits and must be dipped into that nước chấm sauce.
Phở is just one of many, many, MANY noodle soups in Vietnam. From a strictly linguistic standpoint, phở refers to the rice noodles, not the soup itself. But it’s become synonymous with the staple soup served with various meat parts (usually beef or chicken), bean sprouts, lime wedges, the essential greens (basil, mint, cilantro, and onions), and whatever chilli sauce and fish sauce you need to doctor up the broth to your liking. It’s cheap, tasty, and especially popular for breakfast in Hanoi. We visited a famous phở joint that usually sells out by noon.
The northern-style phở in Hanoi is typically defined by a transparent broth whereas the southern-style broth tends to be slightly sweeter, murkier from added sauces, and popping with more herbs and other garnishes.
Rice vermicelli (“bún”) is a staple all over Vietnam. My first night in Hanoi, this one, in particular, was a must-order. Bún chả. You really can’t go to Hanoi without trying bún chả. It comes with grilled pork sausage patties, a basket of herbs, bean sprouts, pickled veggies, and, once again, the ever-important nước chấm sauce (pour it over everything).A note on bún: Vermicelli is found in many noodle soups too like bún Rieu, a tomato broth soup with crab and bún bò Huế (pronounced “boon ba hway”) with beef (bò). Many, many bún dishes didn’t make this list but are nonetheless famous and delicious.
Gỏi cuốn (Spring Rolls)
Gỏi cuốn literally means “salad rolls” and should be distinguished from the fried rolls, which are also sometimes called spring rolls (or chả giò). The translucent cigar-shaped rolls are packed with greens, sometimes shrimp and pork, and herbs. They need a dunk in nước chấm of course. Almost every region in Vietnam has its distinct spring roll but no matter where you are, the wrapping and rolling process is more or less the same.
Ah, yes. The bánh mì can be found all over the world at this point. But the creation story harkens back to French colonialism when the imperial forces in Vietnam brought with them their crusty baguettes. Since then the Vietnamese have made this sandwich entirely their own with fillings like pork belly, fish cakes, meatballs, and the very necessary pickled carrots, daikon, and not-messing-around chillies. Do NOT wipe your eyes after eating one of these. Those chillies will melt off your eyeballs.
Ca Kho To (Caramelized Fish in Clay Pot)
Clay pots are kind of like the Asian cousin of the Dutch oven. The thick clay walls retain heat and moisture, helping to soften and caramelise meats when braised. In this dish, the fish develops a sweet-savoury gooeyness from the sugar and fish sauce over the course of the long braise. “This reminds me of my grandma,” said my Vietnamese friend who grew up eating this classic comfort food.
Sorry to play favourites but bánh xèo (pronounced “boon say-oh”), you are my favourite. It means “sizzling pancake,” and it’s just that. The savoury, crisp-edged, crepe-like pancake is best enjoyed straight from the pan. The batter is made with rice flour, coconut milk, and turmeric (hence the beautiful golden-yellow hue) and is pan-fried altogether with pork, shrimp, and a heap of bean sprouts. Wrap up the pancake with lettuce and herbs. I’ll never forget stuffing my face with these on tiny plastic stools at Bale Well in Hoi An.
Com tam translates to ‘broken rice’ in Vietnamese and is traditionally served with fried egg, diced green onions, and a variety of meats. While it’s a popular choice for breakfast or lunch, it can be enjoyed any time of the day as it is relatively inexpensive, with street markets and roadside food stalls selling for about VND 20,000 per bowl. Toppings options include nuong (barbecued pork chop), bi (shredded pork skin), and cha trung (steamed pork and egg patty) soon. Com tam also comes with a side of pickled vegetables, cucumber slices, and nuoc cham Vietnamese dipping sauce
Goi is a generic term for “salad” in Vietnam but doesn’t usually involve any lettuce. The base instead can be a pile of thinly sliced green papaya or mango, lotus root, cabbage or pomelo. Here’s one we made in Hanoi with sliced banana flowers (thick, purple, crunchy) and pickled carrots, cilantro, crushed peanuts, and, once again, the essential nước chấm sauce.
Vietnam’s rice porridge is thick, creamy, hearty and should be able to cure whatever ails you—primarily a cold and hangovers. Top it with slices of chicken, beef, pork, fish, or in this case, pig parts (mostly liver and tubular innards). It is a bowl of Cháo Lòng from Saigon where street vendors can be easily spotted with their giant metal vats of porridge, piles of offal, and stacks of golden fried dough. Scallions and black pepper are scattered on top, and at the table, you’ll get a platter of bean sprouts, lime wedges, ginger and fish sauce to season the porridge to taste.
Vietnamese food is world famous; its taste is so amazing that travellers especially join cooking classes in Vietnam. If you are planning to travel to Vietnam, book a tour guide from the Tooreest app they will help you make your taste better.