Traveling to Vietnam is also a culinary and gastronomic journey where each region has its own specialties. The cuisine of northern Vietnam is indeed different from that of the South, or that of the Center.
We deliver here the secrets of Tonkin cuisine, knowing however that whatever your destination, Vietnam cuisine will make you travel, you, your taste buds and your senses...
Cuisine North Vietnam © Mr Linh's Adventures
Introduction to North Vietnam cuisine
With 63 provinces grouped into 3 major regions, Vietnam is rich in a singular natural, cultural and… gastronomic diversity.
Indeed, North, Central and South Vietnam each offer different specialties or local variations of emblematic dishes, each with its own flavors, know-how or even its preparation or cooking techniques. A trip to Vietnam is also – especially? – a gourmet escape, to discover the small local dishes that make the great gastronomic reputation of the Country with Two Deltas.
If, in general, we tend to say that the cuisine of the North is rather salty, compared to that of the South, we will take care to nuance our remarks taking into account the geographical location of Tonkin and Haut-Tonkin. Thus, the Provinces of the North-West of the country, located on the border with China and Laos, see their dishes undergo the influences of the Middle Kingdom, while exalting the flavors and creativity of the many local communities, especially in the Northeast. As for the Red River Delta, this very ancient land has seen the arts, cultures and customs of many terroirs and communities unfold, where almost every small local dish tells a story.
Some consider North Vietnam cuisine wiser than its two sisters, but also richer, more inventive and more nourishing. The region is the crucible of a cuisine with old recipes, inimitable flavors and happily convoking soups, stews and grills. Here, in addition to herbs and spices, the focus is on frying (with vegetable or animal oil), shiny black soy sauce and fermented shrimp paste – the famous Mam Tom, with.. strong aromas. Here, pasta and noodles are made with wheat or rice flour, plain or with eggs. We especially like ravioli and other stuffed. On the meat side, the “rich people” are turning to beef, while the chicken agrees with everyone and the duck is only conceivable lacquered. Let’s not forget seafood and other critters living in the brackish waters of the Red River Delta (freshwater shrimp, crab, fish, clams, mussels, etc.), who happily come to take part in the feasts.
►Read also : What to eat and drink in Vietnam
Some typical dish from North Vietnam © Mr Linh's Adventures
Do not miss to taste in the cuisine of North Vietnam
If of course we encourage you to taste on the spot, with the inhabitant, the good local dishes, Hanoi and its small streets like open sky restaurants proposes you the quintessence of the cuisine tonkinese, you will have the delicious idea to taste these few signature dishes.
It is THE Vietnamese soup par excellence, which is eaten at breakfast, and found on every street corner. Raised to the rank of national dish (it even has a special day in its honor, every December 12), the pho consists of a bone broth very long simmered and perfumed with ginger and star anise, among other spices. It will cover typical white noodles, as well as strips of chicken or beef. It will be the whole of a panoply of aromatic herbs.
This Hanoi specialty is a dish made with rice vermicelli to accompany grilled pork (breast and dumplings), served with fresh herbs. Did you know? During his visit to the capital in 2016, former President of the United States Barack Obama tested the Bun Cha in a restaurant that has become a place of pilgrimage (!).
►You may also like : Ultimate list of Must-Try Dishes in Vietnam
What to eat in North Vietnam © Mr Linh's Adventures
This other essential Vietnamese breakfast can be consumed as an alternative to Pho. Rather hearty, we are here on a "rolled up cake" with the appearance of a pancake, whose very thin dough, similar to a ravioli, is made from rice flour, then topped with ground pork meat, black mushrooms and fried onions. It is traditionally proposed at breakfast or lunch when the moon phase changes.
Another signature dish of the capital, Cha Ca uses a particular fish, marinated in turmeric and then fried in front of you. Placed on its bed of dill and chives, it is accompanied by rice vermicelli and peanuts, not to mention the ineffable Mam tom.
Com Lang Vong
As soon as autumn arrives, we make this typical Northern seasonal dish with young pan-fried yellow rice, which will then be swaddled in lotus leaves, which give it this particular taste, very quickly addictive.
It is a rice vermicelli soup with sliced pork and scrambled eggs that is found almost exclusively in the north of the country.
Famous Nem rang © Mr Linh's Adventures
Nem rang, also known as «spring roll», is one of the culinary icons of Vietnam. Nem is prepared from a rice sheet stuffed with pork, soy, vermicelli and mushrooms. The whole is fried, which differentiates it from other nems, raw.
Less known to travelers, this typical dish of North Vietnam cuisine consists of grilled and caramelized fish, in good company of pieces of bacon and pepper. There are variations that involve pork or pork belly, chicken or beef. There is also a version without the caramel but with nuoc mam and ginger – but can we still talk about Ca Kho?
This salty green cake made from sticky rice wrapped in banana leaves is mostly eaten during Tet (Vietnamese New Year).
To finish on a sweet note, head to To Tich Street in old Hanoi for a delicious Hoa Qua Dam. Surprise your taste buds with this exotic fruit salad sprinkled with sweetened condensed milk, coconut milk and served with crushed ice. Regressive and addictive!
Coffees, Dong Xuan Market, Hanoi © Mr Linh's Adventures
PS: Would you like an egg coffee?
We cannot close this quick overview of the cuisine of Northern Vietnam without mentioning the ca phe trung, or egg coffee. It should be known that the coffee culture is very present throughout Vietnam, almost an institution, and that the Vietnamese are coffee greats. Unique in Hanoi, try egg coffee, the creaminess of which will remind you of cappuccino and tiramisu.