Ultimate List of Must-Try Dishes While in Vietnam

Published on June 19, 2020

What can we say about the Vietnamese cuisine? Well, it is one of the healthiest in the world and that pretty much says it all! Fresh food often made on the spot and with simplicity. Simple yes but your taste buds will thank you for the experience as they will go on a journey of flavours bite after bite.

Many lists have been published but it has been a long time, and if you are at home tired of cooking pasta, here are some succulent and essential dishes that may push Vietnam higher on your ‘Countries-To-Visit List’.

1. Phở
The most iconic Vietnamese dish, if you don’t try this one, your trip will be incomplete. Even Barack Obama stopped for a phở while visiting the country in 2016.
A bowl of phở is composed of flat rice noodles, slivers of beef or chicken, green onions and beef stock. You can then add a squeeze of lemon and some chili to your own liking. Vietnamese mainly eat it for breakfast but it is also the best remedy for stomach or belly disorders.

2. Bánh Mì
The French invented the baguette, the Vietnamese sublimated it. It is essentially what you would call a sandwich made with baguette as base, filled with different pickled vegetables, fresh cilantro, pork belly, pork floss, cucumber or simply eggs or paté. Sink your teeth into the warm crunchy crust and enjoy.

3. Bún Chả
Northern specialty playing with the textures, colours and smells. Very popular in the Old Quarter of Hanoi, bún chả offers cold bún (rice noodles), slices of seasoned pork belly, a mountain of fresh herbs and salad greens, and last but not least, medallions of minced pork grilled over hot charcoal, swimming in a bowl of fish sauce-based broth. Try each part separately or mix them up, it is a game for the senses.

4. Bún Riêu
Probably one of the most surprising noodle soup-based dish. The components of this meal include slippery bún, fresh crab meat, blocks of tofu and stewed tomatoes. After the crab meat is separated from the body, the shell is then pulverized using a mortar and pestle and then strained through to form the base of the broth. Floating around the bowl are pillowy clusters of minced crab combined with ground pork and egg that melt in your mouth.

5. Chả Cá
Freshly prepared white fish, marinated in turmeric and sautéed in front of you in butter on high heat. Add up some dill and green onions, swallow your saliva and snap a picture while it cooks it front of you. Once again, a delicacy for the senses and an explosion of flavours in the mouth.

6. Bánh Cuốn
Ideal for breakfast, it is made of thin steamed rice crepes with minced pork and wood-ear mushroom, folded in rolls, topped up with fried onions, and cut in slices to make it easier with chopsticks. Dip it into fish sauce, add some fresh herbs and finally… savour it!

7. Bún Bò Huế
Originated in Hue, Vietnam’s former imperial capital city, bún bò huế is a mighty demonstration of royal court’s cooking style. The dish is greatly admired for its red colour and its balance in taste between the thin slices of beef – in Vietnamese, pork sausage, lemongrass, green onions, chili sauce, mint, Vietnamese coriander, and of course, rice noodles (bún).

8. Phở Cuốn
If you are a fan of Hanoi’s phở, you will love the delicious taste of this special variation in the shape of fresh rice noodle rolls. These can be eaten as appetisers before a main or served alongside other Vietnamese dishes sharing-style or family-style as we eat here in Southeast Asia. The rolls are eaten with the sweet and sour sauce added chili, garlic and small dishes of salted papaya or cucumber.

9. Bánh Xèo
A Mekong Delta creation, bánh xèo is widely eaten around south and central Vietnam. Watching the crispy crepe being assembled is an audio-visual experience: the batter crackles loudly when it hits the hot pan – xèo meaning sizzling – and the edges gradually curl and golden as the cook swirls the pan to evenly spread out the dense batter. Traditionally made from rice flour and coconut milk, the batter owes its yellowish hue to the addition of turmeric. Another French inspired delight, the savoury pancake is filled with slices of boiled pork, minced pork, bean sprouts and shrimp and then folded in the manner of a crepe. A bánh xèo shouldn’t be too soggy and is best appreciated fresh off the skillet.

10. Chè
This is actually a dessert, but so sweet and refreshing that it had to be included. It is made with a base of either water or coconut cream, served either hot or cold, and the other ingredients for making chè include various jellies and fruits, beans and pulses, rice and grains, and even tubers and cereals. Served cold with crushed ice, it is always a delightful break in a hot day.

And a little extra for the end, even though you will not find many desserts or sweet snacks in Vietnam as people rather enjoy fruits, there are a couple that stand out. If you get a chance to try them, go for it without thinking it twice: mung bean cubes & coconut candies. Both are divine…
The mung bean cubes are perfect with a cup of green tea, so much that when Bảo Đại, Vietnam's last emperor, first stumbled upon this heavenly treat, he allowed the people to print the royal symbol of a golden dragon on the packages.
Coconut candies are a specialty of the Mekong Delta, so if you travel South you will definitely encounter some. The coconuts in Ben Tre province are known for their unmatched sweetness, giving the candies such a particular taste which will leave you wanting more.

If you are into fruits, then the choice will be difficult as there are so many! To mention a few, you are welcome to get a taste of Rambutan (Chôm Chôm), Dragon Fruit (Thanh Long), Mango (Xoài), Guava (Ổi), Passion fruit (Chanh Leo) or again Durian (Sầu Riêng).

If you need any recommendation, we will be happy to oblige ;)
Contact us and… Bon appétit !
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