Vietnamese food is famous for good reason. The ingredients are healthy, the flavours are unique and it just tastes so incredibly good. Tantalise your taste buds with a read of some of the best dishes to try on your next trip to Vietnam.
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We love Mì Quảng. For great value, it’s the perfect Vietnamese meal — noodles, peanuts, rice crackers, pork and a turmeric broth. This dish is the pride of Quảng Nam Province in central Vietnam, served for many important occasions. Pho is more famous, but we think Mì Quảng deserves much more recognition.
Let’s get this one out of the way early on, because you knew it had to be on here. It’s the quintessential Vietnamese dish, after all. In Vietnam, millions of bowls of phở are served every day – even as foreign cuisines gain the attention of the burgeoning middle class, Phở is as Vietnamese as it gets.
This dish is another of our favourites for breakfast or lunch. It usually comes with beef, but you can get it with any meat – or even tofu. The meat is simmered on a low heat in fish sauce, sugar and either water or coconut water, with carrots, onions and coriander to finish it off. The most popular way to eat this dish is by ripping off chunks of bánh mì — or French bread — to dip in the stew.
Bún Chả is a prime example of Hanoi cuisine. The main components are rice vermicelli, grilled pork, fish sauce and all the herbs you could ever want. It’s a simple dish, but sometimes the most unassuming is the best.
Chả Giò (South) / Nem Rán (North)
It seems like every food stall has a different list of ingredients for this dish. It’s a hodgepodge of whatever was on sale at the local market that morning, but the essentials don’t really change: rice vermicelli, fish paste, seafood, pork and some combination of greens and sprouts. It’s much heartier than its cousin, phở, which is just one of the reasons why we love it.
Literally translated as “broken rice”, it’s the rice that wasn’t fit for selling, which meant farmers often kept it for themselves – or sold it for cheap when Vietnam’s economy struggled. Today, you can find a Cơm Tấm place on just about every street in this country. It’s the lunch of choice for millions — a bed of rice with greens and various meats, though pork is the most common.
This one is basically Vietnamese calamari. Some restaurants serve the squid whole, but more often it’s sliced into loops and fried with fish sauce or chilli. Since Vietnam is a coastal nation, the squid is fresh. Fried squid is popular in Vietnam because it’s an easy dish to share.
Besides some colonial architecture, Bánh Mì is the most prominent remnant of the French colonial days. Millions of flaky loaves are baked every day, and for millions of people, this Vietnamese sandwich is the best kind of breakfast. They’re cheap and delicious — a great start to any busy day.
Cá Kho Tộ
How does a bowl of caramelized fish stew in a clay pot sound? We think it sounds amazing. Start with big hunks of fish — many varieties are used as fish is plentiful in Vietnam — and simmer it in oil, garlic, onion, salt, soy, fish sauce and coconut juice. Yum.
These are commonly known to foreigners as Vietnamese pancakes. Many people wrongly assume that Bánh Xèo is made with eggs because of its distinctive yellow colour, but it’s actually made with a batter of rice flour and turmeric. Once you’ve added the greens and beansprouts, welcome to taste heaven.
Rau Muống Xào Tỏi
If you’ve never had water spinach before – or if you usually hate greens – then let us introduce you to your new favourite vegetable. When it’s sautéed in garlic and cooking oil, even people who would never order a salad can enjoy it. Rau Muống Xào Tỏi adds both flavour and colour to any dining table. Plus it’s cheap, which is always nice.
This one is probably the most intimidating dish to order in Vietnam because of all the varieties of snails. For Vietnamese people, snails make the perfect finger food to accompany a couple of beers.
Bột Chiên is easily one of our favourite Vietnamese dishes. Really, we love it. It’s crunchy cubes of fried rice flour with eggs and green onion. Most people seem to eat it for breakfast, but we’ll eat it any time of the day. Whenever we’re driving around on a motorbike and notice a Bột Chiên food cart, we slam on the breaks to get some. It’s that good.