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Top 12 foods must try in Vietnam

Vietnam is a place where culture meets simplicity and balance. A favourite destination in Asia where you can satiate your appetite for tradition, history, adventure and food.

If you love soups, and noodle soups in particular, then you’ll enjoy eating out in Vietnam. Much like the country’s varied cultural influences, the cuisine is equally diverse ranging from simple and healthy meals to high carb and greasy dishes.

Vietnamese gastronomy is based on the power of five with due attention given to colour, taste and aroma. You have five taste elements – spicy, sweet, salty, sour and bitter – meeting five nutrient types – protein, fat, liquid, mineral, and powder. Add five colours to this – red, white, green, black and yellow, and you end up with exquisite foods that create delicate tasting experiences.

While most recipes use common ingredients like sauces (fish, soy and shrimp), rice, herbs, ginger, mint, lemongrass, Saigon cinnamon, bird’s eye red chilli, and Thai basil, each region uses them differently.

Foods in colder North are less spicy and make use of black pepper, sauces and lime in seafood and meat. Central Vietnam is known for its spicy and complex food along with liberal use of red chillies and shrimp sauce.

Warm South, on the other hand, is famous for flavoured and vibrant vegetable and meat dishes. Shallots, herbs, garlic, coconut milk, and sugar enrich foods from this region.

This guide lets you explore top 12 dishes in Vietnam from Banh (steamed rice) to Goi (salads) and Pho (noodle soups)!

 

Banh It Tran (steamed rice dumplings)/ Bánh ít trần

Must_try_food_vietnam

Photo credit: Alpha

You’ll find rice donning many avatars in Vietnam – steamed, sticky, cake, pancake and rolls. Banh It Tran is a savoury filling of shrimp and cooked mung beans enhanced with spices. This is wrapped in dough wrapper made with sticky rice. The crescent shaped dumpling is steamed and served with fried scallions and soy sauce.

 

Pho (Noodle Soup)

Pho_soup_vietnam

Noodle soup (Pho) can be rightly regarded as Vietnam’s national dish. From street vendors to high-end restaurants, you find a Pho variation everywhere you go. What makes this soup so popular is its versatility. You’ll find vegetables, beef, pork or chicken soups topped with rice noodles, herbs and optional garnishes like lime, bean sprouts, cilantro, basil, and red chillies.

 

Spring Rolls (Goi Cuon)

spring_rolls_vietnam_food

Photo credit: pelican

Along with soups and cakes, Vietnam is famous for its spring rolls. Goi Cuon is a translucent spring roll filled with cilantro, rice noodles, minced pork, crab or shrimp, and leafy greens, and wrapped in thin rice dough. This roll is usually served with lettuce bowl and mint. Dunk the rolls in fish or peanut sauce before you eat.

 

Fried Spring Rolls (Nem Ran/Chagio)

fried_spring_rolls_vietnam_food

Photo credit: Kirk Siang

Fried spring rolls may not as healthy as salad rolls, but are nevertheless delectable and crunchy. The filling is usually an assortment of veggies or meat enhanced with spices and herbs and enclosed in a thick rice wrapper. This is deep fried and served with fish or peanut sauce.

 

Baguette (Banh Mi)

bahn_mi_vietnam_food

Photo credit: poritsky

This is a staple found on the streets of Vietnam. While this bread is inspired by the French, Vietnamese chefs have made it their own by creating unique fillings. Standard sandwich stuffing in Northern parts is pork liver pate and margarine. Stuffing in the South is varied and includes greens, grilled pork, radish, carrot, cucumber, cheese, chilli sauce, sausage, fried eggs, herbs and cold cuts of meat.

 

Crepe Wrap (Bánh xèo)

bahn_xeon_vietnam_foodPhoto credit: Mor

French influences have inspired this popular dish. This crispy rice crepe is stuffed with bean sprouts, cooked shrimp, eggs or pork, and herbs. Banh Xeo is wrapped in lettuce sheets or rice paper, and often garnished with mint, mustard or basil leaves. Banh Xeo is served with Nuoc Cham, a sauce with spicy, sweet, sour and salty elements.

 

Rice Noodles with Beef (Bún bò Nam Bộ)

bun_bo_nam_bo_vietnam_foodPhoto credit: butforthesky.com

This broth-free noodle bowl contains grilled slivers of beef and bean sprouts topped with herbs, fried shallots, fish sauce, chilli sauce and peanuts. Bun Bo Nam Bo is usually served with the dipping sauce, Nuoc Cham, which usually contains papaya slices and carrots. The lack of broth ensures that rice vermicelli and other ingredients retain their crunchy or chewy textures.

 

Pork on Thick Noodles (Cao Lầu)

cao_lau_vietnam_food

Photo credit: Alpha

Nothing represents the true diversity of Vietnamese cuisine better than Cao Lau. If Banh Mi and Banh Xeo were inspired by French foods, this dish is inspired by Japanese and Chinese cuisine. Thick wheat noodles meet juicy pork slabs in a Vietnamese herbs-infused broth with hints of star anise and mint. Add some greens, bean sprouts, peanuts, prawn (wonton) crackers or rice paper, and you have a classic dish that’s a hit with the crowd.

 

Sticky Rice with Chicken (Xoi Ga)

xoi_ga_vietnam_food

Photo credit: jennifer yin

With rice being a staple food in most of Asia, and sticky rice featuring prominently in South-East Asian cuisine, can Vietnamese food be any different? Glutinous rice is not a side dish or stuffing wrapper here, but serves as a main course. The bed of rice is garnished with delicate chicken strips, native herbs, and fried shallots. A dash of soy sauce and sesame seeds enhance the subtle flavours of Xoi Ga.

 

Egg Coffee (Cà Phê Trứng)

egg_coffee_vietnam_food

Photo credit: Anthony Tong Lee

If you’re used to black coffee or latte, Ca Phe Trung will shock your taste buds. Made with condensed milk, this hot coffee is served with a foamy, whipped egg topping. This popular beverage is served in small cafes and specific tourist areas. Different bean strains are used to create this dense coffee with a meringue-like garnish and sweeter-than-usual taste. Take a look at our Vietnamese egg coffee recipe to replicate it home. 

 

Banana-flower Salad (Nộm hoa chuối)

banana_flower_vietnam_food

Image credit: Fahara F

Vegetarians will find enough eating options in Vietnam, but none can match the exotic tang of Banana-flower Salad. The purple banana flowers are peeled and thinly sliced before being lightly tossed with green papaya chunks, carrots, cilantro, peanuts and soy sauce. The resulting salad is crunchy, chewy and delectable. You also get meat versions with chicken and fish sauce

Steamed Rice Cake (Bánh bèo nhân tôm)

top_food_to_try_in_vietnam

Photo credit: Jen Leung

Bánh bèo nhân tôm is more than steamed, rice flour pancakes. The thin pancake sheets are filled with shredded lettuce, cucumber slices, bean sprouts, fried shallots, chopped shrimp, scallions, sliced pork sausage and ground beef. As a final touch, the rice cake is given a generous drizzle of fish sauce. 

Do you feel hungry for all the delicious Vietnamese foods now? Take a look at famous cooking classes and food tours in Vietnam!

Upcoming Cooking Classes and Food Tours

Taste of the Night (Saigon Food Tour)

Taste of the Morning (Saigon Food Tour)

Saigon by Night (Food Tour)

Vegan Tour in Saigon

21 thoughts on “Top 12 foods to try in Vietnam”

  1. Jitaditya Narzary

    All of them look really inviting although some of them might not be among teh thngs that I eat. The best part is the banana Flower Salad. In my parts of the world, banana flower is generally chopped, deep fried, and eaten. But this seems much healthier.

    11 months ago Reply

    1. avatar

      Anastasia

      Interesting! Where are you coming from? It is always fascinating to learn, how the same ingredient finds different applications in different countries and cultures!

      11 months ago Reply

  2. Samarpita Sharma

    I am planning a trip to Vietnam soon and this post has been most helpful. Bookmarking it, thank you!

    xoxo

    Samarpita
    http://www.wideeyedwanderer.in

    11 months ago Reply

    1. avatar

      Anastasia

      you are welcome, so happy it was helpful!

      10 months ago Reply

  3. Davide uTravelShare.com

    OMG, all these pictures bring me back to the past on my 25 days travelling from North to South in Vietnam! Well, I remember more food and all the best one was on the street; looking forward to taste again Xoi Ga and Nem Ran, nice and cheap! Thanks for sharing it

    11 months ago Reply

  4. Wanderlust Vegans

    Thanks for sharing. It looks like there is quite the variety of food available in Vietnam. That banana flower salad looks pretty delicious. I’ve had Pho and summer rolls before at Vietnamese restaurants in Canada and Europe but I’ve never been to Vietnam. Some day.

    11 months ago Reply

  5. Abhinav Singh

    Vietnam has always fascinated me as a destination. I am a foodie but a vegetarian. I would love to try the banana flower salad. I have seen it many time but never tasted it. And egg Coffee? Who would have thought something like this existed.

    10 months ago Reply

  6. Indrani

    Wow! The variety!!! Though the ingredients are similar to ours, none of the preparations and presentations look the same. High time I paid a visit to the Vietnamese restaurant here.

    10 months ago Reply

  7. Phil

    Thank you for the post. It brought back a lot of memories for when I was travelling in Vietnam. I especially love the beef pho and the spring rolls wrapped in lettuce leaves. ?

    10 months ago Reply

  8. Stefano uTravelShare.com

    I’m starving now, so this post is killing me :D. Anyway, next March I’m going to visit Vietnam in a 30 days trip, so I’m pretty curious to taste these delicious dishes…I’ll try to taste them all

    10 months ago Reply

    1. avatar

      Anastasia

      that sounds great, enjoy your trip!

      10 months ago Reply

  9. Christina

    OMG I am getting on the next plane out to try it all!!!!!! Im a sucker for pho soup, egg rolls and spring rolls ? I really liked this post and found it so helpful for travelers and foodies alike. Awesome job and thank you for the helpful info.

    10 months ago Reply

  10. Lauren West

    We found the food in Vietnam to be consistently delicious. Simply walking into any restaurant popular with locals is always a good bet. Just eat what they’re eating and odds are it will be delicious! You just made me hungry…

    10 months ago Reply

  11. Jesper, The Biveros Effect

    The food really looks delicious. Sadly it is hard to find really genuine Vietnamese food to find here in Sweden. So maybe I should consider going to Asia instead just to eat. ?

    Best Regards
    Jesper, The Biveros Effect – http://biveros.se/

    10 months ago Reply

    1. avatar

      Anastasia

      I know what you mean, I feel it is the case with most of international cuisines – to taste the best of it, you need to make your way to the country itself

      10 months ago Reply

  12. charmaine

    This is such a tasty post! Planning to visit vietnam next year and this post is very helpful since im going for a food trip there! This will be my guide!

    10 months ago Reply

  13. Adam, Bite of Iceland

    Super yummy ? I love Vietnamese food! All these pictures bring me back to my trip. I’ve been there last year for a month. I ate fried spring rolls, baguets and crepe wraps all the time. Egg coffee is delicious ?

    10 months ago Reply

  14. Joanna

    I love the Vietnamese food. I have been traveling for 2 weeks in Vietnam and I simply couldn’t get enough of it. My favorite has to be Banh Xeo, together with the spring rolls. I have actually been to a cooking class and made Pho, that was a unique experience.

    10 months ago Reply

  15. Awara Diaries

    The look of Shrimps is a happy happy sighting! The Vietnamese food sure looks like a great treat ? Could you share with us some vegetarian options available? We’ll be traveling in February, with a bunch of Vegetarian friends.

    10 months ago Reply

  16. Nadine Cathleen

    I love your post so much! I just recently spent two months in Vietnam. The country is so amazing and the food is one my favourites! Being back in the UK I really miss their healthy food, especially Pho and Bánh xèo. The prices in London for the same quality are just ridiculous. Can’t wait to go back to Vietnam! X
    Nadine Cathleen | Karateandcaviar.com

    10 months ago Reply

  17. Natasha Welch

    What an awesome post! I would love to visit Vietnam for the food among many other things, it looks incredible. Noodles are my favourite food I’m sure they’d be supreme there

    10 months ago Reply

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