Did you know that Vietnamese culture is one of the oldest in all of Southeast Asia? This impressive feat has given the Vietnamese people plenty of time to master their art of cooking. Today, the best Vietnamese food staples are in restaurants in many major cities around the world.
When we visited Vietnam we often found it difficult when ordering food as we didn’t really know what the dishes were. So, to help you make the dining experience easier we put together this list of the best Vietnamese foods and made sure to link out to some recipes as well so you can try them at home.
Traditional Vietnamese Food
In this article, we’ll be exploring 20 of the best dishes from Vietnam. You’ll have the opportunity to find out not only what ingredients are in each dish, but also the history and tastes behind every dish. To start off our discussion, we’ll begin with Bun Cha, a flavorful and simple dish.
1. Bun Cha (Vietnamese Meat Balls)
Bun Cha has roots in Hanoi, which is the capital of Vietnam. If you’ve ever visited Hanoi, you know that you can find bun cha on any street you pass. It is a traditional dish that remains popular even today.
Bun Cha, to the untrained eye, looks much like a plate of meatballs. However, the taste of bun cha is quite different from any Italian meatballs. Bun chai is mainly made of pork but it also contains fish sauce, onions, garlic, sugar, and sometimes even caramel sauce.
Because of the presence of sugar (and sometimes caramel sauce), bun cha has a unique savory and sweet flavor. Bun cha is usually served over rice noodles or vermicelli noodles. It also comes with vegetables such as lettuce, carrots, or herbs. Make these at home with this delicious recipe!
2. Banh Mi (Vietnamese Sandwich)
Banh Mi could easily be mistaken for a baguette to the untrained eye. What gives away its origins is that it is significantly shorter than a traditional French baguette. This similarity is not a coincidence since it is a product of the French introducing baguettes to the Vietnamese during the 1800s.
Along with the baguettes, the French also brought their love of sandwiches to Vietnam. However, over time, the Vietnamese departed from ham and cheese sandwiches which were, and still are, a favorite of the French. Instead, the Vietnamese incorporated their own flavors.
Today, you can find banh mi as popular street food. These sandwiches may be filled with pork, cucumbers, sardines, or pickled carrots.
3. Banh Xeo (Vietnamese Crepes)
Banh Xeo may look like a pancake, but it’s not the kind of pancake you might know. Instead of fluffy and sugary, it is made from rice flour and turmeric along with water to turn the mixture into a smooth batter.
Banh Xeo is undoubtedly a savory rather than a sweet dish. It is often served with vegetables such as onions and bean sprouts. More often than not, it is folded up like an omelet with vegetables stuffed inside. You are going to love them, especially if you try this recipe!
4. Bun Bo Hue (Spicy Beef & Pork Noodle Soup)
If you are looking for the best food in Vietnam in soup form, look no further than bun bo hue. Its name betrays its origins since this dish comes from the city of Hue. However, this soup is not for the picky eater since it is often made with pig knuckles and blood.
Don’t let the ingredients dissuade you from trying bun bo hue, however. This soup contains an amazing mix of umami flavors and lemongrass as well as a spicy kick. Bun bo hue is filled with rice noodles and a variety of vegetables such as red cabbage, cilantro, basil, and mint.
5. Pho (Noodle soup)
More likely than not, you’ve already heard of pho. It is one of Vietnam’s most popular soups next to bun bo hue. It is also a great alternative if bun bo hue sounds a little too much for you.
Pho consists of either a chicken or beef base. Like the previously discussed soup, it also uses rice noodles, making it a lovely and filling comfort food. Depending on where you get your pho, it could be mild or very spicy.
6. Banh Cuon (Rice Rolls)
Banh Cuon are rolls of fermented rice batter that you simply cannot pass up. The rice batter wraps up little balls of pork and minced mushrooms, resulting in little packets of flavor. These rolls need to be cooked very carefully because the batter is so thin. Because of this, they are briefly steamed and soon ready to eat. They are the perfect dish to make at home.
7. Che (Sweet Pudding)
Have you ever heard of a dessert soup? Che is precisely that. While chè has some savory hints, it is mostly a sweet dish. This is because coconut cream and tapioca fruit are some of the main ingredients of this soup. The more savory ingredients include kidney beans and vegetables. To make this recipe at home try this Che Bap Recipe for your own sweet corn pudding.
8. Mi Vit Tiem (Braised Duck Noodle Soup)
If you love duck, Mi Vit Tiem is what you’re looking for. It is another soup but instead of sweet flavors, it boasts of the savory flavors of roasted duck. Mi Vit Tiem has roots in Chinese cuisine, but there is undoubtedly a Vietnamese twist on it. Instead of rice noodles, egg noodles are used. This soup can also be quite spicy.
9. Hu Tieu (Pork and Seafood Noodle Soup)
On the other hand, if you want something to warm you up, why not opt for Hu Tieu? It can be hard to find any single version of this dish since it can vary so much from place to place, but every version has its own charm. It almost always contains pork and some kind of seafood. Hu Tieu is a pork bone soup. Beyond that, from the noodles to the vegetables and herbs, there is no standard recipe.
10. Goi Cuon (Vietnamese Spring Rolls)
What should you be looking for if you want something cool and refreshing? Goi Cuon is your answer. Goi Cuon is like a salad wrapped up into convenient rolls. These rolls are filled with seafood, leafy greens, and sometimes pork. There’s no better dish for a hot summer day. These are our favorite Vietnamese dishes to make at home. Follow this easy recipe to impress your friends.
11. Cao Lau
If you want to experiment with textures, Cau Lau is for you. It consists of thick, chewy noodles and crunchy crackers. On the other hand, it also is full of succulent pork and broth. Try Cao Lau for a true gastronomical adventure. We had this quite a few times in Vietnam and loved it. Asian Inspirations has the full recipe to follow.
12. Ga Tan (Poached Chicken soup)
If you want something similar to your grandmother’s homemade soup, Ga Tan is what you’re looking for. It is a warm and very healthy soup sure to clear out your sinuses if you’re feeling stuffed. It is fully stocked with chicken as well as herbs. The aroma and the taste of ga tan can do wonders.
Looking for more information about Vietnam? Read these articles to help with travel planning.
13. Ga Nuong (Barbeque Chicken)
Are you looking for sweet yet savory chicken? Ga Nuong is what you need. It is essentially Vietnam’s version of barbeque chicken. You’ll be amazed at how Ga Nuong can cook for such a long time and still be succulent instead of dry. This is one of those Vietnamese dishes that really surprised us. It is a nice detour from all the soups.
14. Bot Chien (Fried Rice Cakes)
Bot Chien can be enjoyed in the morning or late at night. It is a simple dish consisting of fried pieces of rice flour with egg mixed in. However, refreshing flavors of accompanying papaya and vegetables can transform the flavors of Bot Chien into something wonderful.
15. Chao (Vietnamese Rice Porridge)
Chao might not seem very impressive to you. After all, it’s only porridge. However, this creamy dish is ideal if you’re not very hungry or are dealing with stomach troubles. You can easily make Chao more flavorful by adding meat and herbs. Hungry Huy has an easy-to-follow recipe here.
16. Lau (Hot Pot)
Lau is not something to be eaten alone. In fact, the making of Lau is a community experience surrounding a large, boiling pot. You’ll never eat the same Lau twice because of how much it can vary. One pot might be stuffed with tofu and another might be filled with fish. There are no limits when it comes to making Lau.
Looking for some vegetarian Vietnamese cuisine? Look no further than Com Chay. Com Chay is a crispy rice delight stuffed with imitation meat, although some places use the real deal. Because of this, make sure you know what you’re getting when you order com chay.
18. Bun Rieu (Crab Noodle Soup)
Are you hungry for lunch and don’t know what to eat? Do you also love seafood? Why not choose Bun Rieu? This crab and noodle soup is sure to delight your taste buds, especially if you like crab. You’ll find that the type of noodles can vary greatly with this soup but the taste is incredible.
19. Dau Phu Sot Ca Chua (Fried Tofu in Tomato Sauce)
This is sure to be a favorite if you love tofu. Dau Phu Sot Ca Chua consists of deep-fried tofu chunks which are then drenched in tomato sauce. The tofu is then sprinkled with aromatic herbs. There’s no shortage of flavor with this tofu dish.
20. Bo Bit Tet (Vietnamese Beef Steak)
Craving something fast and greasy? You can find this steak and egg dish just about anywhere because of how easy it is to prepare. This thin steak often comes with meatballs and freshly cooked potatoes.
Finding The Best Vietnamese Food
By the end of this article, you know all about the best Vietnamese food around. If you want to try some amazing new dishes, look no further than Vietnamese cuisine.