Vietnam is a food lover’s paradise, boasting a diverse range of flavors and cooking styles that reflect the country’s rich history and cultural influences. From street food stalls to high-end restaurants, there are countless culinary experiences to discover in this vibrant Southeast Asian nation.
Here’s a guide to some of the best culinary experiences that Vietnam has to offer:
Pho: This iconic Vietnamese dish is a must-try for any foodie visiting the country. Consisting of a fragrant beef broth, rice noodles, and tender slices of beef or chicken, pho is a filling and satisfying meal that can be found in street food stalls and restaurants throughout Vietnam.
Banh mi: Another classic Vietnamese dish, banh mi is a French-inspired baguette sandwich that has been adapted with local ingredients and flavors. Traditionally filled with pork, pate, and pickled vegetables, banh mi is a delicious and affordable snack that is perfect for eating on the go.
Bun cha: Hailing from Hanoi, bun cha is a grilled pork and noodle dish that is usually served with a sweet and savory dipping sauce and a plate of fresh herbs. This dish is a favorite among locals and is sure to satisfy any meat lover’s cravings.
Cao lau: Originating from the central city of Hoi An, cao lau is a noodle dish that is made with pork, fresh herbs, and crunchy croutons. The noodles used in cao lau are unique to the dish and can only be found in Hoi An, making it a must-try for anyone visiting the area.
Bahn xeo: This crispy, savory crepe is made with rice flour, turmeric, and coconut milk, and is usually filled with pork, shrimp, and bean sprouts. Served with a side of lettuce and herbs, bahn x eo is a fun and interactive dish that you can assemble yourself at the table, making it a great option for groups and families.
Com tam: Literally translating to “broken rice,” com tam is a popular Vietnamese dish that is typically served with grilled pork, a fried egg, and a side of pickled vegetables. The broken rice grains have a unique texture that sets them apart from regular rice and makes for a delicious and satisfying meal.
Cha ca: This Hanoi specialty is a turmeric and dill marinated fish that is grilled and served with vermicelli noodles, peanuts, and fresh herbs. Cha ca is a unique and flavorful dish that is a must-try for seafood lovers.
Bun bo Hue: This spicy noodle soup hails from the city of Hue and is made with beef, pork, and a flavorful broth that is infused with lemongrass, chili, and shrimp paste. Served with a side of fresh herbs and lime wedges, bun bo Hue is a satisfying and aromatic dish that is perfect for a chilly day.
Banh cuon: These delicate rice paper rolls are filled with a savory mixture of pork, mushrooms, and shallots, and are usually served with a side of fish sauce and pickled vegetables. Banh cuon is a light and refreshing dish that is perfect for breakfast or as a snack throughout the day.
Ca phe sua da: Last but not least, no foodie’s trip to Vietnam would be complete without trying a glass of ca phe sua da, or Vietnamese iced coffee. Made with strong coffee, condensed milk, and ice, this sweet and creamy drink is the perfect pick-me-up on a hot day.
Tips and suggestions to enhance your culinary experience in Vietnam
Explore the street food scene: Vietnam is known for its bustling street food scene, and there’s no better way to experience the local cuisine than by sampling the various dishes from street food vendors. Be sure to try popular snacks like banh mi, banh xeo, and pho on the streets.
Take a cooking class: If you want to learn how to recreate your favorite Vietnamese dishes at home, consider taking a cooking class while you’re in the country. Many cooking schools offer classes that teach you how to prepare classic dishes like pho, banh mi, and spring rolls.
Visit a local market: To truly immerse yourself in Vietnam’s food culture, head to a local market where you can see the wide variety of fresh ingredients that are used in Vietnamese cuisine. Chat with local vendors to learn about the different ingredients and how they’re used in traditional dishes.
Try regional specialties: Vietnam is a diverse country, with each region boasting its own unique culinary traditions and specialties. Be sure to try regional dishes like bun bo Hue in Central Vietnam, banh mi in Ho Chi Minh City, and cha ca in Hanoi.
Sample the drinks: In addition to ca phe sua da, Vietnam is also known for its other popular drinks, like tra da (iced tea) and nuoc mia (sugarcane juice). Don’t be afraid to try something new and refreshing.
Vietnam truly is a foodie’s paradise, offering an incredible range of culinary experiences for visitors to enjoy. From the delicious street food in Hanoi to the fresh seafood in the coastal city of Da Nang, Vietnam’s cuisine is diverse and full of flavor. The use of fresh herbs and spices, along with a balance of sweet, sour, salty, and spicy flavors, creates a unique and unforgettable dining experience.