What to Eat in Vietnam – A List of Vietnamese Foods for First Time Visitors
Vietnamese food, complex flavors and contrasting textures come to mind. Take, for example, pho, a noodle dish consisting of either beef or chicken broth that is simmered for hours before being served piping hot with a heaping plate of crunchy leafy greens and various aromatic herbs. Then there’s banh mi, which literally translates to bread, but is most frequently used to refer to sandwiches traditionally made of a variety of pork products with pickled vegetables stuffed into a toasted baguette. And we certainly can’t leave out fish sauce (nuoc cham), a fundamental ingredient that is pungent yet delicious if you can handle its singular taste.
Banh mi is another of Vietnam’s staple street foods generally found sold at small, street side stalls. As with
all baguettes you can put pretty much anything in them. That being said with the Vietnamese Banh Mi I generally
find a set filling. A filling of a pork liver pate, Vietnamese sausage (Boiled Pork, Cha Lua), shredded radish
and carrot, cuts of cucumber and squeezes of mayonnaise and the all important chilli. Makes for a hearty feed
following days of soup and veg.
Crepe Wrap (Banh Xeo)
A Vietnamese counterpart of Indian Dosa, Banh xeo is a savoury fried pancake filled with pork, shrimp, mung
beans, and sprouts. It is translated to sizzling pancake because of the sound it makes when the rice batter is
poured on the griddle. The savour rice batter pancake is full of fresh flavours and crunch from the beans. The
traditional Asian recipe is served with chilli sauce across all Vietnamese restaurants.
Summer Rolls / Fried Spring Rolls (Goi Cuon / Nem Ran)
First is the Summer Roll (fresh spring roll or Salad Roll) which, when matched with the right dip, is hard to beat. Easily my favourite Vietnamese food snack which is unusual. Not only are they healthy but summer rolls come packed with fresh greens. Traditionally tightly wrapped in a thin rice paper and include ingredients of vermicelli (rice) noodles, fresh herbs, and choice of meat (fresh prawns please). While sauces vary a phenomenal favourite is the peanut sauce (Nuoc Leo). Summer rolls also come meatless / vegetarian. Fried spring rolls need less of an introduction; meat and veg rolled in rice paper before deep frying to crisp.
Vietnamese Noodle Soup (Pho)
Vietnam’s national dish a the country’s great staple is pho (pronounced “fuh”), a noodle soup eaten at any time of day but primarily
at breakfast. The basic bowl of pho consists of a light beef or chicken broth flavoured with ginger and coriander, to which are added
broad, flat rice noodles, spring onions and slivers of chicken, pork or beef.
Chicken Salad (Goi Ga Bap Cai)
Goi Ga is a popular refreshing Vietnamese Salad which is traditionally served on special occasions. The hand shredded chicken
and julien cabbage are tossed with mint and freshly squeezed lemon juice which bring about a refreshing flavour. The crushed
peanuts provide the saltiness and crunch to the salad.
Broken Rice with Grilled Pork (Com Tam)
Also know as broken rice, these fractured grains are eaten with your preferred protein. Grilled pork, prawns, or beef
sit alongside accompaniments such as fresh and pickled vegetables, an over-easy egg, crispy spring rolls, and thinly
shredded pork skin. Pour a healthy dose of fish sauce over the plate and you’ve got yourself a superb meal.
Grilled Fish (Cha ca)
A delicious delicacy for the sea food lovers, Cha Ca is one of the most iconic Vietnamese dishes. Cha ca, or the fish cakes, are sauteed in goodness of butter and dill with spring onions which is then served with rice noodles and sprinkle of peanuts. The dish is full of interesting ingredients. It has got herbs, saltiness from butter, crunch from peanuts, and obviously the fish cakes.
Quang Noodles (Mi quang)
This unheralded and affordable noodle dish is a Hanoi specialty. Ingredients vary by establishment, but expect to see a simple bowl
of meat noodles enlivened by additions like flavoursome oils, fresh sprigs of leaves, shrimp, peanuts, mint and quail eggs.
Banana blossom salad(Nom hoa chuoi)
Vegetarians rejoice. Nom hua chuoi, or banana-flower salad, is a great meat-free option.Lime and chili are the key flavors
and add a refreshing punch to the shredded veg.
Cao Lau (Vietnamese Noodle Bowl)
This pork noodle dish from Hoi An is a bit like the various cultures that visited the trading port at its prime. The thicker
noodles are similar to Japanese udon, the crispy won-ton crackers and pork are a Chinese touch, while the broth and herbs are
clearly Vietnamese. Authentic cau lao is made only with water drawn from the local Ba Le well.