Vietnamese food is known to be both healthy and robust in flavour, thanks its generous combination of fresh herbs and greens, paired with rice, noodles, seafood, pork and beef.
While many cities such as Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City offer plenty of fine-dining venues and five-star hotel restaurants decked out in extravagant settings, some of the best (and most authentic) Vietnamese delicacies are actually found at roadside eateries, vibrant street markets, and humble-looking restaurants.
1. PHO – Noodle Soup
Pho is essentially Vietnam’s signature dish, comprising rice noodles in a flavourful soup with meat and various greens, plus a side of nuoc cham (fermented fish) or chilli sauce. A basic bowl contains beef or chicken, topped with bean sprouts, lime wedges, and fresh herbs such as basil, mint, cilantro, and onions.
Depending on the restaurant or roadside stall, you can also opt for more exotic ingredients such as gan (beef tendon), sach (thinly-sliced pig stomach), and ve don (flank with cartilage). Typically eaten for breakfast, pho is priced between VND 40,000 and VND 90,000 (1.7 USD – 4 USD) at a local restaurant or street market in Vietnam. Pho has shown its position not only in Vietnamese cuisine but also world cuisine. Pho can be seen everywhere from street stalls to high-end restaurants.
2. BANH MI – Bread
Commonly well-known along with Pho, Vietnamese baguette sandwiches, called Banh Mi, have attracted a growing fan base around the world. The uniqueness of Banh mi not only lies within the light and crispy baguette, but also the variation of flavors Vietnam fillings bring out the most amazing flavor. Banh mi is a unique French-Vietnamese sandwich that’s great for when you’re in need of a quick meal.
Priced between VND 15,000 and VND 40,000 (0.6 – 1.7 USD), it consists of a toasted baguette sandwich, pickled vegetables, pate, butter, soy sauce, cilantro, chillies, etc. Most banh mi sellers also offer a wide range of meat fillings, including “heo quay” (roasted pork belly), “trung op la” (fried egg), “thit nuong” (grilled pork loin), “cha ca” (fried fish with turmeric and dill), “cha lua” (boiled sausages), “xa xiu” (Chinese barbecued pork), and “thit ga” (poached chicken). With it reputation, Banh mi is considered to be the essence of Vietnamese cuisine. It is a must-try that even the pickiest eaters can’t resist.
3. MI QUANG
Without a doubt, the most underrated dish in Vietnam is Mi Quang. Mi Quang may be available at most restaurants in Vietnam, but it actually originates from Da Nang City. Easily distinguished by its yellow-coloured rice noodles, this dish is a hearty mix of bone broth seasoned with fish sauce, black pepper, shallot, and garlic, as well as meaty ingredients such as river shrimp, boiled quails eggs, and roast pork. As with most Vietnamese dishes, mi quang also comes with a variety of herbs, including basil, peanuts, coriander, lettuce, sliced banana flowers, and sesame rice crackers.
There is no correct way to cook Mi Quang – it really depends on your tastes and preferences. To most of Danangians, the best Mi Quang is home-made by their mothers or grandmothers, attached with love and memories. Mi Quang brings out the feeling of genuineness and simplicity just like the people in Central Vietnam, one that is hard to come across in the modern dishes.
4. BANH CUON – Stuffed Pancake
Banh cuon is great for when you’re feeling peckish whilst sightseeing in Vietnam. A combination of ground meat, minced wood ear mushroom, onions, Vietnamese ham (cha lua), wrapped in a steamed rice flour sheet, its overall taste is surprisingly mild despite the savoury ingredients. For added flavour, you can dip the banh cuon into nuoc cham mam (mix fish sauce). Due to its popularity amongst travellers, you can easily spot plenty of roadside vendors selling banh cuon close to tourist sights and nightlife districts. Today, it becomes a comfort food to be served all day long.
It could be a light lunch in a hurry to catch up office work or a small dinner for a good time to chat with friends. In family, banh cuon is a perfect dish to gather members around, from preparation to making the rolls, and share the joy with family. Whatever banh cuon is steamed with traditional method or modern non-stick pan, a small or large savory roll with or without a variety of fillings, Banh cuon is a perfect lasting favorite throughout Vietnam and of many visitors. Banh cuon is a roll which stuff all the culinary culture and spirit of different regions across the country.
5. BUN BO HUE – Hue Beef noodle soup
Bun Bo Hue is one of the specialties of Thua Thien Hue province that when visiting Hue City you cannot miss. Though, Bun Bo Hue can be easily found anywhere in Vietnam. However, only in Hue City do you feel its unique flavor
Currently, a bowl of Bun Bo Hue only costs from 40,000 VND (1.7 USD). This is quite cheap for a breakfast or dinner for one person.
The main ingredients of a bowl of Bun Bo Hue include: noodles, beef, pork rolls, and also fried pork. The broth of this is reddish brown color, this is a combination of characteristic spices, lemongrass and sauces. Served with Bun bo Hue are raw vegetables and sa-te. Sa-te is an indispensable ingredient, helping to make the beef noodle dish more spicy and aromatic.
6. BANH XEO – Sizzling Crepe
Pancakes in Vietnam have many different origins. The central pancake is from Binh Dinh province, and the western pancake is from the Khmer. Although there are many origins, the methods of processing the banh xeo are all the same, the flavoring can be different from one region to another.
This is a bold traditional dish of Vietnamese people. Especially on rainy days, eating a hot and crispy pancake is nothing more wonderful. The main ingredients for making pancakes are: flour, shrimp, meat, bean sprouts, chopped scallions. Served with pancakes will be a sweet spicy sauce, along with a basket of raw vegetables.
It can be said, this is the dish that most people love. Because pancakes is quite delicious and easy to eat.
7. HU TIEU
When mentioning Pho, people will immediately think of the North, when it comes to vermicelli, people will immediately think of the Central region and when it comes to Hu Tieu (noodles), people will immediately think of the South. Noodles are rustic and street food. Especially in Ho Chi Minh City, you will easily find trolleys selling noodles. With its cracked nose flavor, you won’t be able to resist this dish.
The main ingredients of a bowl of noodles include noodles, pork or beef, fish or beef rollds and soup. Soup and noodles are the two main ingredients that decide a good noodle dish. not delicious. Enjoy a bowl of noodles from just 30,000 VND (1.3 USD).