9 Must-Try Food in Vietnam

Pho and banh mi immediately come to mind when one thinks of Vietnamese food. Vietnam is a foodie paradise, especially if you are a soup lover. Regardless of your dietary restrictions, there are plenty of food options in Vietnam for all kinds of foodies.

1. Pho (Rice noodle soup)

Pronounced as ‘fur’. Hailed as the national dish of Vietnam, this ubiquitous dish is world-famous for a good reason. A traditional pho usually comprises a broth of beef (bo) with thin rice noodles and plenty of herbs and vegetables. The meat is generally served medium-rare in thin slices. Aside from beef, there is also the ga (chicken) option. The flavour of this comforting noodle soup varies greatly across the country. Do try out the pho from Hanoi, Da Nang and Ho Chih Minh, as they all have different flavours and cooking styles. Fret not, as this mouthwatering dish can be found everywhere, from breakfast tables to the curbsides. The origins of pho can be traced back to the early 20th century in North Vietnam. This popular dish spread throughout the world via refugees who fled during the Vietnam War.

2. Bun Cha (Noodle with char-grilled meat)

Pronounced as boon-chah. ‘Bun’ means rice vermicelli, and ‘cha’ is pork patty. The dish is known as ‘bun cha Hanoi’ to indicate its origin in Hanoi. Originated from North Vietnam, bun cha is typically a mix of flavourful barbecued pork, fresh noodles and fish sauce, topped with slices of papaya, carrot and herbs. You have to assemble the dish yourself as the components are served in separate bowls. It’s fun to dip the noodles into a bowl of steaming broth and slurp up the noodles and vegetables in between pork bites. The dish was also made famous when former President Barack Obama sat down to eat with Anthony Bourdain in Hanoi for an episode of Anthony Bourdains: Parts Unknown.

3. Banh Mi (Vietnamese sandwich)

Pronounced as bun me. ‘Banh’ loosely means bread or baked goods, and ‘mi’ means wheat flour. Banh mi was first introduced in Vietnam during the French colonial period in the 19th century. It is a modification of the baguette, a staple food of French. Originally, Banh mi in Vietnam was just plain bread without any stuffing. However, sandwiches with meat stuffing have grown in popularity worldwide. Banh mi’s dough is a mixture of rice flour and wheat flour, unlike the French’s baguette made wholly from wheat flour. There are many variations of Banh mi. The most popular Banh mi comprises sausage, ham, mouthwatering patty, cucumber slices, pickled carrots, radish, chilli and mayonnaise. It’s definitely a must-try food in Vietnam, especially if you’re looking for a good hearty breakfast to start your day.

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4. Banh Xeo (Crispy pancake)

Pronounced as bun say-oh. If you are undecided on what to have for afternoon snacks, Banh Xeo is one of the Vietnamese favourite foods. The name comes from the sizzling sound of the rice flour batter when it’s poured into the wok. The fillings usually include prawns, pork belly, eggs, bean sprouts, and mung beans. Once deep-fried, the pancake is folded up halfway and served with fresh herbs and vegetables. This traditional Vietnamese crispy pancake is best enjoyed fresh off the heat while still hot. As with most other Vietnamese dishes, you can dip the pancake in delicious sauces.

5. Banh Canh (Soup cake)

Pronounced as bun kann. Banh canh is a Vietnamese soup with thick noodles made from rice or tapioca flour. They resemble the Japanese udon but are softer in texture. The soup is thicker than other Vietnamese noodle soups. It is a versatile soup dish that can be whipped up with all kinds of ingredients, such as crab and ham. Like the other Vietnamese dishes, the dish has many variations, depending on the region you visit. The broth is usually made from pork bones, although chicken broth is also available. Banh canh is a popular dish in Ho Chi Minh city.

6. Ca Phe Trung (Egg coffee)

Pronounced as ka fay troong. Vietnam is the world’s second-largest coffee exporter after Brazil. When one thinks of Vietnamese coffee, drip coffee comes to mind. But the most unique coffee in Vietnam is arguably the popular ca phe trung. The egg coffee is made by beating an egg yolk with sweetened condensed milk for about 10 minutes until it is airy, creamy, and silky. Egg coffee was first concocted in 1946 in Hanoi, Vietnam, by a bartender named Nguyen Van Giang, who worked at the Metropole Hotel. He experimented with substituting condensed milk with whisked egg yolk. The thought of having a cup of coffee mixed with egg may sound strange, but it is surprisingly delicious and refreshing. Ca Phe Trung is consumed hot and feels more like a dessert than a beverage.

7. Goi Cuon (Spring rolls)

Pronounced as goy coon. Essentially, a “salad roll”. Goi cuon are Vietnamese fresh spring rolls, also known as summer rolls. They are one of the Vietnamese favourite appetisers. Unlike fried Vietnamese spring rolls, Goi Cuon are commonly wrapped with Vietnamese rice paper stuffed with rice vermicelli, fresh vegetables, herbs, and boiled shrimp. The simple ingredients make it a welcome snack any time of the day and are convenient to eat on the go. Additionally, the transparent rice paper gives it an appealing appearance making it a mouth-watering food. Other alternatives include fish pie, grilled pork, and pork patties. The spring rolls are usually eaten with peanut hoisin dipping sauce.

8. Banh Beo (Rice cakes)

Pronounced as bun beh-oh. Banh beo are delicious Vietnamese steamed rice cakes topped with velvety mung beans, prawn floss, fried pork fat, and a drizzle of scallion oil. Banh beo is a specialty of central Vietnam, especially in Da Nang, Hue, Quang Nam and Quang Ngai. The rice cakes have two versions: the dry version, banh beo hue, and the wet version, banh beo quang nam. Traditionally, the rice cakes are steamed in a small ceramic dish called a chen. Thus, the cake is circular in shape, and sometimes you will see the dish named banh beo chen. You will find banh beo in many streets in Vietnam, but the best ones are from the vendors who make you sit on tiny plastic stools

9. Banh Cuon (Stuffed rolled cake)

Pronounced as bun kwuhn. Banh cuon is a popular Vietnamese street food consisting of steamed rice rolls stuffed with pork, mushrooms and minced shallots. The rice sheet is extremely thin and delicate. Banh cuon is usually served with a fried shallot dip, beansprouts, sweet and sour fish sauce, and a variety of fresh herbs and lime-based sauce. Many Vietnamese love to kickstart their day with banh cuon and they sometimes pair it with extra slices of Vietnamese roasted cinnamon pork sausages. After all, nothing beats having an excellent steamed cake bursting with flavours in the morning.

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