Vietnamese food is considered one of the healthiest cuisines worldwide. Fresh herbs and vegetables and a minimal use of oil gives Vietnamese food its own unique identity.
Phở (Noodle Soup)
Flavourful staple of Vietnam composed of an aromatic broth, rice noodles, fresh herbs and chicken or beef, with lime, chillies and usually fresh herbs as garnish. Phở is available from every local restaurant and street vendors throughout the country, once sampled you’ll be hooked on this healthy, cheap and tasty soup.
Bánh Mì (Baguette)
Like a good sandwich? Then you’ll love the Vietnamese version, the bread is light with a thin crust. Packed with fillings like pate, pork, meatballs in a tomato marinade or scrambled eggs, many varieties are available and all are strongly recommended. What’s more they are an absolute bargain, usually costing 15,000 – 20,000 VND.
Gỏi Cuốn (Fresh Spring / Salad Rolls)
Light and healthy these tightly wrapped rice paper parcels encase shrimp, pork, vermicelli noodles, herbs and various greens. Served with the popular fish dipping sauce Nước chấm which is infused with garlic, chilli and vinegar, perfect for times when you don’t want too much. Vegetarian version also widely available.
Nem Ran /Cha Gio (Fried Spring Rolls)
Named Nem Ran in the north and Cha Gio in the south, these deep fried crispy shelled wonders encase soft vegetables and meat, usually pork, just waiting to be dipped in Nước chấm (fish sauce). Simple and quick they are favoured by many worldwide.
Often served de-constructed in Dalat for you to fill and roll yourself.
Chả Cá / Chả Cá La Vong (Grilled Fish with Turmeric & Dill)
So good they named the street where it was created after it! Uusally cooked tableside, marinated fillets or chunks of white fish in turmeric, ginger and galangal are fried then topped with dill and served on a sizzling plate. Bursting with flavour and available up and down the country, fish lovers rejoice.
Cao Lầu (Thick Noodles with Pork)
Traditionally this regional delicacy can only be made in Hội An, thick noodles made with ash and water from a specific well with thin slices of pork, herbs and a little broth; greens, bean sprouts, and often croutons are added to complete this unique meal. Other regions restaurant list Cao Lầu on their menus but it’s a mere imitation.
Particularly good from Ms Vy’s Morning Glory restaurant in Hoi An, of course.
Bún Bò Nam Bộ (Southern Style Beef Noodles)
Unlike typical Vietnamese noodle dishes Bún Bò Nam Bộ has no broth, instead thin slices of beef, peanuts, crispy shallots, beansprouts and fresh herbs sit on a bed of vermicelli noodles with Nước chấm the versatile fish sauce the side.
Xôi Mặn (Savoury Sticky Rice)
A generous serving of sticky rice elegantly topped with Chinese sausage, dried shrimp, shallots and pork floss to make a filling any time of the day meal, quick to cook it’s popular around breakfast time and found throughout the country.
Goi / Nộm (Vietnamese Salad)
Goi or Nộm in the north translates to ‘salad’ but instead of lettuce and tomato the base is made by grating vegetables such as cabbage, turnip, carrot and papaya fruit with slices of cucumber all tossed together then soaked in vinegar, sugar and garlic, popularly topped with chicken strips, prawns or grated boiled pork. Variations are boundless many use banana flowers, lotus root, chilli, herbs and peanuts. If looking for a western style salad ask for a ‘sa lát’.
Cà Phê Trứng (Egg Coffee)
Vietnamese coffee is well known for being strong and bitter, to balance this it’s often served with sweetened or condensed milk. Cà phê trứng goes one step further adding a whipped egg yolk foam which mingles with the dense coffee producing a creamy dessert like drink.
Rau Câu (Jelly)
Unlike gelatine jelly rau câu is made with agar agar, which is derived from algae and is much firmer so can be made into intricate shapes and cakes. Popular flavours include coconut, coffee, and pandan but just about any fruit or vegetable can be used.