Eating in Vietnam - The 7 Must-Try dishes!

Journeying through Vietnam’s local cuisine is no different from interacting with its rich history. That’s why eating in Vietnam is becoming one of the country’s biggest tourist attractions.

Influenced by China, France and Cambodia; Vietnamese food treats people to fragrant flavors and soupy broths. Its unique taste has made it a popular option around the world and with this introduction, you’ll know why eating in Vietnam is becoming so popular.

Vietnam Best Food - Sami Romansky @moreicingthancake
A Vietnamese feast from Sami Romansky @moreicingthancake

The dishes below are popular among the locals – and include popular Vietnamese herbs such as coriander (rau ram), Sawtooth leaf and Vietnamese Perilla.

Making eating in Vietnam a delight!

Whether you’re traveling through Vietnam or living here, your stay wouldn’t be complete without a sample of these exotic flavors.

#1 – Pho

Pho with beef balls from @ravenouscouple

No introduction to Vietnamese food would be complete without mentioning the most famous food in Vietnam: Pho. Vietnam’s national dish is a type of broth that is ladened with strips of rice noodles and served with either beef (Pho Bo) or chicken (Pho Ga). When prepared properly, the noodles have a soft gentle texture, while the herbs relax into the broth to produce a fine and fragrant flavour.

The North prefers to serve their Pho with thinner strips of rice noodles, whereas Saigon and the majority of the South prefer them to be thicker.

#2 – Banh Mi

Pic courtesy of @oinker.eats on Instagram

Few Vietnamese breakfasts are ever complete without this tasty Vietnamese sandwich. Banh Mi is the result of the French’s influence over Vietnamese cuisine during its colonial past.

It’s made from a baguette which has been filled with pork, herbs, chili, pate and cucumber.

It’s popular among the locals for its delicious taste and ridiculously low prices – which will typically be in the 10-20k range (50 cents – 1 USD).

#3 – Hu Tieu

@yensplate Vietnam Best food - Hu Tieu
Picture courtesy of @yensplate

Soup dishes make Vietnamese cuisine special, and the next dish on our list is no exception. Originally from Cambodia and China, this dish is particularly popular in the South of Vietnam. Strips of rice noodles, typically thinner than the ones found in Pho, are matched with Vietnamese herbs and pork stock.  Hu Tieu shows how Vietnamese cuisine is heavily inspired by its neighbours, though made into its own with local herbs.

#4 – Mi Quang

Thanks to @socal.foodist for this pic of the dry version of Mi Quang

Rice noodles feature heavily on this list, but Mi Quang complements the other dishes on this list with its texture and distinct flavors. The rice noodles are produced by mixing turmeric and rice flour together, giving it a yellow appearance. The shape and softness of the noodles make them easier to swallow compared to the ribbon noodles found in Pho.

Mi Quang is typically made with pork, as well as shrimp and chicken. The more adventurous foodies out there can also try it with frog. 

#5 – Banh Xeo

Banh Xeo, as made by @maryftran

These savory pancakes are made from rice flour, shrimp, beef, bean sprouts and a selection of fresh herbs. Typically eaten during the rainy seasons, Banh Xeo brings people indoors to enjoy each other’s company, as well as this traditional delicacy.

People will pour a mixture of rice liquid and turmeric into a hot pan – the word ‘Xeo’ actually comes from the sound of the mixture hitting the sizzling pan. Next, they prepare their pancake to their liking, with a choice of herbs and some fish sauce. Then the next person will prepare theirs. Banh Xeo is a perfect example of how Vietnamese food brings communities together, despite the occasional gloomy day.

#6 – Bun Bo Hue

Vietnam Best Food by @seattlefoodieadventure
Thanks to @seattlefoodieadventure for this delicious pic of Bun Bo Hue noodles

Originating from Vietnam’s old capital, Hue, this broth’s base uses tomatoes for a distinct taste. Beef balls are commonly used, and instead of rice noodles, glass noodles are chosen for their slightly chewier texture. Depending on where you get yours from, you can expect far punchier flavours to the ones found in the other Noodle dishes on this list.

#7 – Com Ga Tam Ky

Vietnam Best Food - Com Ga Tam Ky by instagrammer @yensplate
Picture courtesy of @yensplate on Instagram

Unlike the salads found in Western countries, lettuce is often set aside for more flavorsome and crunchy alternatives. Morning Glory leaves, shoots, cabbage, herbs, and chicken are mixed together with a vinaigrette – giving these a crunch like few others. This salad is often served on a bed of rice as well, which provides a soft and gentle texture to the rest of the dish.

For breakfast ideas, check out this post about the best places for a western style breaky!

Done looking at food? Take a look at our list of Vietnamese drinks to try.

Final note: Many thanks to all contributors who provided such incredible pics. Especially  Sami Romansky (@moreicingthancake) for the cover photo. You all made this introduction to Vietnamese food possible 🙂

About The Author

Nathan Piccio

As a happy resident of Vietnam for the last 3 years, Nathan recognizes the benefits and the challenges of living in another country. This background has inspired him to provide knowledge about his experiences.

He feels passionate about sharing the culture, food, and traditions of the country, which he has expressed with the several websites he has worked with.

Originally from the London in the UK, he has the experience of travelling to over 30 countries, and especially loves Asian culture.

Nathan Piccio

As a happy resident of Vietnam for the last 3 years, Nathan recognizes the benefits and the challenges of living in another country. This background has inspired him to provide knowledge about his experiences.

He feels passionate about sharing the culture, food, and traditions of the country, which he has expressed with the several websites he has worked with.

Originally from the London in the UK, he has the experience of travelling to over 30 countries, and especially loves Asian culture.

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