READING

Vietnamese Food: 10 Dishes You Need To Try

Vietnamese Food: 10 Dishes You Need To Try

Vietnamese Food Top 10

In need of the best Vietnamese food? Here are my top ten picks out of an original 21 greatest hits list. Visit the official Vietnam Tourism website for the full-length article on Vietnamese food: “The Top 21 Best Vietnamese Dishes.”

The recent media attention on Vietnamese gastronomy (see Bon Appetit’s “phở pas and POTUS Barack Obama’s bún chả rendezvous with Anthony Bourdain) has skyrocketed its popularity to new heights. While Vietnamese cuisine abroad has been reduced to the mere trappings of phở and bánh mì, the full spectrum of Vietnamese food is a symphony of delightfully textured, bright and piquant flavors. Northern food is known for its simplicity, while the dishes of central Vietnam are considered the most generous in terms of spice and quantity. Southerners add sugar to many dishes, a preference influenced by neighboring Cambodia and Thailand. As they say in Vietnamese, “Chúc ngon miệng!”–enjoy your meal!

Vietnamese Food: The Top 10 Dishes You Must Try!

The love I feel for Vietnamese food is infinite. Photo cred: Brandon Hyde.

Phở

top 10 vietnamese food must try pho
Phở is the quintessential Vietnamese dish, the word phở referring to the type of noodle used in the recipe. Flat rice noodles dance around with medium-rare slivers of beef or boiled chicken in a hearty beef stock. The more popular of the two widely known varieties is Phở Hanoi. Originally from the north, it is distinguished by a clear broth and dressed only with a squeeze of lemon and slices of bird’s eye chili. The southern iteration, Phở Nam, has a murkier broth and is served with a bouquet of fresh herbs like bean sprouts, basil and mint. The broth is usually infused with fragrant star anise, clove and cinnamon to lend a natural sweetness to the mix.

Eat it here: Pho Quynh, 323 Phạm Ngu Lao Street, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

Bánh Mì

top 10 vietnamese food must try banh mi

Baguettes may have been adopted from the French, but bánh mì is as Vietnamese as it comes. Paté and margarine are spread across the soft, chewy interior of a baguette and later, the sandwich is loaded with pickled vegetables, fresh cilantro, pork belly, pork floss and cucumber. Sink your teeth into the crunchy crust and watch the warm roll give way to a whole scheme of textures.

Eat it here: Madam Khanh “The Banh Mi Queen,” 115 Tran Cao Van Street, Son Phong, Hoi An, Vietnam

Bún Chả

top 10 vietnamese food must try bun cha

Bún Chả became an overnight sensation after President Obama was pictured scarfing down a bowl of these grilled pork sliders. But this specialty of the Old Quarter in Hanoi has always been popular among the locals. Around lunchtime, the scent of pork grilling over hot charcoal wafts down the sidewalks, filling the noses of hungry Hanoians. This classic northern dish is comprised of cold bún (rice vermicelli); slices of seasoned pork belly; a mountain of fresh herbs and salad greens; and last but not least, medallions of minced pork swimming in a bowl brimming with a fish sauce-based broth. Check out my feature on following the footsteps of Anthony Bourdain in Vietnam.

Eat it here: Bun Cha 34, 34 Hang Than Street, Nguyen Trung Truc, Ba Dinh, Hanoi, Vietnam

Cơm Tấm

top 10 vietnamese food must try com tam

Back in the day, Vietnamese farmers would eat the fractured rice grains they could not sell. Nowadays, “broken” rice is a food staple for the everyday working class citizen.  For a meal of humble origins, the preparations for cơm tấm can get very decadent. While it is prepared in a number of ways, the most popular is cơm tấm sườn nướng ốp la. A fried egg is paired with caramelized grilled pork chop and laid out on a generous heap of broken rice. The dish is then slathered with nước chấm, a mixture of chili, fish sauce and sugar, and a drizzle of green onion oil.

Eat it here: Com Tam Ba Ghien, 84 Dang Van Ngu, Phu Nhuan District, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

Cao Lầu

top 10 vietnamese food must try cao lau

A dish unique to Hoi An, cao lầu is beyond compare. Saluting the history of the coastal trading port from where it originated, this sensuous bowl of noodles is a fusion of Japanese, Chinese and Vietnamese influences. Slices of Chinese barbecued pork are fanned over cao lầu noodles. These thick noodles, with the same heft as Japanese udon, are then doused with a spice-laden broth and topped with fresh herbs and crushed pork cracklings. Authentic cao lầu is said to be made from the water found in the thousand-year-old Ba Le well in Hoi An, rumored to have magical properties.

Eat it here: Mot Hoi An, 150 Trần Phú, Minh An, Tp. Hội An, Quảng Nam, Vietnam

A short visual intermission of my favorite eats…

Mì Quảng

top 10 vietnamese food must try mi quang

Part soup, part salad, mì quảng gracefully pulls off an identity crisis. That being said, don’t let the elegance of mì quảng fool you. This light and springy noodle dish from the Quang Nam province in central Vietnam is street food. The vibrantly yellow noodles owe their rich color to the turmeric-infused broth made rich with peanut oil. Only a ladleful is used in the making of this “soup”, which can be topped with anything from shrimp and chicken to pork belly and snakehead fish. Eat mì quảng with sliced banana flowers, Vietnamese coriander, basil and toasted sesame rice crackers.

Eat it here: Quan Mi Quang Ba Mua, 95 Nguyen Tri Phuong, Chinh Gian, Thanh Khe, Da Nang

Bánh Xèo

top 10 vietnamese food must try banh xeo

Bánh xèo is widely eaten around south and central Vietnam. Watching the crispy crepe being assembled is an audio-visual experience: the batter crackles loudly when it hits the hot pan—xèo meaning sizzling—and the edges gradually curl and golden as the skilled xèo maker deftly swirls the pan to evenly spread out the dense batter. The batter, traditionally made from rice flour and coconut milk, owes its yellowish hue to the addition of turmeric. The savory pancake is filled with slices of boiled pork, minced pork, bean sprouts and shrimp and then folded in the manner of a crepe.

Eat it here: Banh Xeo Ngoc Son,  103 Ngo Quyen Street, Ward 11, District 5

Gỏi Cuốn

top 10 vietnamese food must try goi cuon

An action-packed salad roll, gỏi cuốn is bursting at the seams with freshness. The semi-transparent skin is made from softened sheets of rice paper. Encased within is a stack of leafy greens, mint, coriander, proteins, and a stalk of garlic chive poking out from the snugly wrapped roll. The most common variety of gỏi cuốn is a surf and turf combo of pork tenderloin and shelled shrimp. The roll is either dunked in a bowl of nutty hoisin sauce or nước chấm. You can ask for a meat-free preparation as well. For a full on guide on how to eat vegetarian in Vietnam, click here.

Eat it here: Quan An Ngon, 18 Phan Boi Chau, Hoan Kiem, Hanoi

Cà Phê Trứng

top 10 vietnamese food must try egg coffee

For a new brew to add to your coffee repertoire, cà phê trứng is something not to be missed. The story goes that this Hanoian delectable was invented by accident. Seventy years ago, the then-barman of the Sofitel Legend Metropole, Mr. Nguyen Giang, ran out of fresh milk on a shift to serve for the coffee. He ingeniously created a substitute mixture of egg yolks and condensed milk, and the rest is history. More of a confection than an actual caffeine boost, a frothy meringue-like substance is perched atop a cup of black coffee.

Drink it here: Giang Cafe, 39B Nguyen Huu Huan, Ly Thai To, Hoan Kiem, Hanoi (home of the original recipe)

Chè

top 10 vietnamese food must try che

Chè is a sweet, beverage-like dessert, served either hot or cold. Sometimes, it comes in the form of a pudding while others have likened it to a dessert soup. Cold chè is speckled with jellied ingredients and tropical fruits like bananas, mangoes and longan, usually doused in coconut milk. The firm crunch of artificially dyed water chestnuts is somewhat of a surprising encounter in the syrupy pool. Try the beautiful three-colored dessert, chè ba màu. Often called the rainbow dessert, this is a layered spectacle of red beans, mashed mung beans and pandan jelly, topped with crushed ice and coconut sauce.

Eat it here: Co co Che Campuchia, 57 Alley, Ho Thi Ky Street, District 10, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

👉 I’m on the quest for the best food finds! Let me know if you agree or disagree with my picks or if I missed anything good.

Give me a shout-out on Pinterest pretty please?

Vietnamese Food: The Top 10 Dishes You Must Try!


Izzy Pulido is a Bostonian by way of the Philippines who loves to vagabond. At twenty-seven, she’s traded in gallivanting around Europe for the 9-to-5 grind… but don’t count out the vagabonding! With a new long distance relationship, she’s bringing American travel to the forefront. She lives for good times, good food, and good peeps.

RELATED POST

  1. Mimi & Mitch

    16 April

    People I know usually struggles with the bun cha haha! Cao Lau is one of my fav but only when I find a very good one with enough sauce and enough crunchies! Of course can’t go wrong with some pho, banh mi and che for ending hihi!

    • Izzy Pulido

      16 April

      Hahaha yea! I feel ya 😛 But bun cha is such an underrate dish. And the best sauce is def at Mot Hoi An for sure. They have crunchies like no other 😛

  2. Getting to learn and remember dish names of other countries, specially in other languages can be such a fun challenge, I use word association for help. Will try it on some of these. 🙂

    • Izzy Pulido

      16 April

      Word association is a total help! I feel really disrespectful when I can’t learn the actual name of a dish in its mother tongue so I try to make it a mission and learn early on!

  3. A great top 10 list of food you need to try. We are relatively unfamiliar with Vietnamese cuisine and this a useful starting point, some sound really tasty although others may be a more acquired flavour.

    • Izzy Pulido

      16 April

      Some of the stuff is for sure an acquired taste. I love the che but having ingredients like egg noodles in a dessert made me feel skeptical at first!

  4. Gokul Raj

    16 April

    Did you do the funky artwork for the food. That was really attractive. I would like to have a Banh Xeo.

    • Izzy Pulido

      16 April

      That I did 🙂 I l love incorporating graphic design in my posts!

  5. It’s already 3 months since we left Vietnam and we already miss those Banh Mi’s! Besides that, Cao Lau was my favorite dish. Great mouthwatering post!

    • Izzy Pulido

      16 April

      I am leaving Vietnam in less than two months and am crying thinking about the lack of banh mis in my life (hence this post!)

  6. Leiha

    17 April

    Is there a place in HCMC to get mì quảng? I’d love to try this dish.

    • Izzy Pulido

      17 April

      Saigon House on 77 Nguyen Hue, 2nd floor, on the kiosk to the right of Meelee Thai! 😀

      • Leiha

        17 April

        Thank you Izzy! Will have to try it out. 🙂

  7. kellie

    17 April

    You know I love dat mi quang!! And I think you’re pretty spot on about all the others, too! But I think there are a couple that I still need to try?! :0

    • Izzy Pulido

      17 April

      Hahah you brought Mi Quang into my life so I don’t know what I’d do without you! What haven’t you tried?!?

  8. Nathan

    17 April

    I love Vietnamese food! I’ve tried several of these but I would like to try all of them! They all sound amazing. I love how fresh Vietnamese food is and how much they make use of herbs.

  9. Danik

    17 April

    Never tried Vietnam food yet but when I get out there, I can’t wait to try it. 🙂 THis looks so yummy I want it in my tummy 🙂

  10. Anita

    17 April

    Even I find it hard to remember names of the local dishes I have to admit I love Vietnamese food, especially street food in Hanoi. Your pictures showing the real excitement about food adds a real feel to your post. Thanks for sharing!

  11. Alan T

    17 April

    Good list, but there are a few stand-out dishes missing…..Bun Bo Hue for a start should be on every list as it’s such a staple all over the country. Bun Thit Nuong and Bo Kho are both in my top 5 Viet dishes, too. Also, Hu Tieu Nam Vang, Mi Hoanh Thanh, Goi Kho Bo and Banh Uot (my fave breakfast here)….i suppose it’d be hard to make a top 10 as there are so many great dishes here! Do you have a recommendation for Cao Lau in Saigon? It’s the only one i haven’t tried and god knows when the next time i’ll be in Hoi An……

  12. Mike Cotton

    17 April

    I’ve yet to experience Vietnamese food. But this post certainly whetted my appetite. The dish that I’d most like to try? Bánh Mì!

  13. I don’t know much about Vietnamese food so this article is very interesting to me. It’s like a mini Vietnamese food encyclopedia. There are a couple dishes I would definitely like to try from the list including Bánh Xèo, Cao Lầu, Cơm Tấm and Phở of course. BTW I did see that episode of Anthony Bourdain and President Obama.

  14. Victoria

    18 April

    Oh my gosh the giant omelet thing looks amazing! And it seems as though a variety of these dishes could technically be made vegetarian too. Believe it or not I’ve never tried Pho but you opened my eyes to things I didn’t even know!

  15. Shenna

    18 April

    I could eat all of these Izzy! hahaha. But I love the first one, Banh Mi. Looks delicious. Your posts are always interesting, and your pics are really gorgeous and appealing. People will find you easy to approach too because of the character in your blog. Loving it!

  16. I’m a total foodie so this is my kind of post. Although I am from Asia – India – and have been eating “Asian” food all my life, somehow Vietnamese food has managed to stay under my radar. This is a great insight into the local dishes, but more than anything I absolutely love the illustrations for all the foods rather than photographs. Brilliant.

  17. Will Thai

    18 April

    How did you forget about bun bo hue,
    Hu tieu, and bun rieu. Hanoi gave us
    Pho. Hue gave us bun bo hue, much
    more popular than my quang. And the
    South gave us hu tieu and bun rieu.
    You can exclude these three dishes from any
    Top 10 list of Vietnamese foods!

    • Izzy Pulido

      19 April

      Hey Will! I didn’t forget any of those items! They’re part of the greater Top 21 dishes! These are just my pick of the litter (as I mentioned as well.) I do love hu tieu and bun rieu do not get me wrong but I have yet to try good Bun bo Hue yet (and that’s just in Saigon.) And I like the pho here in Saigon much better than Hanoi but Hanoi’s all about the bun cha for me 🙂

  18. Megan Jerrard

    19 April

    We can’t wait to travel to Vietnam, mainly for the food – they have some decent Vietnamese restaurants here in Australia, but obviously nothing compares to the culinary scene in the country itself 🙂

  19. Hallie

    19 April

    I love your food finds! These are definitely some of the best dishes in Vietnam. I LOVE pho, but who doesn’t, right?! Need to go back and eat it up some more clearly though.

  20. This post is amazing! The graphics are incredible and I love how excited you are about food. I love Pho! I had no idea that there were different varieties and this makes me want to try them plus all your other suggestions. I am hoping to make it to Vietnam next year and will have to come back to check this out.

  21. Sally E

    19 April

    I should not have read this while I’m hungry! I’ve only realy had pho and banh mi but clearly Vietnamese food is much more diverse than I thought! I don’t eat pork, which has always been a deterrent for me regarding Vietnamese food but there are a few things on this list I could still eat, which is good to know. I’m definitely hoping to make it to Vietnam sometime in the next year!

  22. This looks incredible 😀 I would love to try them all. It isn’t any Vietnamese restaurants in Quito, Ecuador that I know of. So have to wait till I go to Norway to try it. Not gonna try to make it as I suck at cooking. I really want to visit Vietnam too, always been on my bucket list 😀

  23. marco

    19 April

    Hi. Nice post. Can you tell me where those plates (white & blue) in the first picture are from. i would love to get some of those!
    Byebye Marco

  24. Sandy N Vyjay

    19 April

    I have heard a lot about Vietnamese food…. The best thing I like about them is the names of the food… The photographs are mouth watering .. I would love to taste all these dishes myself….. I am craving for new cuisines!!!

  25. Patricia

    19 April

    Now I really want Vietnamese food for lunch! Andy is huge fan of Banh Mi, so he would so agree with you there. I must admit that I haven’t tried much, so I didn’t realize the variety that was available. It’s time to try some of your other recommendations (though sadly it will have to be here in Los Angeles rather than Vietnam, as it’s probably not on the travel list this year). Thanks for sharing!

  26. Susanna

    20 April

    This guide is so handy! I usually just always order bun because I know I like it, but this guide will definitely encourage me to go outside my comfort zone and try something new. I think the Bahn Xeo looks amazing, I can’t wait to try it.

  27. Aubrie

    20 April

    What a great post! I need to try some of these! Did you make the graphics yourself? I loved them!

  28. Alyssa Ramos

    20 April

    Omg! This post is freaking AMAZING!!! I wish I had one of these for every country I travel to! I just pinned it to save for when I go to Vietnam! Also, I LOVE your graphics, do you make them yourself??

  29. Wow! Loved your colourful graphical pictures of food! They look so yummy! I have heard of Pho but didn’t know about the rest. I have heard from so many fellow travellers is their favourite – your post makes me think it’s true. I would be going there this year and I’m definitely gonna try all this!

  30. Bhushavali

    21 April

    Vietnamese food looks yummm. I’d love to taste them! I guess they’ll overlap in the palate with Indian food with all its spices & veggies!! Btw, I totally love your illustrated representations..

  31. Ah, a food trip! Trying out local dishes is one of the must-dos in traveling. A lot of the place’s history and culture rests with each gastronomic offering. We would definitely sample all those dishes when we have the chance to visit Vietnam. We’d like to try out those weird street food as well. 🙂

  32. Iza Abao

    22 April

    I must go to Vietnam soon. These dishes are nutritious and delicious. I feel like the locals prepare these dishes with a lot of thought and care.

  33. I’m drooling over the post 😀 I love Vietnamese food and your list is sumptuous! Got to try them all 🙂

  34. I absolutely love Pho. There is a Vietnamese restaurant in Birmingham UK, that veganises a lot of their dishes, which is amazing for us. We have yet to try most of those dishes, hopefully when we get to Vietnam, we will be able to have them all vegan.

  35. Anne-Sophie

    23 April

    Wow, I’m so hungry now! My problem is that I don’t like anything spicy so I’m always a bit reluctant to try Vietnamese food – is there a non-spicy dish you could recommend? I would love to try Banh Xeo!

  36. OMG you’re seriously making me so hungry! This post was full of amazing dishes and I absolutely LOVE how you visually put this post together! I felt like I was reading a really good magazine! You are now responsible for me hunting down the best Vietnamese restaurant near Huntington Beach today!

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

INSTAGRAM
FOLLOW THENEXTSOMEWHERE