As you know, I was born in Vietnam and lived there until I was 7, so Vietnamese food has a special place in my heart. What I love about Vietnamese food is that dishes are simple and based on fresh ingredients, with distinct flavours and subtle variations by region. They are both healthy and delicious!
Not sure what to order at a Vietnamese restaurant? Try one of my favourite dishes below 😉
1. Phở bò
No list of Vietnamese food would be complete without the most widely available dish, pho. My particular favourite is pho bo (beef rice noodle soup), which consists of a salty beef broth, fresh rice noodles, and various kinds of beef, accompanied by a plate of basil and fresh beansprouts. I personally like to dip the meat in a side plate of hoisin sauce and Sriracha, but others put these sauces straight into the soup. Whichever you prefer, no Vietnamese restaurant is authentic unless they offer pho.
2. Thịt kho tàu
I used to ask my mother to cook this dish all the time in high school. This everyday dish is made of marinated pork and eggs braised in coconut juice. The sauce is so versatile that it can also be used to dip vegetables.
3. Bún bò Huế
Similar to pho, this Hue delicacy is perfect for lovers of meat and spicy foods. This soup dish contains a round rice noodles and lots of beef and pork in a spicy beef broth, garnished with lemongrass. It needs no additional ingredient due to its perfect balance of spicy, sweet, sour, and salty flavours.
4. Bánh xèo
Named for the sizzling sound made when the batter hits the skillet, bánh xèo is a savory Vietnamese crêpe filled with pork, shrimp, green onions, and beansprouts. You can eat it either by itself or wrapped in mustard or cabbage leaves and dipped with fish sauce.
5. Bánh mì thịt nướng
I do not typically like bread, but banh mi (or Vietnamese sandwich) is an exception. This common lunch staple is a French baguette (usually sliced in half) containing meat, cheese, pickled vegetables, cilantro, chili peppers, etc. I like mine to have grilled meat (thit nuong) inside.
6. Bánh bột lọc
Typically served as appetizers or snacks, banh bot loc is a chewy tapioca dumpling wrapped in banana leaf containing pork and shrimp. I enjoy dipping these in fish sauce but they can be eaten alone as well.
7. Cơm tấm
Com tam is a Vietnamese specialty made from broken rice served with grilled pork, bì (shredded pork combined with shredded pork skin), steamed egg, prawn paste cake, and pickled vegetables. In restaurants, it typically comes with a bowl of fish sauce and a bowl of soup broth.
8. Xôi lạp xưởng
Xoi (sticky rice) is very popular in Vietnamese cuisine, as both savory and sweet dishes. Xoi lap xuong is made of sticky rice, Chinese sausages, dried shrimp, shredded pork, and quail egg. It makes a great snack or lunch.
9. Bún thịt nướng chả giò
Bun thit nuong cha gio is a flavourful dish that consists of cold rice vermicelli noodle topped with grilled pork, basil, mint, fresh beansprouts, and spring rolls, and garnished with roasted peanuts, pickled vegetables, grilled garlic pork sausage, and grilled prawns. I like to cover mine with an abundance of fish sauce.
10. Gỏi cuốn
Every culture has a dish that is typically prepared and enjoyed with the whole family, and for Vietnamese people, goi cuon (spring rolls) is it. Typically, rice paper is softened by dipping it in water, then laid on a plate. Desired stuffing (meat, shrimps, lettuce, etc.) is placed inside and the rice paper is then rolled up and eaten with peanut sauce. I prefer to eat mine with fish sauce because I do not like peanut sauce.
Honourable mention: Fish sauce
What exactly is this fish sauce that I kept mentioning throughout the article? It is Vietnamese people’s favourite condiment, extracted from the fermentation of anchovies and sea salt. I commonly use it as a dipping sauce by mixing it with lime juice, garlic, chili peppers, sugar, and water. It is great on practically everything!
Have a great Monday! Let me know what your favourite Vietnamese dishes are in the comments below 🙂
- Photo by Alpha [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons
- Photo by Steve Wertz [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Flickr
- Photo by Kirk K [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Flickr
- Photo by Kirk K [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Flickr
- Photo by christine-o [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Flickr
- Photo by jypsygen [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Flickr
- Photo by moonberry™ [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Flickr
- Photo by erik forsberg [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Flickr