Five must-try dishes to look out for in Vietnam

Hoi An, Vietnam

A few years ago, I spent a month backpacking Vietnam and just fell in love with their fragrant, spicy, and often very healthy food. It’s milder than Thai food, with less salty-sweet flavours, and I couldn’t get enough of it.

After going through some old photos I found and feeling the pang of wanderlust again, I thought I would put together this round up* of five Vietnamese dishes which stand out in my memory the most.

*This is quite obviously a thinly veiled excuse of a blog post to show off some of my travel photos. Sorry about that. 

Ha Long Bay, Northern Vietnam

Ha Long Bay, Northern Vietnam

1. Pho

Pho Bo (Beef Soup) and Pho Ga (Chicken Soup) is sold on the streets of Vietnam just about everywhere. The hot, fragrant broth is poured over a bowl full of noodles, meat and mixed vegetables, and served with a small handful of chilli, herbs and bean sprouts. The secret to eating it is to add the raw garnishes gradually so that there is always a contrast between crunchy, raw veg and hot, soft noodles and meat.

Vietnamese Beef Pho

Vietnamese Beef Pho

2. Cao Lao

The noodles that make up the base of this delicious dish are only made and eaten in Hoi An, and it’s the exclusivity of this local recipe that makes it such a must-try if you’re in this part of Vietnam. Succulent slices of pork sit on top of a delicious pile of the thick, chewy noodles (with very little broth). The best part of this dish though, is the deep fried croutons which crunch in the mouth. Amazing.

A woman making Cao Lao noodles in Hoi An

A woman making Cao Lao noodles in Hoi An

3. Summer Rolls

Summer Rolls are the Vietnamese version of the takeaway classic, the deep fried Spring Roll. They are lighter, fresher (and for me) far tastier too. Made with rice paper and filled with a beautiful fragrant salad. They are served at room temperature with a sweet chilli dipping sauce, and make an excellent starter or side dish.

Vietnamese Summer Rolls

Vietnamese Summer Rolls

4. Banh Mi

The ultimate street-food, Banh Mi is essentially a Vietnamese baguette. Traditionally filled with slices of pork belly, a delicious herby salad, a generous helping of chilli and a mystery pate (just don’t think about it) these hot & spicy sandwiches are the fast food of choice for many a budget backpacker (you can ask to skip the pate if you can’t stomach it).

5. White Roses

‘White Roses’ (in Vietnamese called banh vac ) are rice dumplings stuffed with shrimp and spices and steamed in a shrimp broth. The result is a beautiful, delicate dish, which is then topped with crunchy, salty, garlicky fried onions. Again, these are another speciality of Hoi An.

Hoi An

Hoi An


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    • November 30, 2015 / 2:10 pm

      i don’t think I tried it – oh no, I’ll have to go back! 🙂 x

      • November 30, 2015 / 2:32 pm

        I live in Viet Nam and I still haven’t tried a 1/10 of the dishes my adopted home has to offer. I don’t envy visitors trying to taste everything in a short amount of time.
        Still, cha ca is easy to get your hands on – there is a street in Ha Noi literally called ‘Cha Ca Street’ because they’ve been serving the dish (grilled catfish with tumeric and dill on rice noodles) there for hundreds of years.

        I also recommend regional Hue food, very different from Northern and Southern cuisine.

        Come back! Eat!

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