Vietnam Food Guide

Vietnamese Dishes

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Vietnamese Dishes

The standard of food is so high in Vietnam that you'll probably have a great meal anywhere but it's definitely worth doing research. Foody.vn is a great site/app used by Vietnamese people a bit like how we use Yelp and TripAdvisor but it's more focused on the food (use Google Translate).

More so than neighbouring countries, I found that almost all of the best food was from food stalls or road-side simple 'restaurants' with tiny plastic chairs. Like in Malaysia, I loved that the locals (especially the younger generations) are extremely passionate about food. Most people are foodies!

Almost every place selling Vietnamese food will have iced tea ("trà đá") for 2,000 - 5,000d (sometimes free), so I order it with every meal as standard. Beware that some vendors will bring you items that aren't included in what you ordered - basically sneaky up-selling without mentioning that it will cost extra. Simply refuse it or leave it, unless it looks tasty of course! Some restaurants will do the same with the wet tissue in a sealed packet with the restaurant's name on it - if you use it, some will charge you a small amount extra. It feels very dishonest to me but luckily it's rare.

I've put together a list of food-based words (coming soon) to help you translate when you're in one of the many places without an English menu.

I found this food guide to Saigon which is fantastic and really in-depth. Sadly I didn't find it until after I'd left but this is a popular and very thorough food map for Hanoi.

Here's some of Vietnam's most famous dishes:

Bánh mì

help_outline What is Bánh mì?
Bagettes with various fillings (usually pate, salad, coriander and multiple meats or fish). I like to have it with 'everything' (including a freshly fried egg). Bánh mì thịt nướng (with grilled meat) is probably my favourite. In Hanoi they usually spell it "bánh mỳ". Said "bun me". They're everywhere across Vietnam and usually sold from little metal food trailers on the side of the road.
attach_money Typical price: 10,000 - 20,000d
place Where to eat Bánh mì?

Bún Thịt Nướng

help_outline What is Bún Thịt Nướng?
An amazing dish of cold vermicelli rice noodles topped with various meats and usually chopped fried spring roll. I usually ask for everything. Served with a fish sauce with chilli which you usually have to mix yourself in a little dish, pour over the noodles and mix it all up. Salad is either provided separately or it comes in the dish already. Probably my favourite dish in Vietnam. Said "Boon(g) tit noong". My favourite selection is nem (grilled pork) and chả giò (fried spring roll). The classic version has those 2 as standard but also with another type of pork which is like cut up unsalted bacon but I usually find it quite boring and would rather have extra nem.
attach_money Typical price: 25,000 - 45,000d
place Where to eat Bún Thịt Nướng?

Bò Né

help_outline What is Bò Né?
Beef steak (and maybe other meats including meatball, pate and sausage) with egg and veg, all sizzling on a plate. 'Né' roughly means "stand back" due to the sizzling/spitting from the hot plate. Served with tomato/chilli sauce and baguette. Really delicious, possibly my second favourite main meal. I was told in the Central Highlands that it's typically a breakfast but in Saigon it seemed to be most popular for dinner. I initially had trouble finding this but it's worth seeking out (the Foody.vn app is useful for things like this). My favourite is to order off-menu and ask for "2 trứng, bò, pa tê, nem" (2 eggs, beef, paté, grilled pork).
attach_money Typical price: 25,000 - 35,000d
place Where to eat Bò Né?

Chả Cá

help_outline What is Chả Cá?
A northern Vietnamese dish of fish cooked in turmeric and dill, served with veg and noodles. When I had it, they cooked the fish, dill and spring onions on the table in front of me, then I had to put together the meal, one small bowl at a time. First the cold vermicelli rice noodles, then some strands of spring/green onion, coriander & Thai basil, peanuts, then a chunk of the fish and cooked veg and topped with some fish sauce which had added chilli to suit your taste. Mix it all up, like you do with a lot of Vietnamese food. If, like me, you're a fan of fish with dill, you need to try this dish. It's definitely one of my highlights of Vietnam. Relatively expensive though.
attach_money Typical price: 120,000d
place Where to eat Chả Cá?

Tàu Hủ (đá)

help_outline What is Tàu Hủ (đá)?
Sweet tofu dessert. The name of it varies (tàu hủ nước đường, tàu hủ hoa or tào phớ, đậu hủ, tàu hủ), as does the way it's served but it's sweet tofu served either warm or with ice. It's quite regularly served with ginger. Usually found on the side of the street in little carts. Either served in a small bowl or a plastic cup.
attach_money Typical price: 5,000 - 10,000d
place Where to eat Tàu Hủ (đá)?

Bánh mì ốp la

help_outline What is Bánh mì ốp la?
Amazing breakfast of bread, eggs and meat.
attach_money Typical price: 30,000 - 40,000d
place Where to eat Bánh mì ốp la?

Phở

help_outline What is Phở?
The most famous Vietnamese dish. Beef noodle soup. It's difficult to say correctly because it's so much about the intonation. It's kind of like saying 'fur' but elongated ('fuuurrr'). Very tasty.
restaurant How to eat Phở

After learning from my Vietnamese friends and watching people eat Phở, I hopefully have a good idea of how most people eat it. It's worth tasting the broth first and remember that all the garnishes depend on your personal taste - there's no right or wrong way.

Tear up a selection of the leaves provided and add them to the soup, along with some fresh chilli, a squeeze of lime, some Sriracha (red chilli sauce) and hoisin. Note that not everyone adds the Sriracha and hoisin (some don't add lime either) but it seems like most do. Some people add fish sauce too, but it's rarer. If you're not sure, start without any additional sauces and add some later to see what you prefer. Beware that by the end of the soup, the flavours will have intensified, especially from however much chilli you added.

Grab one of the small dishes and add half Sriracha, half hoisin, possibly with a squeeze of lime - mix them together and use it as a dip for the beef.

Use the chopsticks and soup spoon to mix up the soup, then eat the noodles using the chopsticks and chase each mouth of noodles with a slurp of the broth.

timeline History of Phở

Phở is originally from the north of Vietnam and the name actually refers to the type of noodles used.

attach_money Typical price: 30,000 - 50,000d
place Where to eat Phở?

Bánh flan

help_outline What is Bánh flan?
Crème caramel, served all over Vietnam but with various names (bánh flan, kem flan & kem caramen). The best I had was around Ba Vì National Park. It's also possible to have it mixed with coffee as a dessert drink which was amazing.
attach_money Typical price: 5,000d
place Where to eat Bánh flan?

Bánh xèo

help_outline What is Bánh xèo?
Pancake usually with a mixture of meat and seafood. Usually cut up and wrapped in lettuce leaves before being dipped in a chilli sauce, although the method of eating apparently changes depending on the region. Roughly said "bun sayo" in the south and "bang see-ow" (rhymes with 'how') in the north.
attach_money Typical price: 10,000 - 40,000d
place Where to eat Bánh xèo?

Bún Chả

help_outline What is Bún Chả?
A dish from Hanoi of noodles with grilled pork patties and a tasty sauce.
place Where to eat Bún Chả?

Bún bò Huế

help_outline What is Bún bò Huế?
Similar to Phở but from the Huế region. Said "Boon bo hway".
place Where to eat Bún bò Huế?

Bún bò Nam Bộ

help_outline What is Bún bò Nam Bộ?
Delicious noodle dish originally from the south.
attach_money Typical price: 30,000 - 60,000d
place Where to eat Bún bò Nam Bộ?

Cơm tấm

help_outline What is Cơm tấm?
'Broken rice' gets its name from the fact the rice didn't meet the standards for exporting (usually because the grains were too small, that's all). Traditionally it was served as a cheap meal along with various meat or fish. Even though the name of the dish just refers to the rice part, it's the accompanying meat which makes or breaks it. It seems like grilled pork is the most popular option.
place Where to eat Cơm tấm?

Bánh giò

help_outline What is Bánh giò?
Rice dumpling filled with seasoned meat. I've only had it once (so far) but it was seriously good.
place Where to eat Bánh giò?

Bún Đậu

help_outline What is Bún Đậu?
Street food from the north but now popular in Saigon too. Rice noodles are pressed, cut in to cubes and served with tofu and a selection of meats. It comes with a shrimp paste dipping sauce that many people will really dislike. It was an interesting meal but definitely not something I loved.
place Where to eat Bún Đậu?

Bún riêu

help_outline What is Bún riêu?
Crab and tomato soup. Usually with a mix of various other miscellaneous items.
place Where to eat Bún riêu?

Phở chua

help_outline What is Phở chua?
A northern sour (chua) version of Phở without the soup. It's a great and really different to the standard Phở but I didn't see it much.
place Where to eat Phở chua?