Vietnamese Food: 23 Dishes You Must Try

Cuisine is among the top reasons for travelers worldwide to come to Vietnam. Vietnam's territory is divided into 3 regions North - Central - South, and the cuisine is also diverse and different from region to region. Therefore, any destination you land on, rest assured that Vietnamese cuisine will bring you new and unique flavors.

Similar to some other Asian countries, Vietnamese food also applies the principle of yin-yang to bring balance to taste as well as ensure good health. In addition, Vietnamese food is also famous for its cooking method and use of low-fat ingredients, increasing the use of vegetables to bring out delicious flavors that can fulfill the taste of most travelers all over the world.

Among hundreds of Vietnamese dishes from North to South, we presented 23 dishes providing a real taste of Vietnam in this article. Save it now!

Pho

As a national dish, Pho is always the very first dish when mentioning Vietnamese cuisine. Pho includes 4 main ingredients: broth, rice noodles, meat, and raw vegetables. Pho ga (chicken noodles) and Pho bo (beef noodles) are the two most popular. Thinly sliced or shredded meat with green onion is placed on top of a bowl of rice noodles. Then, the broth is sprinkled to cover all the ingredients in the bowl. Pho is served with some vegetables and herbs such as coriander, basil, bean sprouts,...and it will be more tasty and flavorful if you squeeze a slice of lime or add some pickled garlic and chili.

Vietnamese pho
Beef noodle - the most popular Pho in Vietnam

Originating from the North and popular in the Central and South since the 1950s, Pho is favored for breakfast since it has rich nutrition and is easier to eat than other dry dishes. However, now it is a dish that can be found at any time of the day, even as a night meal.

Try it at: Pho Ly Quoc Su - 10 Ly Quoc Su, Hoan Kiem, Hanoi - Price: VND 70,000 - 200,000.

Banh mi

Whether you've heard or not, you certainly see Banh mi on almost all the streets here. Banh mi is the Vietnamese meaning of baguette in France. However, Banh mi is served in a different way and features a very distinct flavor. It could be considered as a baguette sandwich.

Banh Mi Vietnam
Banh Mi with barbecue pork

Banh mi includes bread, meat/egg, vegetables, and seasonings. Meat can be served in different forms such as sausage, pate, grilled meat in slices, etc. Vegetables could be fresh cucumber, carrot, cabbage, pickled green papaya, and herbs. To add more flavor, you can add chili sauce, soya sauce, mayonnaise, or a special homemade sauce from the shop. Crispy crust, fatty filling, fresh vegetables, and flavorful sauce create a non-greasy and very delicious dish that you never want to miss.

Try it at:

  • Banh mi Phuong - 2b Phan Chu Trinh, Cam Chau, Hoi An, Quang Nam - Price: VND 15,000 - 30,000.
  • Banh mi Pho - 57C Dinh Tien Hoang, Hoan Kiem, Hanoi - Price: VND 20,000 - 35,000.
  • Banh mi Huynh Hoa - 26 Le Thi Rieng, Pham Ngu Lao, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City - Price: VND 38,000

Bun cha

Although bun cha has been the signature dish of Hanoi for decades, it became more and more famous after President Barack Obama stopped by a bun cha restaurant on his trip to Hanoi with Anthony Bourdain.

Bun Cha Hanoi
Vietnamese Bun Cha (grilled pork noodle)

Bun cha includes grilled pork, rice noodles, and a bowl of dipping sauce with pickled vegetables in it. All are put separately when being served. What sets it apart from others is the meat which is the pork belly in meatball form or thin slices seasoned and grilled on charcoal. The combination of fatty meat and sweet and sour sauce is unbeatable when enjoyed with rice noodles.

Try it at: Bun cha Dac Kim - 1 Hang Manh, Hoan Kiem, Hanoi - Price: VND 60,000 - 80,000.

Xoi

Xoi is Vietnamese sticky rice, a cheap breakfast but nothing short of amazing. There are many kinds of xoi but it can be divided into 2 main kinds, one with savory taste and one with sweet taste.

Vietnamsese Xoi - Sticky rice
Vietnamese Sticky Rice

Sticky rice is soaked in the water for a few hours or overnight and then steamed until well-cooked and soft. For the savory type, xoi can be served with braised pork and egg, shredded chicken, braised beef, char siu, sausage, pate, etc. For the sweet one, you have many more options with green bean, lotus seed, gac, corn, durian, etc. "Xoi xeo" made with glutinous rice, green bean, dried onion, and some fatty liquid is a must-try.

Try it at: Any street vendors or Xoi Nguyet - 30A Tho Nhuom, Hoan Kiem, Hanoi - Price: VND 25,000 - 70,000.

Cha ca

Cha Ca La Vong Hanoi
Cha Ca La Vong - Hanoi

Cha ca is among the signature dishes in Hanoi and Cha ca La Vong or Cha Ca Thang Long are the most famous brand names for this dish. It is made from catfish marinated in turmeric and then sauteed in a pan with some oil, fresh onion, and dill. Rice noodles, dried peanuts, and coriander are served along with the fish. Mam tom (Vietnamese shrimp paste) is the sauce for Cha ca. However, it is a bit difficult to eat for first-time eaters, so you can order the dipping sauce made from fish sauce and some garlic and chili.

Try it at: Cha ca La Vong - 14 Pho Cha Ca, Hoan Kiem, Hanoi - Price: VND 130,000 - 200,000.

Goi cuon

Goi cuon (Vietnamese fresh spring rolls) is very popular with locals and foreigners will surely never regret trying it. It is made with vegetables such as lettuce, green onion, carrot, cucumber, some herbs, cooked pork, shrimp, and rice noodles. All ingredients are wrapped in rice paper and served with sweet and sour dipping sauce. Goi cuon is not only a side dish in the main meal but also a yummy snack at any time of the day thanks to the light flavor.

  • Try it at: Cuon n Roll - 3rd floor, D2 Building, Giang Vo, Ba Dinh, Hanoi - Price: VND 50,000 - 200,000.

Nem / cha gio

While Goi cuon offers a frugal and easy-to-eat flavor, Nem/cha gio (deep-fried spring rolls) satisfies the taste buds with a crispy crust and the sensational aroma of mushrooms. Different from the cooked ingredients in the fresh spring rolls, nem includes all raw ingredients such as meat, egg, vermicelli, green onion, white onion, wood ear mushroom, and shiitake mushroom. All the ingredients are also wrapped in the rice paper but later deep fried in the boiling oil until it turns golden brown and crispy. Wrapping the roll in fresh lettuce and dipping it in the sauce will make it less greasy and is the perfect way to enjoy it to the fullest.

Try it at: Bun cha ta - 21 Nguyen Huu Huan, Hoan Kiem, Hanoi - Price: 20,000 - 65,000.

Pho cuon

Vietnamese noodle spring roll

If you are into Vietnamese rolls, Pho cuon should never be ignored. Pho cuon is different from Goi cuon. Instead of using dry rice paper, Pho cuon uses soft rice paper which is noodles in the form of an uncut flat thin sheet. The dish is made from stir-fried sliced or minced beef, some vegetables and herbs wrapped in soft rice paper. The dipping sauce is similar to the one in other rolls.

Try it at: Pho cuon Hung Ben - 118 Tran Vu, Truc Bach, Ba Dinh, Hanoi - Price - VND 50,000 - 100,000.

Banh cuon

If “pho cuon” or “goi cuon” can be cold served, “banh cuon” is best when being hot served. Rice flour will be steamed in a thin and round sheet, then minced pork and wood ear mushrooms are added in the middle and rolled. Dried shallots and some herbs such as basil, coriander, mint,...are put on top. You can order banh cuon with the filling of egg or cha que (cinnamon pork rolls) as a side dish.

Try it at: Banh cuon Thuy Khue - 29 Thuy Khue, Tay Ho, Hanoi - Price: VND 30,000 - 50,000.

Banh tom

Banh tom (Vietnamese shrimp cake) is a must when you visit Hanoi, or Tay Ho in particular. Banh tom is also made from rice flour and the main filling is shrimp. However, the batter includes not only the flour but also thinly sliced sweet potatoes. A good banh tom will have fresh shrimp, crunchy batter, fresh herbs, pickled vegetables, and a good dipping sauce.

Try it at: Banh tom Ho Tay - 1 Thanh Nien, Tay Ho, Hanoi - Price: VND 80,000 - 130,000.

Banh bot loc

Banh bot loc (steamed rice dumplings) comes from the Central region but is a favorite dish all over Vietnam. Made from tapioca flour, Banh bot loc has a soft but chewy texture and the sweetness of pork and shrimp. Each region can have variations in fillings such as minced pork, wood ear mushrooms, and shiitake mushrooms, but they are all served with a typical sweet and sour dipping sauce.

Try it at:

  • O Giau restaurant - 109 Le Huan, Hue - Price: VND 25,000 - 50,000
  • Net Hue restaurant - 198 Hang Bong, Hoan Kiem, Hanoi - Price: VND 54,000

Banh xeo

“Xeo” means sizzling. Banh xeo is a Vietnamese pancake named after the sound of the rice flour mixture as soon as put into a hot pan. The filling includes shrimp, sliced pork, green onions, bean sprouts, and sometimes eggs. The crust resembles fried egg but is made from rice flour mixed with turmeric powder.

Banh Xeo
Banh Xeo - A popular disk in Southern Vietnam

While eating, you wrap banh xeo in fresh lettuce and dip it into the dipping sauce. The crunchiness of the crust, the fatty taste of the shrimp and pork, and the freshness of the vegetables are well combined in the sour, spicy, salty, and sweet taste of the sauce. Banh xeo is suitable for an afternoon snack or at any meal to your liking.

Try it at:

  • Banh xeo Mien Trung - K280/14 Hoang Dieu, Hai Chau - Price: VND 40,000 - 50,000.
  • Thuy xeo - 166B Doi Can, Ba Dinh, Hanoi - Price: VND 10,000 - 20,000.
  • Banh Xeo An La Ghien - 74 Suong Nguyet Anh, Ben Thanh, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City - Price: VND 15,000 - 130,000.

Bun rieu cua

Among a bunch of noodle soups in Vietnam, bun rieu cua (or crab noodle) is among the most popular you should try. The difference between them is the broth and the filling. With bun rieu cua, the broth is made from crab meat pureed and filtered, then simmered with tomatoes, vinegar, and some seasonings. A little shrimp paste can be added to make the signature flavor and smell but upon your request. Bun rieu cua includes rice noodles, crab cakes, tofu, dried shallots, green onions, and some raw vegetables set aside.

Try it at: Bun rieu cua Hang Luoc - 16 Hang Luoc, Hoan Kiem, Hanoi - Price: VND 25,000 - 35,000.

Bun bo hue

Bun bo hue (Hue beef noodle) originates from Hue city and has become a favorite dish for locals around Vietnam and one on the must-try list for foreign travelers. The dish has broth cooked from beef and pork bones and varied fillings of sliced beef, pork leg pieces, crab balls, and cooked pig blood pudding. Bun bo Hue uses thick round rice noodles, not small round noodles in Bun rieu cua or flat and thin noodles in Pho. Bun bo Hue can be enjoyed in any region, not only in Hue.

Try it at:

  • Bun bo Hue Kim Dong 2 - 21 Nguyen Thi Minh Khai, Phu Nhuan, Hue - Price: VND 20,000 - 30,000.
  • Bun bo Ganh - 135 Nguyen Du, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City - Price: VND 45,000 - 60,000.
  • Bun bo Hue 65 - 65 Duong Lang, Dong Da, Hanoi - Price: VND 40,000 - 60,000.

Bun bo Nam Bo

Another version of beef noodle that will definitely make you excited. Still rice noodles with beef but without broth, Bun bo Nam Bo is a Southern-style dry rice noodle. Noodles are mixed with stir-fried beef, bean sprouts, dry shallot, fresh onions, coriander, raw vegetables, crispy roasted peanuts, and sweet and sour dipping sauce.

Try it at:

  • Bun tron Nam Bo - 7 Ta Hien, Hoan Kiem, Hanoi - Price: VND 35,000đ - 75,000.
  • Bun bo Nam Bo - 45 Nguyen Trong Loi, Ward 4, Tan Binh, Ho Chi Minh City - Price: VND 35,000đ – 45,000.

Mi Quang

Mi Quang (Quang noodles) is a special dish of Da Nang and Quang Nam. Mi Quang is also made from rice flour but is thick and flat, and has a light yellow color of turmeric powder. Also using broth from stewed pork bones or chicken, Mi Quang is topped with a variety of proteins such as chicken, pork, beef, frog, shrimp, egg, snakehead fish, etc.

Try it at: 

  • Mi Quang Huong Que - 78 Phan Thanh, Thanh Khe, Danang - Price: VND 20,000 - 30,000.
  • Mi Quang co Van Hoi An - 329 Nguyen Duy Hieu, Cam Chau, Hoi An, Quang Nam - Price: VND 25,000 - 50,000.

Com ga Hoi An

Com ga (chicken rice) may not sound like anything special, but Hoi An chicken rice is a specialty that attracts any tourist. What sets the dish apart is not only the quality of the ingredients but also the way they are cooked. Chickens must be free-range young chickens, so the meat is firm and soft, not friable. The rice must be the delicious rice kind from the Central region and cooked with chicken broth and pandan leaves, so the cooked rice is yellow, very sticky, and flavorful.

A portion of Com ga Hoi An will include a bowl of rice, chicken shredded and mashed with onions, and some side dishes such as fried onions, laksa leaves, pickled papaya, a little chili sauce, and a bowl of soup from chicken broth.

Try it at: Com ga Ba Buoi - 22 Phan Chau Trinh, Hoi An, Quang Nam - Price: VND 35,000 - 40,000.

Cao lau

When crossing the ancient city of Hoi An, Cao lau is one of signature dishes that you will feel fancy for. Cao lau is the name of the type of noodles cooked from pure rice flour of Quang Nam. Cao lau noodles are thick and heavy, similar to udon noodles in Japan but flatter. The dish is served with thinly sliced char siu pork, crispy rice crackers, some cut lettuce, herbs, cucumber, bean sprouts, cilantro, crispy roasted peanuts, and seasoned broth.

  • Try it at: Cao lau Thanh Hoi An - 26 Thai Phien, Minh An, Hoi An, Quang Nam - Price: VND 15,000 - 30,000.

Com tam

Com tam is a famous dish in the South in general and Saigon in particular. Com tam is cooked from broken rice grains and was once a dish for poor farmers thanks to cheap prices. But now, it has become a specialty thanks to its unique flavor and unique way of combining it with other dishes. A traditional plate of com tam includes broken rice, cutlet or grilled ribs, pork skin, egg rolls, and special dipping sauce. Grilled chicken or pork belly can be alternatives for the cutlet or ribs.

Try it at:

  • Com tam Phuc Loc Tho - 236 Dinh Tien Hoang, Da Kao, Ward 1, Ho Chi Minh City - Price: VND 39,000
  • Com tam Tu Map - 241 Thuy Khue, Tay Ho, Hanoi - Price: VND 30,000 - 50,000.

Hu tieu

Hu tieu is less popular in the North, but will definitely be recommended when you travel to the South of Vietnam. Hu tieu looks similar to "Pho", but Hu tieu noodles are tougher and need to be blanched until soft before being put in a bowl. Besides, pork is the main ingredient in Hu tieu while chicken and beef are mainly used for Pho.

A bowl of Hu tieu includes broth from pork bone, shrimp, sliced pork, and minced pork. It can be served with or without broth and eaten with lettuce, onions, cilantro, and bean sprouts. Hu tieu My Tho, Hu tieu Nam Vang, and Hu tieu Sa Dec are the 3 most famous Hu tieu brands in Vietnam.

Try it at: Hu tieu Thanh Xuan - 62 Ton That Thiep, Ben Nghe, Ward 1, Ho Chi Minh City - Price: VND 30,000 - 60,000.

Bo nuong la lot

With two main ingredients which are beef and wild betel leaves, Bo nuong la lot would wake up your senses with an engaging smell and excellent sweetness and tenderness of beef. Beef after finely chopped is seasoned, wrapped in the wild betel leaves, and grilled on the charcoal stove. The dish is best to savor with fresh vegetables, rice vermicelli, and sauce.

Try it at: Bo la lot Tan Quy -  24 Street 67, Tan Quy, District 7, Ho Chi Minh City - Price: VND 25,000 - 55,000.

Ca phe trung

If Sai Gon is famous for Ca phe sua da (iced milk coffee), Hanoi has Ca phe trung or egg coffee. In 1946, when fresh milk was in short supply, Mr. Giang, the bartender at Metropole Hotel at that time, used eggs to replace milk and created a second-to-none coffee that won the hearts of coffee lovers until today. The bitter layer of pure coffee underneath is covered with a layer of creamy white foam from egg yolks and condensed milk. Egg coffee should be enjoyed while it is still hot to avoid the fishy taste.

Try it at:

  • Cafe Giang - 39 Nguyen Huu Huan, Hoan Kiem, Hanoi - Price: VND 25,000.
  • Cafe Dinh - 13 Dinh Tien Hoang, Hoan Kiem, Hanoi - Price: VND 25,000.

Che

Pomelo Sweet Soup
Vietnamese Sweep Soup

Che is a kind of sweet dessert and can be served hot and cold. The hot version can be in soup form and cooked from mung bean, black bean, tapioca, glutinous powder,... and the cold one can be in pudding form with many kinds of fresh fruits, nuts, jelly, bubbles, etc. Che is sold almost everywhere in Vietnam at a very cheap price.

Try it at: Che Huong Hai - 93 Hang Bac, Hoan Kiem, Hanoi - Price: 15,000 - 30,000.

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