Vietnam is a country filled with unique experiences. In 2018 Vietnam is more accessible to travelers than ever before. Apart from the incredible history, beautiful culture and jaw dropping geography. Vietnam also offers some tantalization for your taste buds.
This is a guide listing 7 dishes that you have to try while you are in Vietnam. They are by no means the complete list, there are so many amazing dishes to taste. However, these 7 will be a good place to start.
This guide also includes a location where you can try the dish in Ho Chi Minh. We have also included a spot to visit in Hoi An & Hanoi. Depending on your location, pick the spot that best suits your travels.
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Before going to Vietnam we new very little about the food and like most tourists we assumed everything would be similar to the food we picked up at local Vietnamese restaurants in Australia.
When we arrived in Ho Chi Minh we were shocked initially, we couldn't find any of the Vietnamese food we had seen at our local Aussie hotspots. The things we did find we weren't sure of because communication was rather difficult.
But as we became accustomed to the local dishes our food confidence grew and so to did our hunger for Vietnamese cuisine. Without further adieu here comes number one.
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001 - Phở (Pho)
Chances are you have probably heard of Pho & you probably have no idea that it is a Vietnamese dish. Pho is popular around the world for a reason, it is a stable dish in Vietnam and is served almost anywhere you go.
Pho is a soup like dish consisting of broth, rice noodles called bánh phở , a few herbs & meat; primarily made with either beef (phở bò) or chicken (phở gà). Pho is a simple dish which probably explains its popularity among the locals and tourists alike.
The dish is often served with a side plate of fresh greens, often including mint & Vietnamese Coriander. You will also get your own dollop of house made chilli sauce, yum!
Pho is a safe option to get yourself into the world of Vietnamese eating and can be found almost anywhere in the country. Here are a few options;
002 - Bánh Mi
Just like it's cousin Pho, The Banh Mi sandwich is easily one of the most exported dishes in Vietnam. You have most likely had one before & if you haven't well you are in for a treat.
Banh Mi actually just means bread in Vietnamese but when it comes to the dish a Banh Mi is essentially a filled baguette. There are a ridiculous amount of options when it comes to the Banh Mi but the most common sandwichs tend to include the following;
Start with a crusty baguette sliced in half and then stuff it with layers of pork, luncheon meats, shredded cured pork skin, pate, mayonnaise, Vietnamese radish and carrot pickles, a handful of sliced cucumbers, sprigs of coriander (that's cilantro for the american homies!), and last of all a generous scoop of fresh pounded chilies. In our opinion the chilly is a must.
003 - Bún riêu (bun rieu)
In case you hadn't noticed the Vietnamese love their noodle soups. Most locals enjoy at least one a day. Although Pho is the most popular among locals and tourists alike, Bun Rieu is an undercover delicacy.
The broth is made from crab stock which sucks for me (Jacques here) because I am deathly allergic to the stuff. All yours Paulo! Maybe next time I will take an Epipen & just give it a nudge. What do you think?
Another key ingredient to the broth is tomatoes which add a sweetness to the soup and balance out the rich seafood flavours. A small amount of rice vinegar in the broth adds those sour notes cutting through the sweetness of the tomatoes.
Add some soft rice noodles then top the dish off with pieces of golden fried tofu, sometimes meatballs, chunks of pork, congealed pig’s blood (yep you heard right...give it a nudge) and lastly a slab of rich crab paste.
Add a generous severing of Chilli Paste & a squirt of lime juice and you have yourself one tasty meal. Find a local spot here:
004 - Bún chả (Bun Cha)
Bun Cha has two key components; Bun - fresh rice vermicelli noodles, soft and tasty & Cha - Grilled pork sliders that taste incredible.
If you are after a safe option that is a little bit off the beaten path (Pho or Banh Mi) then Bun Cha is a great option to go for. Served with a smoky sour soup and a side dish of herbs and green vegetables this dish is so tasty.
The Vietnamese way to eat Bun Cha starts by adding a bit of rice vermicelli to the pork patty soup, garnishing it with garlic, chilies, and herbs, and then repeat.
005 - Egg Coffee
Egg Coffee.. what the F*CK! Yeah legit it's a thing and it tastes f*cking amazing! Sh*t load of swear words in this one because I'm making up for the supreme politeness I have practiced throughout this blog so far. Back to the topic aye!
Egg Coffee is really sweet so if you are expecting the bitter taste you lovingly associate with a long black or latte then prepare for something completely different. Made with egg yolk, sweetened condensed milk, sugar and Vietnamese coffee powder.
If you travel to Hanoi and want to try a legitimate egg coffee, check out Cafe Giang, 39 Nguyen Huu Huan street, in the Old Quarter. Nguyen Van Dao is presently making the coffee, whose his father invented the drink in the mid 1900s when he worked at Hanoi’s Sofitel Legend Metropole hotel.
006 - hột vịt Ion (Duck Fetus)
'What the actual f*ck is wrong with you!' Yeah... so I ate Duck Fetus. For all the Vegans & Vegos reading this blog right now.. you are probably hating me right now. But.. you just gotta try it. Do it for the bucket list.
Duck Fetus, known as hột vịt Ion is a national dish in Vietnam. It is a Duck embryo served in the shell with a pinch of salt, some lemon & is usually accompanied by ginger or ground pepper. I would love to say I loved it but I simply can't.
As I plowed my fork into the embryo I almost gagged, much to the amusement of my Vietnamese dinner dates. Staring directly at my face was the near complete form of a baby duck. Beak open, eyes wide, wings tucked in and tiny feet curled upward. With one last push I forced a bite into my mouth... once but never again.
The best place to try hột vịt Ion is with a homestay family, plus it is great amusement for them... westerners.
007 - Goi Cuon(Vietnamese Spring Rolls)
Food in Vietnam is greasy and soaked in oil. If you are used to a much healthier diet you may find yourself getting sick and lacking energy as your body battles against this strange new diet.
Take a break from the fried foods with this simple dish, the Goi Cuon is a Vietnamese spring roll minus the deep frying. Fresh ingredients like lettuce, carrots & coriander can be rolled up in rice paper rolls along with egg, pork, chicken, beef or prawn. They make a great appetizer during summer months.
This list is sure to grow over the next year or so and we cannot wait to taste some more of what Vietnam has to offer. I hope this list is enough to inspire your taste buds and to get you booking that next flight to Vietnam!
Life is Great. Travel is Better.
P & J