Vietnam had earned a reputation with its distinct food decades ago. Each year, hundreds of thousands of foreigners visit the country, hunting for the best foods in Vietnam. What exactly made people so obsessed about the food? What’s so amazing?
Ahh, you came to the right place.
Vietnamese food is known to be both healthy and flavorful, bringing the cuisines to a whole new level. Why healthy? Vietnamese cuisine is usually accompanied with loads of greens and made of simple ingredients. Fish sauce is one of the major ingredients used in almost every cuisine in Vietnam. Unlike other Southeast Asian countries, there is little to no MSG added to the dish, it’s all-natural.
Enough of the introduction and let’s dive in and see what are the best foods in Vietnam you should never miss.
Food in Vietnam – Pho
I had to mention Pho first before other cuisines. You can have zero knowledge about other Vietnamese foods but you should know Pho. So what’s that?
Pho is the national staple of Vietnam, usually eaten as breakfast. A bowl of Pho consists of chicken broth with chicken oils, flat rice noodles, slices of chicken or beef, and fresh herbs accompanied with lime wedges. As usual, most restaurants serve slightly different recipes, so you might not always find a decent Pho. Follow where the locals dine will lead you the right path.
A typical street Pho will cost you around VND20,000 to VND30,000 while restaurants can easily charge up to VND60,000 and above. The best Hanoi food I’ve had.
It took me by surprise when I found out the term ‘Pho’ actually have almost 10 times more searches in search engine compared to ‘Vietnamese food’. Well, maybe Pho has been a branding of the Vietnamese food. Like ‘GoPro’ and ‘action cameras’.
Not sure if you’ve heard of this before, but during the visit of President Obama to Hanoi in 2016, he had Bun Cha together with Anthony Bourdain. In case you’re wondering which restaurant, it’s Bun Cha Huong Lien, google it up.
So what the heck is Bun Cha and why it’s so adored by the majority of travelers? Bun Cha is Vietnamese dish originated from Hanoi, made up of vermicelli noodles, grilled pork, a dipping sauce made of fish sauce and a handful of greens.
Bun Cha can be found almost anywhere in the country at any time of the year. Note that the Bun Cha in the north is quite different from that in the south. Every restaurant seems to deliver slightly different recipes and tastes as well. The best way to find the best is, of course, follow the local crowds and TripAdvisor.
Bun Cha is no doubt one of the best food in Vietnam, and something that you should never miss. You can find Bun Cha within the price range of VND20,000 to VND30,000.
The very first Vietnamese dish I tried, in Hanoi’s Noi Bai International Airport. And it impressed me on the first bite. How was it like?
Banh Mi is essentially influenced by the French baguette, which pretty much explains why it looks like that. Sort of like Subway’s 6-inch sub.
Before wrapping the fillings, the baguette was lightly toasted to give it a crispy skin. The fillings are egg strips, cucumbers, carrots, pickled veggies, coriander, and soy sauce. Most Banh Mi vendors will have options of meat fillings, either chicken, beef or pork slices.
There’s a famous Banh Mi shop in Hoi An who provide an additional option of adding avocado, which is perfect. Well to me, it’s the best Vietnamese street food.
The portion of Banh Mi makes it an awesome option for a quick snack in the afternoon after long walks around the city. A typical Banh Mi costs around VND15,000 to VND25,000.
Goi Cuon is the Vietnamese name for Vietnamese fresh spring rolls. The dish is made of translucent Banh Trang (rice paper) wrapping up vermicelli noodles, coriander, various greens, grilled pork slices, and shrimps.
Dipping sauce topped with crushed peanuts will be served together with the dish. Like other dishes, northern recipes are slightly different compared to the southern one.
And no matter where you are in Vietnam, there’s a lot of restaurants serving lousy Goi Cuon, which will leave you disappointed for sure. You will need to do some homework to get the best ones.
Did I mention there are fried spring rolls too? I personally preferred the fried version more because I love heavily-flavored food! Both of them costs around VND20,000 to VND35,000.
Banh Xeo is a specialty of Hue, which can be found in almost every corner of the city. It’s basically a pancake fried in a small pan with shrimp, pork slices, bean sprouts, eggs and greens on top. The pancake is then folded into half, wrapping the fillings up.
This dish is accompanied by a lot of greens because it’s very oily especially when served fresh. For the maximum enjoyment, wrap it in rice paper tightly before dipping into the sauce. I personally think Banh Xeo is top 3 best cuisines in Vietnam.
Banh Xeo can be found at VND20,000 to VND25,000 in Hue.
Cao Lau is a specialty in Hoi An town, something that the people in Hoi An are proud of. The main obvious difference between Cao Lau and other noodle dishes is the thickness of the noodle. The rice noodles in Cao Lau are noticeably thicker.
The dish can be a little too dry for those who are not used to eating dry noodles. It’s mainly served with thick rice noodles, eggs, pork, shrimps and a lot of local greens. Some add toasted sesame rice cracker on top too.
Cao Lau usually costs around VND20,000 to VND30,000. Expect a higher price if you are dining in restaurants in Hoi An.
There’s one ingredient in Cao Lau which does not match my personal taste preference, which is why I do not adore this dish a lot. The leaves, which I do not know the name of, taste somehow like fresh pork liver. But I still recommend the dish, I’m sure I’m one of the few who hated that flavor.
If you’re one of them too, feel free to comment below and let me know how you think!
By the way, check out these best cafes in Danang if you’re into them!
The specialty of Da Nang. Mi Quang is quite popular among Vietnamese, which explains why you can see the dish on many menus in other cities.
The dish is made up of wide flat rice noodles, meats and vegetables together with some turmeric broth. The meats are usually chicken, pork, beef, and shrimps. Some restaurants serve the dish together with a toasted sesame rice cracker on top, which sets it apart from other dishes.
Xoi Xeo is often regarded as the hardest-to-cook sticky rice (xoi) to cook in Vietnam. It’s made of glutinous rice, turmeric powder, green mung bean paste, fried shallot, and some fat. Some restaurants or stalls now offer various toppings like Vietnamese ham or marinated pork belly. Definitely one of the most underrated best foods in Vietnam.
One thing about Xoi Xeo is that the portion is sometimes too big for one person. It’s better if you have someone to share the dish with you so that you can save some space for the next meal. Xoi Xeo typically costs around VND15,000 to VND25,000.
Wrapping It Up
Vietnam has long been recognized for its distinct dishes, and definitely worth your consideration for a visit. There are still many other dishes which I didn’t talk about above, waiting for you to explore.
Have you ever been to Vietnam? In your opinion, what are the best foods in Vietnam in your opinion? Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Looking forward to your reply! Happy traveling.