During our trip to the S-shaped country, Vietnamese food was one of our favorite cuisines. Each dish here was very creative and mouthwatering, thanks to a harmonious mix of sweet, spicy, and sour flavors! Of course, each region of the country (North, Central, and South) had its own unique cooking styles, flavors, and ingredients. After all, we felt lucky that during the journey of 4 weeks, we had a chance to savor food from many different parts of Vietnam. What left us amazed was the variation from each region. That meant a bowl of Pho we ate in Hanoi was quite different from a bowl of Pho in Saigon.
The following are a few suggestions about some of the best Vietnamese food we have ever tried throughout our travel in Vietnam. Of course, the list is not complete as expectation since there are also a ton of dishes in the country we have not discovered yet. So, don’t hesitate to let us know your ideas!
Hello Hanoi, Vietnam
- Bun Cha (Bún Chả)
My No.1 dish is Bun cha in Hanoi. It might be one of the main reasons that made me hard to leave. Savory grilled pork patties, fried spring rolls, salty-sweet broth, pickled veggies, rice noodles, slices of green papaya, and fresh herbs were what I found on my bowl. After everything was mixed, I enjoyed an incredible bowl of Bun Cha that kicked flavor of every corner in my mouth.
- Pho (Phở)
As I said above, Phở served in Hanoi was totally different from the one served in Saigon. A bowl of Pho in Hanoi tended to include a darker broth, wider noodles, a strong cinnamon and anise flavor. This dish may be found everywhere in the city, from street stalls to luxurious restaurants. To make an unforgettable Pho, chicken (or beef), clear stock, fresh herbs, and soft noodles are 4 important ingredients.
Check in Hoi An, Vietnam
- Cao Lau (Cao Lầu)
Cao Lau is a unique dish in Hoi An. In fact, I relished it due to my curiosity about its story. Legend has it that the water used to make the broth is taken from a secret well in the town. This can be one of the primary reasons why Cao Lau is famous and special, which you cannot find its replication anywhere else in Vietnam or over the world. In general, it’s simply a noodle soup made with yellow noodles, slices of tender pork, fresh greens, bean sprouts, and crispy croutons. For sure, one small bowl did warm and fill me up in no time.
- White Rose (Bánh Bao Vạc)
I truly fell in love with this small, pretty and tasty dumpling, called White Rose. At the first time of seeing the name “White Rose” on the menu, I considered that we could be served on a flower. But, we were all mistaken. It was simply a shrimp or pork dumpling that looked like a white rose once being steamed. Topped with crispy shallots as well as served in a tangy dipping sauce, this dish has been one of my photogenic and favorite appetizers.
Go to Hue, Vietnam
- Beef Noodle Soup (Bún Bò Huế)
Throughout our journey in Vietnam, no dish could leave us memorable and excited, but Bún Bò Huế. Like its famous cousin Phở Bò, it is merely a beef noodle soup served with a beef broth, healthy doses of chili, shrimp paste, and with lemongrass being the dominant flavor. Some vendors also create their own recipe on the dish by adding Chả Lụa and/or Huyết, based on their local customer’s tastes.
After all, it was the broth I have craved the most. Sour, spicy, salty, and sweet flavors made this dish so delicious and savory. While my friend enjoyed this bowl of noodle by mixing in some shrimp sauce, I did not. Actually, the smell was a bit pungent for my taste. As a result, if you are sensitive to chili and spicy, then this beef noodle soup should not be your choice.
- Beo Cake (Bánh Bèo)
We ended up ordering many beo cakes during a break in Hue. In general, 1 main portion came with 5 to 6 mini saucers of steamed rice flour cakes. Because we had 2 people, we ordered up 4 to 5 portions. And we were really full later. Once steamed, such cakes came out with a little “dimple” in the center and then were filled with bits of dried shrimp, crispy scallions and pork rind. After that, these were eaten with fish sauce and chili.
Stop by Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
- Broken Rice (Cơm Tấm)
While noodles are famous in Northern Vietnam, rice is the staple in Southern Vietnam. So, we did not miss a chance to savor this “broken rice” dish at many street food stalls. You can find Cơm Tấm topped with grilled marinated pork chops over broken rice. On top of the pork, there are also several customary ingredients, like finely sliced tomato cucumber, pickled vegetables, along with fried egg. Because this was a dry dish, we were also given a small bowl of fish sauces and a bowl of soup on the side.
- Fresh Spring Rolls (Gỏi Cuốn)
Although those translucent fresh spring rolls can be seen everywhere all over the country, the rolls in the South are more creative and delicious. They did win our heart for great ingredients and wonderful sauce. Gỏi cuốn is made with rice paper that’s slightly moistened. After that, it is typically filled with a mixture of rice vermicelli noodles, shrimp, pieces of pork, and then stuffed with basil and lettuce before being wrapped. You can use it with a nutty hoisin sauce.
We might probably eat such fresh spring rolls all day long. Luckily, we were not far from this dish, as it might be found in every corner of Saigon, from street food stalls to fancy restaurants.