Food to try in Vietnam
When I arrived in Vietnam, I realised that there were other dishes apart from beef pho. I scratched my head and thought, where do I begin. I did some reading around dishes to try. Mark Wiens and Youtube were both super useful in concocting a list that would make Anthony Bourdain proud.
I’m no foodie but I definitely enjoy tasting the local food in another country. So should you, if you want to enjoy this part of their culture.
A lot of people pronounce pho as “foe”. However the correct pronunciation is “fuhh”. Cue the jokes. It came from when the French colonised Vietnam and is essentially an aromatic stock broth. Chicken or beef bones are stewed for hours with aromatics (star anise/cinnamon/onion/ginger) and then served with fish sauce, coriander, basil, chili, noodles and thin slices of beef or chicken meat.
If you have never tried it. You are definitely missing out. It is such a tasty broth and you can find it all over Vietnam. If you want to find somewhere authentic then I would recommend asking the locals about where is best. The best pho we tasted was at Pho 10 in Hanoi, it had the right balance of flavours and even though it was full of locals and tourists. I felt that this was the most hygienic and best pho in the area.
Most commonly you can get pho bo (beef noodle soup) or pho ga (chicken noodle soup). I’ll be honest, I prefer beef over chicken here as the taste is more intense but if you like a cleaner flavour then go for the chicken.
Com means rice and com tam means broken rice. There were a few street stalls I went to, to get this. It usually consists of rice with grilled pork chop (super tender), shredded pork skin and a pork cake. It was so tasty and felt more like a home cooked Vietnamese meal.
Another popular dish which consists of a baguette filled with pork meat, pate, pickled veg, chili and pork skin. There are a lot of variations on banh mi and is another French inspired dish. It is a great snack and quick meal. The best banh mi that I had was in Saigon at Huynh hoa. A lot of people said banh mi 25 was their favourite (Hanoi). The queue outside Huynh Hoa was ridiculous!
Bun Thit Nem nuong
This was a dry dish which consisted of rice vermicelli noodles, spring rolls and Vietnamese meatballs. I believe nem nuong is the Vietnamese sausage meat. It comes with a dipping sauce and it is another tasty dish.
(Bun meaning noodles)
This crab based broth consists of slow boiled crab shells with tomato and aromatic herbs. It comes with congealed pigs blood, fish balls and small shreds of crab. We went to a local restaurant to try it and it was really tasty. However, if you don’t have a strong stomach then maybe acclimatise to pho first then try this.
Banh Xeo + Bo La Lot
This dish consists of a crispy pancake, fried pork, prawns, vegetables and a chili sauce. You fill each pancake with whatever you want and then eat it with some lettuce. It has a nice crunch and it a very interesting dish, we really enjoyed it even though it was slightly greasy. Maybe it is a dish best served after a few drinks?
Bo la lot – Marinated beef which is grilled and served in betel leaves. Although not my favourite, it had an interesting flavour and you do get a good serving of meat in each bite.
A pork based broth which comes with a variety of pork meat dumplings. It is stewed with lemongrass and is very aromatic. This was pretty good and one of my favourite noodle dishes.
Bun Bo Hue
So good I have to mention it twice. It is a lemongrass and pork based broth. It is similar to bun rieu but the ingredients are different. It usually comes with banana blossom and has a slight spiciness. I would recommend trying it wherever you can, the best place I found was a makeshift stall in a parking lot around the corner from our hotel, Hotel La perle (which was an amazing stay).
A little snack which consists of minced pork, wood-ear mushrooms and wrapped in a rice roll. It comes with a dipping sauce and is extremely tasty!
This is a snack dish which is made up of rice cakes stir fried with egg and then served with fish sauce and chili. It is a very savoury Asian snack but can be a little plain.
This dish is commonly found in Hue as the clams found in this rice dish are found in Hue. The rice comes with crispy shallots, clams, herbs and is then mixed up. I quite liked it and a great way to make plain rice more interesting.
A famous Hanoian dish which combines white fish with turmeric and spices. We didn’t try this as we found that it was extremely expensive for what other people called a small serving and a bit of a tourist trap. I thought I would mention it as you might want to try this dish normally only found in Hanoi.
Oh god. I could eat this everyday. I love this like I love eating daal tadka. It is a sweet broth with pork dumplings and herbs. You get a bowl of rice noodles separately which you dunk into the broth and then eat. Kind of like eating soba noodles?
Obama and Anthony bourdain actually ate this dish when they visited Vietnam. I recommend trying it out at bun cha 45 and bun cha ta.
This is a famous dessert or can be made into a drink. It consists of grass jelly, condensed milk and crushed ice. There are numerous toppings but if you have a sweet tooth then this will hit the spot.
Hue Local Food
We also tried a 4 course menu at a restaurant in Hue. I believe it is quite popular with tourists and we went to a restaurant called Hanh. It was slightly pricier than normal but a good experience!
A trip to Vietnam isn’t complete without doing a cooking class. They are pretty expensive but I heard worth it. We decided to do a cooking class via Airbnb and it was much cheaper. We were taught how to make two types of spring rolls and bun bo. We were gifted with the leftover spring rolls and a full stomach after the 3 hour lesson!