12 Vietnamese Dishes That Are Better Than Pho

Banh Xeo | © stu_spivack/Flickr
Banh Xeo | © stu_spivack/Flickr
Photo of Matthew Pike
Writer9 October 2017

For millions of Vietnamese, phở is their favorite dish. It’s their daily comfort food — a cheap bowl of noodles to fuel up before getting to work or school. But Vietnam has so many other options, and many of them deserve a lot more recognition. Here are our 12 Vietnamese dishes that are even better than phở.

Mì Quảng

Pronounced: Me Wang

Let’s start with the best, coming to us from central Vietnam. Mì quảng has larger, flat noodles, and the broth is seasoned with fish sauce, black pepper, shallot, garlic, and turmeric. Then it’s topped with peanuts and served with a crispy rice cracker. It’s heaven in a dish.

Bowl of mi quang | © Gary Stevens/Flickr

Bò Kho

Pronounced: Baw Khaw

This flavorful dish is a Vietnamese take on beef stew. The beef is braised in a mixture of fish sauce, sugar, and water, then served with either noodles, rice, or, most popularly, with a loaf of french bread called bánh mì. It can be a bit messy to eat, but it’s well worth it.

Vietnamese Beef Stew, Bo Kho | © Prince Roy/Flickr

Bún Bò Huế

Pronounced: Boon Baw Huay

As the name suggests, this soup originates from Huế, the former imperial capital of Vietnam. It has rice vermicelli and beef, along with a soupy broth of lemon grass, shrimp sauce, fish sauce, and sugar. Chili is also added for a spicy kick. It’s usually topped with coriander (cilantro), so be sure to add “Không ngò” (say: Comb Ngaw) if those little green leaves aren’t for you.

Bun Bo Hue | © Alpha/Flickr

Chả Giò (In the North: Nem rán)

Pronounced: Cha Zaw

For those who love their food deep-fried, here’s the dish for you. These spring rolls are made with ground meat — usually pork — and other diced vegetables inside a rice paper cocoon. They’re great for sharing.

Fried Spring Rolls | © Calgary Reviews/Flickr

Bánh Xèo

Pronounced: Ban Say-o

Many foreigners mistakenly assume these yellow pancakes are a kind of egg omelet, but they’re actually a fried mixture of rice flour, turmeric, and water, fried in a sizzling bath. Greens and bean sprouts complete this unique and tasty dish.

Banh Xeo | © stu_spivack/Flickr

Cơm Tấm

Pronounced: Cughm Tum

The name itself means “broken rice,” but it’s the different dishes you can choose to go with the rice that make this a delicious option. The most common offerings are grilled pork, pickled vegetables, and a prawn paste cake, but most restaurants — and there are a lot of them — have many options to choose from. Part of the fun is trying new things each time you eat it.

Broken Rice Dish | © Alpha/Flickr

Bún Chả

Pronounced: Boon Cha

This dish can be found just about everywhere in Vietnam, but it was born and made famous in Hanoi. It’s fatty grilled pork with white rice noodles, served with a handful of greens and some dipping sauces. If Vietnamese food intimidates you, this is a safe place to start.

Bun Cha | © Jo Del Corro/Flickr

Gỏi Cuốn

Pronounced: Goy Coon

Rice paper stuffed with pork, prawns, vermicelli, and vegetables. Although these Vietnamese spring rolls are simple, they’re still delicious, even ranking No.30 on CNN’s list of World’s 50 Best Foods.

Goi Cuon | © Gary Stevens/Flickr

Bột Chiên

Pronounced: Boat Cheen

In alleys throughout Vietnam, you often hear a sizzling noise as these rice flour cakes are fried to crispy perfection. They’re perfect for breakfast, finished with eggs and bean sprouts for an interesting texture that just might give you cravings for years to come.

Bot Chien | © Annie Chan/Flickr

Chả Cá Hà Nội

Pronounced: Cha Ca Ha Noy

This dish is iconic in the capital of Hanoi, and there’s even a street named after it in the Old Quarter. It’s made with bits of freshwater fish grilled in galanga, garlic, and turmeric, then fried with dill and served over a bed of vermicelli. Greens and peanuts top it off. If you’re in Hanoi, you have to try it.

Cha Ca Hanoi | © Alpha/Flickr

Gà Nướng Sả

Pronounced: Gah Noong Sah

Grilled chicken with lemon grass — simple and amazing. The chicken is served with your choice of sides, but it usually comes with rice and grilled vegetables.

Ga nuong sa | © Steve Dunham/Flickr

Mực Chiên

Pronounced: Muck Cheen

This is Vietnam’s version of calamari, but it’s better. Because Vietnam is a coastal country, the squid is much fresher than most calamari eaten in the west. You might have a hard time going back to western calamari after a visit to Vietnam.

Muc Chien | © pelican/Flickr

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