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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.