The Best Dishes to Eat in Vietnam

Pho Ga, a traditional Vietnamese chicken noodle soup is one of the many reasons why Vietnam's food scene is so highly sought after
Pho Ga, a traditional Vietnamese chicken noodle soup is one of the many reasons why Vietnam's food scene is so highly sought after | © Hamza Habib / Alamy Stock Photo
Photo of Matthew Pike
Writer5 September 2021

Vietnamese food is famous for good reason. The ingredients are healthy, the flavours are unique and it just tastes so incredibly good. Tantalise your taste buds with a read of some of the best dishes to try on your next trip to Vietnam.

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Mì Quảng

We love Mì Quảng. For great value, it’s the perfect Vietnamese meal — noodles, peanuts, rice crackers, pork and a turmeric broth. This dish is the pride of Quảng Nam Province in central Vietnam, served for many important occasions. Pho is more famous, but we think Mì Quảng deserves much more recognition.

Mi Quang noodles are a speciality of Hoi An, Vietnam | © : agefotostock / Alamy Stock Photo

Phở

Let’s get this one out of the way early on, because you knew it had to be on here. It’s the quintessential Vietnamese dish, after all. In Vietnam, millions of bowls of phở are served every day – even as foreign cuisines gain the attention of the burgeoning middle class, Phở is as Vietnamese as it gets.

Pho is the go-to Vietnamese dish enjoyed hot for breakfast, lunch or dinner | © Simon Reddy / Alamy Stock Photo

Gỏi Cuốn

Here’s the perfect Vietnamese snack, with staple ingredients like shrimp, vermicelli, pork, and healthy greens. It’s sometimes a bit difficult to gnaw your way through the rice paper, but the powerful flavour from the sauce — peanuts mixed with hoisin sauce — makes up for all the effort. And at the standard price of 5,000vnd ($0.22 USD) per roll, everyone can afford these.

Goi Cuon is the ideal Vietnamese snack, which is simply meat and greens wrapped into rice paper rolls | © Hong Hanh Mac Thi / Alamy Stock Photo

Bò Kho

This dish is another of our favourites for breakfast or lunch. It usually comes with beef, but you can get it with any meat – or even tofu. The meat is simmered on a low heat in fish sauce, sugar and either water or coconut water, with carrots, onions and coriander to finish it off. The most popular way to eat this dish is by ripping off chunks of bánh mì — or French bread — to dip in the stew.

Bo Kho is a popular meal in the morning which consists of meat stew and fresh bread in Vietnam | © Hong Hanh Mac Thi / Alamy Stock Photo

Bún Chả

Bún Chả is a prime example of Hanoi cuisine. The main components are rice vermicelli, grilled pork, fish sauce and all the herbs you could ever want. It’s a simple dish, but sometimes the most unassuming is the best.

Bun Cha is a unique Hanoi delicacy, simple yet very satisfying | © scott biales / Alamy Stock Photo

Chả Giò (South) / Nem Rán (North)

These Vietnamese spring rolls are minced pork and veggies wrapped in rice paper and fried until the outside is brown. This dish is popular around the world because it’s perfect for sharing with groups.

Cha Gio/Nem Ran are fried spring rolls, perfect for sharing in Vietnam | © bamboofox / Alamy Stock Photo

Bún Mắm

It seems like every food stall has a different list of ingredients for this dish. It’s a hodgepodge of whatever was on sale at the local market that morning, but the essentials don’t really change: rice vermicelli, fish paste, seafood, pork and some combination of greens and sprouts. It’s much heartier than its cousin, phở, which is just one of the reasons why we love it.

Bun Mam is a classic example of Vietnamese cuisine, fish stock noodle soup served with roasted pork | © Quang Ngo / Alamy Stock Photo

Gà Nướng Sả

Like other dishes on this list, this one is simple but delicious. It’s grilled chicken that’s cooked with lemongrass and fish sauce, typically served hot on a bed of vermicelli noodles.

Bun Ga is lemongrass and chicken salad served with fish sauce in Vietnam | © Rafael Ben Ari / Alamy Stock Photo

Cơm Tấm

Literally translated as “broken rice”, it’s the rice that wasn’t fit for selling, which meant farmers often kept it for themselves – or sold it for cheap when Vietnam’s economy struggled. Today, you can find a Cơm Tấm place on just about every street in this country. It’s the lunch of choice for millions — a bed of rice with greens and various meats, though pork is the most common.

Traditional Vietnamese cuisine, Com Tam, is served in a restaurant in the centre of Hue, Vietnam | © Anna Bieniek / Alamy Stock Photo

Mực Chiên

This one is basically Vietnamese calamari. Some restaurants serve the squid whole, but more often it’s sliced into loops and fried with fish sauce or chilli. Since Vietnam is a coastal nation, the squid is fresh. Fried squid is popular in Vietnam because it’s an easy dish to share.

Deep-fried squid, otherwise known as Muc Chien is a Vietnamese speciality | © imageBROKER / Alamy Stock Photo

Bánh Mì

Besides some colonial architecture, Bánh Mì is the most prominent remnant of the French colonial days. Millions of flaky loaves are baked every day, and for millions of people, this Vietnamese sandwich is the best kind of breakfast. They’re cheap and delicious — a great start to any busy day.

Banh Mi sandwiches are served at Manh My Phuong, a famous and popular restaurant in Hoi An, Vietnam | © dbimages / Alamy Stock Photo

Cá Kho Tộ

How does a bowl of caramelized fish stew in a clay pot sound? We think it sounds amazing. Start with big hunks of fish — many varieties are used as fish is plentiful in Vietnam — and simmer it in oil, garlic, onion, salt, soy, fish sauce and coconut juice. Yum.

Can Kho To is wholesome Vietnamese food complete with fresh fish | © Hong Hanh Mac Thi / Alamy Stock Photo

Bánh Xèo

These are commonly known to foreigners as Vietnamese pancakes. Many people wrongly assume that Bánh Xèo is made with eggs because of its distinctive yellow colour, but it’s actually made with a batter of rice flour and turmeric. Once you’ve added the greens and beansprouts, welcome to taste heaven.

Banh Xeo are delicious Vietnamese street food, which are pancakes filled with various ingredients | © Hemis / Alamy Stock Photo

Rau Muống Xào Tỏi

If you’ve never had water spinach before – or if you usually hate greens – then let us introduce you to your new favourite vegetable. When it’s sautéed in garlic and cooking oil, even people who would never order a salad can enjoy it. Rau Muống Xào Tỏi adds both flavour and colour to any dining table. Plus it’s cheap, which is always nice.

Known to many as “morning glory”, Rau Muong Xao Toi is a delicious green vegetable side dish sauteed in garlic | © Jorgen Udvang / Alamy Stock Photo

Ốc

This one is probably the most intimidating dish to order in Vietnam because of all the varieties of snails. For Vietnamese people, snails make the perfect finger food to accompany a couple of beers.

Oc, or snails, are a speciality food in the Mekong Delta of Vietnam | © Hanoi Photography / Alamy Stock Photo

Bột Chiên

Bột Chiên is easily one of our favourite Vietnamese dishes. Really, we love it. It’s crunchy cubes of fried rice flour with eggs and green onion. Most people seem to eat it for breakfast, but we’ll eat it any time of the day. Whenever we’re driving around on a motorbike and notice a Bột Chiên food cart, we slam on the breaks to get some. It’s that good.

Bot Chien is Vietnam’s answer to comfort food and well worth a try | © Vietnam / Getty Images

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