Vietnamese cuisine is renowned for its vibrant flavors and bright colors. Interesting herbs and spices, such as lemongrass and kaffir lime, lend unique depth and complexity to the dishes. From the savory phở to the sweet bánh chuối chay, exploring the full range of Vietnamese food can be an exciting adventure. Every bite exposes a new and exciting flavor that will leave you wanting to learn more about this unique food culture. In this article, we’ll be taking a closer look at the different types of Vietnamese cuisine, and exploring some of the signature dishes that have made Vietnam a popular food destination.
1. Taste the Authentic Flavors of Vietnam
Ascend your taste buds
Vietnamese cuisine, with its vast array of flavors, is practically begging to be explored. Let’s take a tour of this colorful cuisine and discover its distinct culinary highlights.
Vietnamese Herbs and Spices
The unique flavor of Vietnam is achieved through its specialty herbs and spices. Taste the potent combination of lemongrass, kaffir lime, galangal, and chili peppers as the typical aromas in various Vietnamese dishes. These staples add layers of intense depth and complexity to the cuisine.
It wouldn’t be a trip to Vietnam without trying these quintessential dishes:
- Pho: The classic noodle soup featuring cantankerous spices, tender beef cuts, and generous handfuls of crunchy onion and herb garnishes.
- Bun Cha: A fan favorite, this dish combines chewy noodles, marinated pork patties, and tangy dipping sauce.
- Banh Mi: This delicious sandwich comes loaded with pickled vegetables, succulent pork, fresh herbs, creamy spreads, and crusty baguette bread.
Traditional Vietnamese cuisine differs depending on region, with Southern Vietnam possessing more intense flavors compared to the North. Northern cooking is more focused on lightly-flavored dishes with minimal seasoning. Head to the beachside towns for juicy seafood specialties and unique fruit combinations. Whatever region you may be in, Vietnam offers up an abundance of flavorful dishes—all standing testament to the country’s remarkable culinary heritage and vibrant food culture.
2. Exploring Different Regional Dishes
Vietnam is an incredible fusion of different regions, cultures and flavors, making it one of the most colorful and mouthwatering cuisines to experience. Here’s a look at some of the most beloved regional dishes that will definitely have you wanting more:
This iconic Vietnamese noodle soup needs no introduction. Traditionally served with beef or chicken and seasoning like chili, coriander, lime and basil, it’s a staple dish of the country.
2. Banh Mi
This French-inspired dish has become one of the most popular sandwiches in Vietnam. It’s a baguette stuffed with pork, pickled vegetables and herbs, spicy mayonnaise, and a variety of sauces for added flavor.
3. Bun Cha
This traditional dish is made with barbecued pork, vermicelli noodles, greens, and noodles that are served with a sweet-and-sour dipping sauce for flavoring. It’s a hot and hearty dish that will definitely fill you up.
4. Nom Bo Kho
A dish of green papaya, fish sauce, pork, and shrimp, it’s a must-have of the region. The flavors are a balance of sour and sweet, making it a wonderfully vibrant cuisine experience.
5. Goi Cuon
These summer rolls are incredibly light and delicious. They’re made with herbs, rice paper, vermicelli noodles and meat, and served with a dipping sauce. The perfect snack or appetizer to enjoy on a hot summer day.
6. Banh Xeo
These savory crepe-like cakes are one of the most beloved dishes in Vietnam. The thin pancakes are stuffed with pork, shrimp, bean sprouts and mushrooms, and then served with lettuce leaves and herbs.
7. Cha Ca
Cha ca is a classic northern dish that’s made with grilled pieces of fish that are topped with turmeric and shrimp paste. The fish is served with a variety of vegetables and herbs, with lots of Vietnamese flavors that will definitely have you wanting more.
3. The Benefits of Vietnamese Cuisine
Vietnamese cuisine is rich and flavorful, full of herbs, spices and other ingredients that make each dish an experience. Despite its simplicity, Vietnamese food is highly nutritious and provides a plethora of benefits.
- Variety – Vietnamese food has a wide range of flavors due to the use of different meats, vegetables, herbs, and spices. There is something for everyone when it comes to Vietnamese food.
- Freshness – Most of the ingredients used in Vietnamese food are fresh. This helps to ensure that nutrition levels are intact and that flavors are as vibrant as possible.
- Low-Calorie – Most Vietnamese dishes are made with broths and steaming, which means they are usually low in fat and calories. This makes them a great choice for those counting calories.
Vietnamese cuisine is also well-known for its health benefits. Most dishes are prepared in ways that preserve the vitamins and minerals present in the ingredients. This means that eating Vietnamese food regularly can boost both energy levels and health.
Vietnamese food can also be surprisingly filling due to the variety of ingredients used. This means that Vietnamese food is great for those who want to make sure they receive a high amount of nutrition without overeating.
4. Enjoy Street-Food and Night Markets
Vietnam is a paradise for food-lovers, and its myriad street foods provide an exciting culinary exploration for travelers. Enjoy the spectacle of the country’s night markets and sample some of the delicious regional delicacies. Here are some of the most popular snacks you don’t want to miss:
- Banh Bao Pizza – Found on the streets of Ho Chi Minh City, this twist on the classic Italian dish features a thick, steamed taco-like bun stuffed with grilled pork, chicken, shrimp, sweet potato, and quail eggs.
- Xoi Xeo – This hearty breakfast dish of sweet and sticky sticky rice topped with dried pork and fried onion is served with fish sauce on the side.
- Gio Chien – Deep-fried Vietnamese pork sausage, this snack is a must-try for any traveler.
- Nem Lui – Stick skewers of ground pork and lemongrass grilled over charcoal.
- Che – A sweet, soupy dessert made with tapioca pearls, mung beans, jellies and various combination of fresh fruit.
To get the most out of your food experiences in Vietnam, head to the night markets for a truly local feast. Here, you can sample dozens of different snacks and find some of the best street food in the country. From the local version of French baguettes to grilled meats to sugar-coated bananas, the night markets have something to suit any traveler’s taste.
5. Vegetarian Options and Local Produce
- Vegetarian Delights: Vietnam serves up plenty of plant-based dishes that will keep any vegan or vegetarian full and satisfied. Try a delicious bowl of Bun Thit Nuong, a concoction of vermicelli noodles, vegetables, and spiced marinated tofu! Or dive into a bowl of Pho Chay, the iconic Vietnamese soup that can be made with delicious vegetables and mushrooms.
- Hometown Produce: Vietnam is home to some of the best local produce in the world! Enjoy fragrant herbs like lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves, and Thai basil, as well as sumptuous vegetables like lotus root, water spinach, and baby eggplant. When in Vietnam, be sure to add some Street Food favorites like Banh Mi and Bun Cha to your shopping list, for a special local treat!
Vietnam’s cuisine is full of interesting and flavorful vegetarian dishes and ingredients. Take a journey through vibrant street markets and sample the bounty of local produce brought right to your plate. Indulge in the crunch and spice of vegan deconstructed spring rolls, submerge yourself in the aroma of vegetarian Pho, and delight in the umami of a flavourful marinated tofu. Exploring the world of Vietnamese vegetarian cooking is an experience that will open your taste buds to a whole new realm of flavour!
6. Traditional Specialties and Innovations
No exploration of Vietnamese cuisine would be complete without mentioning its traditional specialties. From sweet and salty banh chung to flavorful nem ngheu, the diversity of flavors in traditional dishes is something to write home about. But it’s not just traditional foods that make Vietnamese cuisine so enjoyable—innovative contemporary dishes also make an appearance. Here are a few of our favorite classic and contemporary dishes:
- Banh Mi: This popular dish is a classic sampling of the wonderful banh (breads) of Vietnam. Fillings can include everything from pork to pate, and it’s often served with fresh vegetables.
- Goi Cuon: Sometimes referred to as summer rolls or spring rolls, goi cuon is a staple of many restaurants and streetside stalls. It features a light rice paper wrapper filled with herbs, noodles, and other goodies.
- Pho: This comforting soup is a Vietnamese favorite. It’s a light and flavorful broth that’s usually garnished with basil, scallions, and lime.
- Banh Xeo: This crispy fried pancake is often filled with pork, shrimp, and bean sprouts. It’s served with a variety of fresh herbs and dipping sauces.
- Bánh khọt: This tasty snack is made with rice flour and turmeric, and is usually filled with shrimp and pork. Bánh khọt is popular in the south of Vietnam.
In addition to these classic dishes, Vietnamese cuisine is becoming increasingly popular for its fresh and innovative takes on traditional recipes. From creative variations on pho and goi cuon to inventive new desserts, there’s no shortage of new flavors to explore.
7. Sample Unique Drinks and Desserts
If you’ve never been to Vietnam before, you’re in for a colorful surprise when it comes to the cuisine. Not only do the flavors mix together to create truly remarkable dishes, but vibrant colors of edible delights paint a stunning picture. Let’s look at some of the best unique drinks and desserts you can find in Vietnam.
- Thạch Mít Dừa: This layered coconut jelly is creamy and refreshing making it the perfect dessert for those hot days.
- Chè Thập Cẩm: This sweet treat is made from a mix of jelly, puddings, beans, corn, and lotus seeds, drizzled in coconut cream and sweetened condensed milk. It’s a popular dessert for all ages.
- Che Bắp: Sweet and savory comes together in this amazing snack. Sweetened corn cream, chunks of cassava and tapioca pearls invite your taste buds on a mesmerising journey.
- Bia Hơi: No trip to Vietnam is complete without trying this street side treat. Bia Hơi is a unique craft beer brewed from the second runnings of rice wine, imparting a smooth flavor.
- Trà Sứa: If you’re looking for something fruity and sweet, try this street drink of fresh or powdered milk blended with crushed ice, jelly, and condensed milk. It’s a popular pick-me-up.
- Cà Phê Trứng: This combination of sweet and bitter can only be described as an experience. Enjoy this egg coffee made with condensed milk, spices, and raw egg.
Take the opportunity to explore the vibrant flavors of Vietnam by sampling some of these unique drinks and desserts. Enjoy the amazing flavors, colors, and textures of this country’s cuisine.
8. Recommendations for Your Food Adventure
If you are looking for a palatable escape, a Vietnamese culinary adventure is a wise route to take. Looking to get the most out of your taste tour? Here are some tips that should help your Vietnamese food foray go smoothly:
- No fear! Vietnam is full of an array of flavors, textures, and seasonings. Taste as many dishes as you can, don’t be afraid to try out the unfamiliar.
- Go local. Try street foods and hole-in-the-wall restaurants to get an authentic taste of the local cuisine.
- Bigger is better.Vietnamese culture LOVES to share, so ordering more dishes to share in a group is the way to go.
- Seafood saver. Vietnam’s coastline has blessed them with fresh, delicious seafood. Even fresh-water dishes such as fish-lakes are a worthwhile experience.
- Beverage bliss. An adventure without a beverage is just plain unadventurous. Vietnamese coffee and beer is a must, but a variety of fresh juices abound.
Your Vietnamese food journey is sure to be an enjoyable experience! Remember to enjoy all that this vibrant country has to offer – food, festivities, and fantastical scenes.
We hope this article has given you a taste of a few of the mouth-watering dishes and exciting flavors of the colorful cuisine of Vietnam. With a culinary culture as vibrant and diverse as this, you are sure to have a delicious and memorable experience. Bon Appetit!