Best 23 Must-Eat Vietnamese Dishes - 2021 Vietnam Travel Guide
Best 23 Must-Eat Vietnamese Dishes - 2021 Vietnam Travel Guide
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Vietnam is a place with an extremely rich culinary culture, once you have come to Vietnam to travel, you cannot help but try at least 1 dish from the list of 23 dishes below. Surely you will miss these dishes when you return home.
A bowl of noodle soup with a rich, clear broth made from a long boiling of meat and spices, its many varieties are made with different meats (most commonly beef or chicken) along with beef meatballs. Phở is typically served in bowls with spring onion, (in phở tái) slices of semi-cooked beef (to be cooked by the boiling hot broth), and broth. In the south, bean sprouts and various herbs are also added.
Vietnam’s national dish a country’s great staple is pho (pronounced “fur”), a noodle soup eaten at any time of day but primarily at breakfast. The basic bowl of pho consists of a light beef or chicken broth flavored with ginger and coriander, to which are added broad, flat rice noodles, spring onions and slivers of chicken, pork or beef.
Phở is just one of many, many, many noodle soups in Vietnam. From a strictly linguistic standpoint, phở refers to the rice noodles, not the soup itself. But it's become synonymous with the staple soup served with various meat parts (usually beef or chicken), bean sprouts, lime wedges, the essential greens (basil, mint, cilantro, and onions), and whatever chili sauce and fish sauce you need to doctor up the broth to your liking. It's cheap, tasty, and especially popular for breakfast in Hanoi. We visited a popular phở joint that usually sells out by noon.
The northern-style phở in Hanoi is typically defined by a clear broth whereas the southern-style broth tends to be slightly sweeter, murkier from added sauces, and popping with more herbs and other garnishes.
What list of Vietnamese cuisine would be started without pho? This simple staple consisting of a salty broth, fresh rice noodles, a sprinkling of herbs and chicken or beef, features predominately in the local diet -- and understandably so. It’s cheap, tasty, and widely available at all hours.
Pho has shown its position not only in Vietnamese cuisine but also in world cuisine. Pho can be seen everywhere from street stalls to high-end restaurants. Some are served with chicken and some with beef. Each type of meat entails a variety of sub-dishes, from beef tenderloin to beef brisket, chicken wing to chicken thigh. Fresh herbs, clear stock, and soft noodles are 3 important factors to making an outstanding Pho.
What list of Vietnamese cuisine would be complete without pho?
It's almost impossible to walk a block in Vietnam's major destination without bumping into a crowd of hungry patrons slurping noodles at a makeshift pho stand. This simple staple consisting of a salty broth, fresh rice noodles, a sprinkling of herbs and chicken or beef, features predominately in the local diet -- and understandably so. It's cheap, tasty, and widely available at all hours.
Just look out for a mass of people on plastic stools -- or try a tried and tested favorite: Pho Thin, 13 Lo Duc, Hai Ba Trung District, Hanoi
This national staple is made with flat rice noodles, a warming broth and usually chicken or beef. The flavor of this comforting noodle soup can vary greatly across the country, and many establishments load your table with sauces, herbs, and spices so you can season your pho exactly how you like it.
Rice vermicelli ("bún") is a staple all over Vietnam. My first night in Hanoi, this one, in particular, was a must-order. Bún chả. You really can't go to Hanoi without trying bún chả. It comes with grilled pork sausage patties, a basket of herbs, bean sprouts, pickled veggies, and, once again, the ever-important nước chấm sauce (pour it over everything).
A note on bún: Vermicelli is found in many noodle soups too like bún rieu, a tomato broth soup with crab and bún bò Huế (pronounced "boon ba hway") with beef (bò). There are many, many bún dishes that didn't make this list but are nonetheless popular and delicious.
Bun Cha is one of the oldest favorites of Northern Vietnam cuisine. This dish is the top choice of Vietnamese lunchtime food. Grilled chopped meat or normal grilled meat on the charcoal stove is prepared with rice noodles and herbs. all together is dipped in syrup-thick fish sauce. Outside Hanoi, across all regions of Vietnam, there is a familiar dish called Bun Thit Nuong which alternatively served.
You will not miss the chance to explore the dish that Mr.President Obama chooses on his first night in Vietnam.
Bun Cha Hanoi 26, 8A/9C2 Thai Van Lung, District, HCMC. Price: 30,000 - 44,000 VND ( from $1.5 USD)
Pho might be Vietnam's most famous dish but bun cha is the top choice when it comes to lunchtime in the capital. Just look for the clouds of meaty smoke after 11 a.m. when street-side restaurants start grilling up small patties of seasoned pork and slices of marinated pork belly over a charcoal fire. Once they're charred and crispy the morsels are served with a large bowl of a fish sauce-heavy broth, a basket of herbs and a helping of rice noodles.
Hanoi's most famous bun cha outlet is 1 Hang Manh, Hoan Kiem district, Hanoi
A Hanoi specialty, you’ll find bun cha at food stalls and street kitchens across the city. Essentially a small hamburger, the pork patties are barbecued on an open charcoal brazier and served on a bed of cold rice noodles with assorted foliage and a slightly sweetish sauce.
This dish is typically a mix of flavourful barbecued pork, fresh noodles, and fish sauce, as well as handfuls of sliced papaya, carrot and herbs. Customers often partially cook the food themselves by dipping fresh noodles into a bowl of steaming broth. If you’re having trouble finding bun cha, you may occasionally find it advertised under the name ‘Obama noodles’, since a certain someone visited Vietnam and ate the dish in 2016.
Hailing from Hanoi, bun cha is one of the most popular dishes in the capital. Small patties of seasoned pork and slices of marinated pork belly are grilled over charcoal before they’re submerged in a bowl of nuoc cham–based sauce. A basket of herbs, a plate of vermicelli noodles, and a side of cha gio accompany the meat, all of which are meant to be combined and eaten together.
Bún bò Huế
Spicy beef noodle soup originated from the royal city of Huế in Central Vietnam. Beef bones, fermented shrimp paste, lemongrass, and dried chilies give the broth its distinctive flavors. Often served with mint leaves, bean sprouts, and lime wedges. Pig's feet are also common ingredients at some restaurants.
If you are a soup lover then you will be pleased to learn that Bun Bo Hue is another classic Vietnamese dish. Whether North, South or Central, "Bun" also creates unique and specific dishes in each region. However, in Hue, they like “bun” rather than the other one because of the style of “bun Hue”. Hue style not only is the elegant, sophisticated, precise dishes but also feel the spirit of the processor. Coming to Hue, either morning or afternoon, walking along the small streets, people can find easily “bun bo Hue”. This thick slippery rice noodle can be found countrywide.
Grasp some “Hue” flavor at Bun Bo Ganh, 110 Ly Chinh Thang, Ward 8, District 3, HCMC. Price: 36,000 VND – 66,000 VND (from $2 USD)
Central Vietnam's take on noodles caters to carnivores with its meaty broth and piles of beef and pork. The thick slippery rice noodles also make for a heartier meal than noodles found in the north and south.
You don't have to go to Hue to enjoy this dish; if in Ho Chi Minh City try Tib Express, 162 Nguyen Dinh Chieu, District 3, HCMC
Sometimes just referred to as bun bo, the “Hue” denotes its origin city. The hearty beef broth is prepared with plenty of lemongrasses and then seasoned with shrimp paste, sugar, and chili oil. A round, slippery rice noodle with a bit of chewiness to it is used for the dish, which is then topped off with a variety of meats and served with lime and herbs. The result is a nice balance of spicy, sour, sweet, and salty, all in one bowl.
Rice flour rolls stuffed with ground pork, prawns, and wood ear mushroom, they are eaten in a variety of ways with many side dishes, including chả (sausage).
The bánh family includes a number of steamed rice cake-like dishes. So soft and delicate, my favorite was this bánh cuốn straight from the steamer. Our Intrepid Travel guide took us to a third-generation bánh cuốn master in Hanoi who mesmerized us with her skills. She ladled each scoop of the rice flour-based batter onto the steamer, covering it with a lid for a matter of seconds, then carefully transferred the gossamer-thin sheets with a bamboo stick onto a tray to be filled with minced mushrooms and pork. Each bite is topped with deep-fried shallot bits and must be dipped into that nước chấm sauce.
Taste the French influence in this famous and delicious recipe made of wheat, egg and dairy products. Vietnamese especially from the North, take pride in their steamed crepe made from rice flour and water. Ground pork, wood-ear, onion, and seasoning are stuffed inside this savory meal. Most of the chefs make it right at the entrance door using the steaming method. Banh cuon is served with a mixture of fish sauce including sugar and lime.
Banh Cuon Hai Nam, 11 Cao Thang, Ward 2, District 3, HCMC. Price: 40,000 VND – 88,000 VND (from $2 USD)
These rolled-up rice flour pancakes are best when served piping hot, still soft and delicate. Although seemingly slender and empty they have a savory filling of minced pork and mushrooms. Zest is also added by dunking the slippery parcels in a fishy dipping sauce.
These little rolls of heaven are filled with seasoned pork and finely chopped wood ear mushrooms, wrapped in steamed, fermented rice batter, and dunked in a fish sauce dip. The appeal of this dish is not only the great taste but also the intriguing way it’s made. Patrons can often watch their host steaming the extremely delicate pancakes moments before their dish is served.
These delicate rice noodle rolls may look familiar if you’ve had cheung fun at a dim sum restaurant before. When it comes to banh cuon, these parcels are filled with minced pork and wood ear mushroom, then topped with a smattering of fried shallots and dipped into fish sauce. Make sure to eat them while they’re hot and soft.
Vietnamese baguette or French bread is traditionally filled with pâté, Vietnamese mayonnaise, cold cuts, jalapeños, pickled white radish, pickled carrot, and cucumber slices. While traditional cold cuts include ham, head cheese, and Vietnamese bologna, varieties of stuffing such as eggs, canned sardines, shredded pork, fried tofu, and grilled meats are common. Sandwiches are often garnished with coriander leaves and black pepper.
Commonly well-known along with Pho, Vietnamese baguette sandwiches, called Banh Mi, have attracted a growing fan base around the world. The uniqueness of Banh mi not only lies within the light and crispy baguette, but also the variation of flavors Vietnam fillings bring out the most amazing flavor.
This baguette sandwich filled with greens and a choice of fillings, including pâté and freshly made omelet, is so delicious that it’s been imitated around the world. In the north, chefs stick to the basic elements of carbohydrate, fat and protein—bread, margarine, and pate—but head south and your banh mi may contain a more colorful combination of cheese, cold cuts, pickled vegetables, sausage, fried egg, fresh cilantro, and chili sauce.
Be prepared for long waiting lines of this popular Banh Mi store for both locals and tourists.
Banh mi Huynh Hoa, 26 Le Thi Rieng, Ben Thanh Ward, District 1. Price: 33,000 VND/ baguette (from $1.5 USD)
The French may have brought with them the baguette, but Vietnam takes it to a different level. How exactly depends on what end of the country you're in.
In the north, chefs stick to the basic elements of carbohydrate, fat, and protein -- bread, margarine, and pasta -- but head south and your banh mi may contain a more colorful combination of cheese, cold cuts, pickled vegetables, sausage, fried egg, fresh cilantro, and chili sauce.
One of the better baguette vendors in Saigon sets up shop beside the Cherry mini-mart on DoQuang Dao, District 1, HCMC
The Vietnamese equivalent of a “submarine” – a Vietnamese baguette stuffed with any of a wide variety of fillings including ham, cheese, canned sardines, Vietnamese bologna, and pickled carrot.
Ah, yes. The bánh mì can be found all over the world at this point. But the creation story harkens back to French colonialism when the imperial forces in Vietnam brought with them their crusty baguettes. Since then the Vietnamese have made this sandwich entirely their own with fillings like pork belly, fish cakes, meatballs, and the very necessary pickled carrots, daikon, and not-messing-around chilies. Do NOT wipe your eyes after eating one of these. Those chilies will melt off your eyeballs.
Influenced by French colonialism in Indochina, bánh mì is a delicious example of Franco-Vietnamese food, infused with flavors, ingredients, and tastes from the two countries. Filled with a choice of meat (or egg, for vegetarians), fresh vegetables and a moreish sweet sauce, the crispy baguettes can be found in street stalls, restaurants, and even the most remote areas.
A flat pan-fried cake made of rice flour with turmeric, shrimp with shells on, slivers of fatty pork, sliced onions, and sometimes button mushrooms, fried in oil, usually coconut oil, which is the most popular oil used in Vietnam. It is eaten with lettuce and various local herbs and dipped in nước chấm or sweet fermented peanut butter sauce. Rice papers are sometimes used as wrappers to contain banh xeo and the accompanying vegetables.
Banh Xeo is giant savory pancakes that literally translate to the sizzling cake because of the noise they make when they are being cooked. A good sizzling cake is a crispy crepe bulging with pork, shrimp, and bean sprouts, plus the garnish of fresh herbs that are characteristic of most authentic Vietnamese dishes.
To enjoy one like a local, cut it into manageable slices, roll it up in rice paper or lettuce leaves and dunk it in whatever special sauce the chef has mixed up for you.
Banh Xeo 46A, 46A Dinh Cong Trang, Tan Dinh Ward, District 1, HCMC. Price: 15,000 VND – 55,000 VND (from $1 USD)
A good banh xeo is a crispy crepe bulging with pork, shrimp, and bean sprouts, plus the garnish of fresh herbs that are characteristic of most authentic Vietnamese dishes. To enjoy one like a local, cut it into manageable slices, roll it up in rice paper or lettuce leaves and dunk it in whatever special sauce the chef has mixed up for you.
Banh Xeo 46A has mixed reviews but judging by the crowds that swarm there each night they must be doing something right. Banh Xeo, 46A Dinh Cong Trang, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC)
Sorry to play favorites but bánh xèo (pronounced “boon say-oh"), you are my favorite. It means "sizzling pancake," and it's just that. The savory, crisp-edged, crepe-like pancake is best enjoyed straight from the pan. The batter is made with rice flour, coconut milk, and turmeric (hence the nice golden-yellow hue) and is pan-fried altogether with pork, shrimp, and a heap of bean sprouts. Wrap up the pancake with lettuce and herbs. I'll never forget stuffing my face with these on tiny plastic stools at Bale Well in Hoi An.
This baguette sandwich filled with greens and a choice of fillings, including paté and freshly made omelet, is so good it’s been imitated around the world.
These enormous, cheap and filling Vietnamese pancakes translate (banh xeo means “sizzling pancake”) pancake contain shrimp, pork, bean sprouts and egg, which is then fried, wrapped in rice paper with greens and dunked in a spicy sauce before eaten.
For those who would rather dig into a savory pancake than a sweet one, bánh xèo is a tasty pork-and-shrimp crêpe, flavored with turmeric and packed with bean sprouts. Don’t be fooled by its healthy appearance, though, bánh xèo‘s literal translation of ‘sizzling cake’ refers to the noise it makes during frying.
The first is a type of savory crepe made from rice flour and turmeric powder (hence the yellow hue) and is stuffed with pork, shrimp, and bean sprouts. Wrap it up in lettuce, add some herbs to it, and dip it into some fish sauce before taking a bite into this crispy delight. Banh khot is similar to banh xeo, using the same batter, but it resembles a mini pancake with a single shrimp in the center. These bite-size medallions are cooked in a special cast-iron plate so that the outside is crunchy and the inside is fluffy.
In general, grilled pork (either ribs or shredded) is mixed with bì (thinly shredded pork mixed with cooked and thinly shredded pork skin and fried ground rice) over com tam ("broken rice") and is served with sweet and sour fish sauce. Other types of meat, prepared in various ways, maybe served with the broken rice. Barbecued beef, pork, or chicken are common choices and are served with broken rice. The rice and meat are accompanied by various greens and pickled vegetables, along with a prawn paste cake (chả tôm), steamed egg (trứng hấp) and grilled prawns.
This simple meal is one of the most popular dishes from South Vietnam at any time of the day, but particularly in the morning. It is usually served grilled marinated pork chops, plus a mixture of thinly shredded pork and pork skin over broken rice. On top of the meat, there are several customary ingredients such as finely sliced cucumber, tomato, and pickled vegetables, along with prawn paste cake also known as steamed pork and egg custard or pork meatloaf with egg, fried egg, and grilled prawns.
As a dry dish, it would normally be served with a small bowl of fish sauces on the side.
Cơm Tam Moc, 82 Nguyen Du, Ben Thanh Ward, District 1. Price: 25.000 VND - 69.000 VND (from $1.5 USD)
When Vietnamese rice farmers couldn't sell their broken grains, which broke sometimes while being processed from the field, they had to eat the poor rejected grains themselves. This cheaper alternative to "unbroken" rice has actually become popular over the years as some people like its softer texture. You'll find it on menus with a variety of toppings; here it comes buried with pork skin, grilled pork chop, pork loaf, and an egg.
Com tam, “broken rice”, is a street-stand favorite. Recipes vary, but you’ll often find it served with barbecued pork or beef and a fried egg.
Also, know as broken rice, these fractured grains are eaten with your preferred protein. Grilled pork, prawns, or beef sit alongside accompaniments such as fresh and pickled vegetables, an over-easy egg, crispy spring rolls, and thinly shredded pork skin. Pour a healthy dose of fish sauce over the plate and you’ve got yourself a superb meal.
Sticky rice wrapped in banana leaves and stuffed with mung bean paste, lean pork, and black pepper, it is traditionally eaten during the Lunar New Year(Tết). Bánh chưng is popular in the North, while the similar bánh tét is more popular in the South. Bánh tét has the same content, except it is cylindrical in shape, and lean pork is substituted with fatty pork.
These banana leaf-wrapped parcels are eaten during the lunar new year celebration of Tet, which is a very big deal in Vietnam (and coming up soon in February!). People buy new clothes, paint their homes, clean everything, and cook for days in preparation for the mega-feast. Many of these sticky rice cakes—known as Banh Tet during the holiday—are prepared ahead of time, both to be eaten and to be placed before ancestral altars. The glutinous rice bundle is tightly packed with fatty pork and mung bean.
Sticky rice with coconut milk, cooked the same way as one cooks rice, or steamed for a firmer texture and more flavorful taste, in a number of varieties
“Xoi”, or “glutinous rice”, “sticky rice” in English, can be found in many South East Asian food stalls or luxurious local restaurants. In Vietnam, Sticky rice is a commonly popular breakfast item and give you a boost of added energy.
The glutinous rice comes with any number of mix-ins (from slithers of chicken, or pork to fried or preserved eggs), but almost always with a scattering of dried shallots on top. The most common combination is included chicken meat, sausage, and scallion oil.
You can find this wonderful dish on several vendors around Ho Chi Minh City or try it at
Xoi Ga Bui Thi Xuan: 11 Bui Thi Xuan, Pham Ngu Lao Ward, District 1, HCMC. Price: 25,000 VND – 55,000 VND (from $2.5 USD)
Savory sticky rice is less of an accompaniment to meals in Vietnam, more a meal itself. The glutinous staple comes with any number of mix-ins (from slithers of chicken, or pork to fried or preserved eggs), but almost always with a scattering of dried shallots on top.
Xoi Yen, Nguyen Huu Huan, Hoan Kiem district, Hanoi
A steamed bun dumpling that can be stuffed with onion, mushrooms, or vegetables, bánh bao is an adaptation from the Chinese baozi to fit Vietnamese taste. Vegetarian banh bao is popular in Buddhist temples. Typical stuffings include slices of marinated barbecued pork from Chinese cooking, tiny boiled quail eggs, and pork.
If you’ve ever had Chinese dai bao, then banh bao will be instantly recognizable. These large steamed buns frequently sold by street vendors are filled with minced meat, a quail egg, Chinese sausage, and vegetables. They’re great for breakfast or when you’re on the move.
Steamed pork buns aren't traditionally Vietnamese, but that doesn't stop the spongy rolls from being sold by street vendors and in traditional Vietnamese restaurants. The best buns have a hard-boiled quail egg buried within the minced meat, while the cheaper ones come without any filling at all. Remember the lower the price the less stuffing, so you might not be getting the good deal you thought you were.
Often sold by wandering vendors patrolling Hanoi's Old Quarter at all hours. In the south try Banh Bao Tho Phat, 78 Nguyen Tri Phuong, District 5, HCMC
Also known as Vietnamese fresh rolls, salad rolls, or summer rolls, they are rice-paper rolls that often include shrimp, herbs, pork, rice vermicelli, and other ingredients wrapped up and dipped in nước chấm or peanut sauce. Spring rolls almost constitute an entire category of Vietnamese foods, as the many different kinds of spring rolls have different ingredients in them.
Gỏi cuốn literally means "salad rolls" and should be distinguished from the fried rolls, which are also sometimes called spring rolls (or chả giò). The translucent cigar-shaped rolls are packed with greens, sometimes shrimp and/or pork, and herbs. They need a dunk in nước chấm of course. Almost every region in Vietnam has its own distinct spring roll but no matter where you are, the wrapping and rolling process is more or less the same.
Salad roll ranks among Vietnam’s most famous foods and is very agreeable to the taste. Each translucent spring rolls packed with greens, coriander and various combinations of minced pork, shrimp or crab. In some places, they’re served with a bowl of lettuce and/or mint. A southern variation has barbecued strips of pork wrapped up with a green banana and star fruit, and then dunked in a rich peanut sauce – every bit as tasty as it sounds.
Wrap and Roll, 62 Hai Bà Trưng, Ben Nghe Ward, District 1, HCMC. Price: 40.000 VND - 165.000 VND (from $2 USD)
These light and healthy fresh spring rolls are a wholesome choice when you've been indulging in too much of the fried food in Vietnam. The translucent parcels are first packed with salad greens, a slither of meat or seafood and a layer of coriander, before being neatly rolled and dunked in Vietnam's favorite condiment -- fish sauce.
Quan An Ngon, 18 Phan Boi Chau, Hoan Kiem district, Hanoi
Vietnam’s most famous dish: translucent spring rolls packed with greens, coriander and various combinations of minced pork, shrimp or crab. In some places, they’re served with a bowl of lettuce and/or mint. A southern variation has barbecued strips of pork wrapped up with a green banana and star fruit, and then dunked in a rich peanut sauce – every bit as tasty as it sounds.
With much of local Vietnamese cuisine being unsparingly fried, grilled and boiled, you may find yourself occasionally craving something a little fresher. Look no further than gỏi cuốn, also known as ‘summer rolls’. These fresh spring rolls are typically packed with crispy salad, prawns, and pork, and served with a sweet-and-spicy dip topped with peanuts.
We all know the fried spring roll (cha gio), but its “fresh” counterpart is a much lighter and healthier appetizer alternative. Slices of pork, shrimp, lettuce, mint, and vermicelli noodles are neatly wrapped up in a translucent rice paper before being dunked into a hoisin-peanut dip.
Chả giò or nem rán (northern)
A kind of spring roll (sometimes referred to as egg roll), it is deep-fried flour rolls filled with pork, yam, crab, shrimp, rice vermicelli, mushrooms ("wood ear") and other ingredients. The spring roll goes by many names – as many people actually use (falsely) the word "spring roll" while referring to the fresh transparent rice paper rolls (discussed below as "summer rolls"), where the rice paper is dipped into water to soften, and then rolled up with various ingredients. Traditionally, these rolls are made with a rice-paper wrapper, but in recent years, Vietnamese chefs outside of Vietnam have changed the recipe to use a wheat-flour wrapper.
Vietnam’s bite-sized crunchy spring rolls might not enjoy the same popularity as their healthier fresh equivalent, but they deserve a special mention.
The crispy shell with a soft veggie and meat filling dunked in a tangy sauce gets the gastronomic juices flowing before the main course. In the north, these parcels go by the name Nem ran while southerners call them Cha Gio. They are most commonly stuffed with minced pork and diced vegetables, though some places use crab, tofu, or even mashed jicama or taro root.
Our recommendation location for this very Vietnamese dish is Quán Nem, located at 15E Nguyen Thi Minh Khai, Ben Nghe Ward, District 1, HCMC. Opening hours: 7:30 AM – 11:00 PM. Price Range: 100,000 VND – 330,000 VND (from $3 USD)
Vietnam's bite-sized crunchy spring rolls might not enjoy the same popularity as their healthier fresh equivalent, but they deserve a special mention. The crispy shell with a soft veggie and meat filling dunked in a tangy sauce gets the gastronomic juices flowing before the main course. In the north, these parcels go by the name nem ran while southerners call them cha gio.
Bun Cha, 1 Hang Manh, Hoan Kiem district, Hanoi
Hanoians consider cha ca be so exceptional that there is a street in the capital dedicated to these fried morsels of fish. This namesake alley is home to Cha Ca La Vong, which serves sizzling chunks of fish seasoned with garlic, ginger, turmeric and dill on a hot pan tableside.
Cha Ca La Vong may be the busiest but the service is a bit gruff and the food overpriced. Instead make your way to Duong Than in Hanoi's Hoan Kiem district, where you'll find plenty of more affordable but just as tasty options.
Cooking with dill is a uniquely northern Vietnamese thing. I didn't see (any?) dill once we traveled south from Hanoi. But in this special Hanoi dish, flaky white fish is marinated in turmeric and galangal and served with generous amounts of dill. Dill is treated more like a vegetable than a garnish here.
Seafood dishes are among the standouts of Vietnamese cuisine. Cha ca, reportedly devised in Hanoi, is perhaps the best known. It sees white fish sautéed in butter with dill and spring onions, then served with rice noodles and a scattering of peanuts.
Vietnamese papaya salad typically with shredded papaya, herbs, various meats such as shrimp, slices of pork, liver, or jerky, herbs, and with a more vinegar-based rendition of nước chấm
Goi is a generic term for "salad" in Vietnam but doesn't usually involve any lettuce. The base instead can be a pile of thinly sliced green papaya or mango, lotus root, cabbage or pomelo. Here's one we made in Hanoi with sliced banana flowers (thick, purple, crunchy) and pickled carrots, cilantro, crushed peanuts, and, once again, the very necessary nước chấm sauce.
A sweet dessert beverage or pudding, it is usually made from beans and sticky rice. Many varieties of chè are available, each with different fruits, beans (for example, mung beans or kidney beans), and other ingredients. Chè can be served hot or cold and often with coconut milk.
This dessert can be served in either a bowl or a glass. The latter is the more enticing option with the visible layers of bean jelly, coconut milk, fruit, and ice. Best had when you're craving something sweet on a scorching day in Saigon.
Nha Hang Ngon, 160 Pasteur, District 1, HCMC
Chè refers to any sweet pudding or dessert soup, which usually gets covered in jellied or dried fruit toppings. Taste the rainbow of longans, rambutan, mangoes, jackfruit chips, mung beans, black beans, and more sticky sweetness.
Chè has a vast array of ingredients, both savory and sweet, but it can be best described as ‘sweet dessert soup’. Variations of the dish include anything from kidney beans to grass jelly and tapioca fruit to coconut cream. You can find chè at any time of the year, but it’s arguably best served with a scoop of crushed ice on a hot day.
Bánh tráng cuốn
Thin rice flour sheet dried into what is commonly called "rice paper", used in making spring roll (chả giò), and summer rolls (gỏi cuốn) by applying some water to soften the texture
Bánh tráng nướng (in the south), or bánh đa in the north
These are large, round, flat rice crackers, which, when heated, enlarge into round, easily shattered pieces. They can be eaten separately, although they are most commonly added into the vermicelli noodle dishes like cao lầu and mì quảng. Many types of bánh tráng exist, including the clear sesame seed ones, a prawn-like crackers cracker with dried spring onions, and sweet milk.
Chả lụa or giò lụa
A sausage made with ground lean pork and potato starch, it is also available fried; known as chả chiên. Various kinds of chả (sausage) are made of ground chicken (chả gà), ground beef (chả bò), fish (chả cá), or tofu (chả chay, or vegetarian sausage).
Grilled meatballs, usually made of seasoned pork, they are often colored reddish with food coloring and with a distinct taste, grilled on skewers like shish kebabs. Ingredients in the marinade include fish sauce.
Bánh bột lọc
A Huế food, it consists of tiny rice dumplings made in a clear rice-flour batter, often in a small, flattish, tube shape, stuffed with shrimp and ground pork. It is wrapped and cooked inside a banana leaf, served often as Vietnamese hours d'œuvres at more casual buffet-type parties.
Bò bía (Vietnamese-style popiah)
Stir-fried jicama and carrots are mixed with Chinese sausage and shredded scrambled eggs, all wrapped in a rice paper roll, dipped into a spicy peanut sauce (with freshly roasted and ground peanuts). It is of Chinese (Hokkien/Chaozhou) origin, having been brought over by the immigrants. In Saigon (particularly in Cholon), it is common to see old Teochew men or women selling bò bía at their roadside stands. The name bò bía phonetically resembles its original name popiah in the Teochew language.
A thick tapioca/rice noodle soup with a simple broth, often includes pork, crab, chicken, shrimp, spring onions and fresh onions sprinkled on top
A noodle soup made of thin rice noodles, topped with crab and shrimp paste, served in a tomato-based broth and garnished with bean sprouts, prawn paste, herb leaves, tamarind/lime, tofu, water spinach, and chunks of tomato
There are a few variations of this noodle soup dish, but the foundation of it is a crab and tomato broth. The crustaceans produce a piquant aroma while the red vegetable adds a layer of acidity and hint of sourness to the soup. Vermicelli is often the noodle of choice and toppings can include meatballs, pork knuckles, fried tofu, fish, snails, and blood cubes