10 Vietnamese foods you need to try

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Eleanor Aldridge

Vietnamese food is distinct and unforgettable. The cuisine relies on a balance of salty, sweet, sour and hot flavours, achieved through use of nuoc mam, a fermented fish sauce, cane sugar, the juice of kalamansi citrus fruit or tamarind and chilli peppers. Dishes use plenty of fresh herbs but tend not to be overly spicy, as chilli sauces are served separately. From the new Rough Guide to Vietnam, we’ve picked ten essential Vietnamese foods everyone should try.

Goi cuon

Goi Cuon are translucent spring rolls packed with greens, coriander and various combinations of minced pork or shrimp. A southern variation has barbecued strips of pork wrapped up with green banana and star fruit, and then dunked in a rich peanut sauce – every bit as tasty as it sounds.

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Banh mi

This baguette sandwich filled with greens and a choice of fillings, including paté and pork or beef, is so good it’s been imitated around the world.

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Banh xeo

These enormous, cheap and filling Vietnamese pancake contains shrimp, pork, bean sprouts and egg, which is then fried, wrapped in rice paper with greens and dunked in a fish sauce (Nuoc Cham) before eaten.

© AS Food studio/Shutterstock

Bun cha

A Hanoi specialty, you’ll find bun cha at food stalls and street kitchens across the city. The pork is barbecued on an open charcoal brazier and served on a bed of cold rice noodles with assorted foliage and a broth.

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Vietnam’s national dish a the country’s great staple is pho (pronounced “fuh”), 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 flavoured with ginger and coriander, to which are added broad, flat rice noodles, spring onions and slivers of chicken, pork or beef.

Cao lau

Central Vietnam does it best. Among Hoi An's tasty specialities is cao lau, a mouthwatering bowlful of thick rice-flour noodles, bean sprouts and pork-rind croutons in a light soup flavoured with mint and star anise, topped with thin slices of pork and served with grilled rice-flour crackers or sprinkled with crispy rice paper.


Cha ca

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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 scatering of peanuts.

© aomiw/Shutterstock

Mi quang

This unheralded and affordable noodle dish is a Hanoi specialty. Ingredients vary by establishment, but expect to see a simple bowl of meat noodles enlivened by additions like flavoursome oils, fresh sprigs of leaves, shrimp, peanuts, mint and quail eggs.

Nom hua chuoi

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Com tam

Com tam, “broken rice”, is a street-stand favourite. Recipes vary, but you’ll often find it served with barbecued pork or beef and a fried egg.

© Tonkinphotography/Shutterstock

Did that leave your mouth watery, excited to try? There's expert foodie tours in Vietnam, ready to explain all the details to you: From Saigon to Hanoi, a guided food tour will make sure you will always know what you'll eat. And if you're considering to pre-book your full Vietnam trip, get in touch with our local experts today. They are happy to create and quote your personalised Vietnam trip.

Top image © CHETTAPHON URAIWONG/Shutterstock

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