Visit the country that Anthony Bourdain claims as one of his favorite food destinations and delight your taste buds! A journey to Vietnam means that you will likely try food that you have never had before at places that you never imagined. There is no shortage of delicious dishes to try and unique spots to find. Get a great list of the foods to try in Vietnam here!
I lived in Vietnam for four months and served as a volunteer. While a lot of the food was provided for me, either at the school I taught at or at the home I lived in, I took every opportunity to go out and explore the food scene. Often, that meant grabbing something from the street vendors, going to the local market and bargaining, or sitting down on a plastic stool and eating at a restaurant dedicated to one particular dish.
As I traveled through Vietnam, it was apparent that there were large differences in the cuisine based on the region. The north uses spice sparingly, while central Vietnam has very spicy food. Hanoi is famous for bun cha, a dish with lettuce, fish sauce, and grilled pork. The southern region being a warmer climate uses more seafood and coconut in their dishes. You will also see the French, Japanese, and Chinese influences in their cuisines based on where these cultures infiltrated the country.
One thing that all the regions have in common is their use of fresh ingredients. The meats and vegetables are locally sourced and you can taste it. I have created a list of my favorite foods that you must try when you go!
You Might Also Like These Posts:
Table of Contents
Foods You Must Try in Vietnam
When thinking about Vietnamese food, this is often the first food that comes to mind. In the Vietnamese culture, this is a common breakfast food. You will find plenty of Vietnamese sitting down outside of Phó restaurants before heading to work for the day.
This soup often features rice noodles in a beef broth with some sort of boiled meat within it. You will be given a plate of toppings (bean sprouts, scallions, limes, jalapeños) as well as sauces to mix in. The best spots are usually the local joints where they only sell phó.
2. Bun Cha
This dish hails from Hanoi and it became famous in the US when Obama dined on it during his trip to the country. My friends and I would often celebrate something by going to get Bun Cha together. This plate consists of grilled pork, and pork belly, nuoc cham dipping sauce, fresh herbs, and vermicelli noodles. The idea is to pair all of these ingredients together and create your own delectable bites.
3. Bun Bo Hue
This is another variation of a traditional Vietnamese noodle soup. The last name of the dish denotes that it’s originally from the city of Hue. The chewy rice noodles are served in a thick beef broth with lots of meat thrown in the bowl. Similar to the other dishes, it is served with limes and herbs on the side. The dish has a truly unique flavor due to the chili oil and sugar that are mixed in the broth. Don’t worry if you aren’t going to Hue, you can find this dish in most cities.
4. Goi Cuon
Perhaps more familiarly known to us as fresh spring rolls, these yummy treats are found all over Vietnam. Making these yourselves is also a fun activity. I had the pleasure of going to multiple Vietnamese friend’s houses to eat spring rolls. With rice paper on the outside, you can fill these up with your choice of fresh cut veggies, vermicelli noodles, meat, shrimp, and herbs.
5. Fried Corn
I don’t know the Vietnamese words for this dish, but you will find this at most late night spots, beer vendors, and street carts. This was my favorite thing to eat after a long night of drinking and dancing. The kernels are covered in tapioca flour and then fried. I could eat these for days!
6. Local Fruits
If you don’t go to Vietnam and try all of the fruits then you are doing it wrong. Because of the temperate climate, they have fruits that are in season year round. The best place to get these fruits is either buying them from street vendors or going to the local markets and haggling (which is hard when you don’t speak Vietnamese).
I would go to the markets every week and come back with bags full of fruit to last me through the following week. Some fruits you should try include jackfruit, passionfruit, rambutan, and longans. Another street snack that you may see is sour mango cut up and served with spicy salt. This is a favorite snack amongst the Vietnamese children, a great mixture of flavors. I dream of having access to these fruits all the time!
7. Banh Mi
You can see the French influence in this Vietnamese staple meal. Banh mi actually refers to the bread itself, which is similar to a french baguette. However, when using this term it often refers to the sandwiches that people eat in these baguettes. There are many varieties of banh mi and plenty of street vendors to get them from.
They usually feature some sort of meat with herbs, veggies, sauces. I especially loved grabbing a morning banh mi, which had egg, vegetables, herbs, and spicy chili sauce. If you go to Hoi An, make sure to stop at Banh Mi Phuong, where they serve the best Banh Mi according to Anthony Bourdain. Yum!
8. Cao Lau
Hoi An is a city located 40 minutes outside of Da Nang and it’s probably my favorite place in Vietnam. Not only do they have some of the best food, but they also have beautiful streets lined with yellow buildings and lanterns overhead. There is a lot of Japanese influence from the time that the Japanese had colonized the area.
This is why they have developed such interesting dishes that have a lot of Japanese flavors including cao lau. It features a chewy thicker rice noodle that is topped with pork, rice crackers, and fresh herbs. There is a thin layer of broth that sits under the noodles, but the combination of all of these flavors is perfect.
9. White Rose Dumplings
Another spectacular dish that you can only find in Hoi An are the white rose dumplings. These are made with a small spoonful of meat or shrimp that is surrounded by the white rice paper.
These look very delicate and resemble a rose, hence their name. There is only one family that holds this secret recipe and they supply the whole town with the dumplings. If you do not try these while you are there, then you are truly missing out on something special!
Let me know if you enjoyed this list of Vietnamese Foods in the comments!
📌 Pin 9 Foods You Must Try in Vietnam to Pinterest!