By Briana Seftel
Salty, sour, spicy and sweet: Vietnamese cuisine hits all of those flavor notes and more. Slurp and savor your way to happiness with these iconic dishes of Vietnam.
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This sandwich is the quick, on-the-go Vietnamese food of your dreams. Starting with the freshest baguette - crisp on the outside, fluffy and light on the inside - banh mi is a symphony of texture and flavor and might just be the best sandwich you’ll ever eat (don’t quote us). While each banh mi master has a different approach to making the sandwich, staples ingredients include paté, cold cuts, pickled daikon radish and carrot, and cilantro.
Translating to “broken rice,” com tam is traditionally a poor man’s dish consisting of grains of rice broken in the milling process. Ingenious cooks in Saigon turned the once-discarded rice into a delectable street food staple. Plates of broken rice are piled high with grilled pork, fish patty, fried egg and more. Fast and filling, we couldn’t think of a better dish to represent Vietnam’s largest city.
The most-recognized dish in and outside Vietnam, pho is truly a national treasure. Simmered overnight and eaten for breakfast the next day, pho is all of your food groups rolled into one: savory broth, chewy rice noodles, fragrant herbs and slices of tender pork or beef. Found everywhere from street stalls to high-end restaurants, you simply cannot go to Vietnam without slurping a bowl of pho.
Bo luc lac
Bo luc lac, also known as “shaking beef,” is a special occasion dish of cubed beef that is cooked in a searing hot wok - the process of shaking the meat while it cooks is what gives the dish its name. Served over a bed of lettuce, tomato and pickled onions, the garlic-infused sauce melts into the salad creating a delicious combination.
Hailing from Hoi An, a town in central Vietnam, cao lau consists of thick rice noodles, barbecued pork, greens, bean sprouts and crunchy shards of dried cao lau noodles. But cao lau doesn’t use just any noodles - they’re made from local rice and pre-soaked in local water (local legend says even the water has to come from a specific well).
A Hanoi specialty, bun cha is cold rice noodles topped with small pork patties grilled over charcoal and topped with a tangle of fresh herbs and greens. Served with a syrupy fish sauce, the idea is to get some noodles, a piece of pork and greens into one perfect bite and dip it in the sauce.
Bun bo Hue
As the name would suggest, Bon bo Hue originates from the ancient city of Hue in Central Vietnam. Like pho, the base of bun bo hue is a rich and savory broth made from pork and beef bones, simmered low and slow. Once the broth is ready, tender slices of beef and pork, rice vermicelli noodles and fresh herbs are added in. Putting your face over a steaming bowl of soup is the best kind of facial, in our humble opinion.
Everyone’s favorite Vietnamese appetizer has to to be goi cuon, or Vietnamese spring rolls. A thin piece of rice paper (banh trang) is dipped in cold water and rolled with fresh herbs, rice vermicelli, cucumber and cooked shrimp. Served cold or room temperature, the spring rolls can be paired with peanut sauce or nuoc cham, a savory, salty condiment made with fish sauce. Goi cuon is the perfect dish to eat for those hot, humid nights along the Mekong!
Vietnam’s answer to a French crepe is banh xeo, a thin rice flour pancake filled with bean sprouts, seafood, meat, crushed peanuts and more. Meaning “sizzling cake,” the dish gets its name for the sound of the batter hitting the hot pan. Despite what you may think, banh xeo isn’t made with eggs but rather turmeric which gives the crepe its signature golden yellow color.
The fried answer to goi cuon is cha gio, or fried spring rolls. The name of the dish changes from north to south, but one thing is for sure: it's impossible to eat just one of these crunchy, crispy rolls. They are most commonly stuffed with minced pork, vegetables, crab or tofu.
Of course it’ll be hard to stop eating all of these scrumptious dishes, but make sure to save room for dessert! This decadent dessert is made from a type of flavorful banana called chuoi xiem, which is then cooked in coconut milk with sago pearls. Spoon up this creamy pudding, smell its delicate banana scent, and enjoy a slight crunch of roasted peanuts.
Psst. If you're a coffee lover, don't miss out on trying Vietnamese coffee!