There’s nothing like eating Vietnamese food while you are actually in Vietnam.
To say that narrowing down this list of ten top Vietnamese dishes to try in Vietnam was hard is an understatement. It caused arguments and threatened friendships. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that this was one of the toughest decisions I’ve ever had to make. The food is that good.
To become a Vietnamese culinary aficionado, sample each of these delightful options while you are in Vietnam. You get bonus points if you can pronounce them all correctly!
Bun thit nuong
My all-time favourite Vietnamese dish. This drool-worthy combination of vermicelli, grilled pork, cucumber, pickled carrot and daikon, bean sprouts, chopped peanuts and a tasty sauce is sometimes topped with spring rolls (cha gio). It’s everything good in one glorious bowl.
Coming in at a worthy second place on my list of the ten top Vietnamese dishes to try in Vietnam – traditional fried spring rolls – greasy, crispy and delicious. Enough said.
These are often known in the English-speaking world as fresh spring rolls or summer rolls. They don’t get any fresher than in Vietnam. Plus you can feel virtuous for eating the ‘healthy’ spring roll.
Ah, the Vietnamese sandwich. Friend of local and tourist alike, banh mi is the ultimate street food. A crusty French-style baguette jam-packed with pork, pate, fresh and pickled veggies, herbs and sauce. It definitely hits the spot and is truly worthy of a place on this list of the ten best Vietnamese dishes to try in Vietnam.
Named via onomatopoeia for the sizzle it makes when it hits the pan, banh xeo is as far from the western version of pancake as you can get. People often assume banh xeo is made using egg, but it’s actually a rice flour batter and should be served crispy and light.
Inside you’ll generally find prawn meat, onion and bean sprouts, with the essential sauce on the side.
Vietnamese food usually involves meat, though there are plenty of great veggie dishes, including fresh salads. Two of the best are lotus stem (goi ngo sen) and papaya (goi du du).
As with most Vietnamese dishes, it’s the freshness of the ingredients and the tastiness of the sauces that keep you coming back for more. And you can do it pretty much guilt-free here.
This quintessential Vietnamese dish is available morning, noon and night and typically comes in chicken (pho ga) and beef (pho bo) varieties. It’s invariably delicious, but particularly good when you’re under the weather or have consumed one too many bia hoi (Vietnamese draught beer).
Be sure to pronounce it ‘fuh’ not ‘foe’.
Cao lau is probably Hoi An’s most famous contribution to Vietnamese cuisine and another ‘must’ when compiling a list of the ten top Vietnamese dishes to try in Vietnam. However, I’ve always had a soft spot for banh bao vac (white rose).
These steamed rice paper dumplings are filled with minced prawn, doused in a sweet dipping sauce and covered in toasted onion or shallot. They’re the perfect combination of chewy and crunchy.
Che is the only dessert to make the cut. This sweet concoction of beans, tapioca, jelly, fruit and coconut milk is served in a tall glass and will have you rethinking your standard ‘peaches and icecream’ dessert choice.
Fresh, delicious and cheap, fruit is ubiquitous in Vietnam, but oh so good. Buy some at the markets and eat it whole; from a street vendor and eat it chopped up using a toothpick (after smothering it in the obligatory chilli salt – don’t worry, you get used to it); or have it blitzed into a delectable juice or shake.
As always, check the fruit has been washed in clean water and enjoy nature’s ultimate refresher!
Do you have any suggestions to add to our list of the ten top Vietnamese dishes to try in Vietnam? We would love to hear from you. Please leave a comment below.
Additional images: Bigstock/Photodune
About the writer
Samantha Wasson is a freelance writer and former educator who lives in Sydney but whose heart remains in Vietnam, where she lived for three years. She has travelled extensively in Asia, Europe and the United States, with a brief sojourn in Africa. Highlights from Samantha’s international escapades include: studying German in Freiburg, volunteering with an elephant rehabilitation project outside Chiang Mai and travelling by motorbike through the Mekong Delta. Lowlights include: ‘climbing’ Mount Kinabalu, nearly dying on the Great Barrier Reef and being ripped off in Beijing. She has worked for MSN/Officeworks, Swinburne University, Deakin Business School, Aussie Home Loans, Seek, TAFE Queensland, ARI Registry Services, SocietyOne, Acquire, School Places, Ivanhoe Grammar, Australian Teacher Magazine, Lead Generation and 2SER. A lover of literature and travel, Samantha subscribes to Augustine of Hippo’s observation that ‘the world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page’.