Vietnam Food Delights: 21 Must-Try Dishes for a Tasty Experience

IndochinaMotorcycleTour

Last Update 26 Mar 2024

Vietnam food isn’t known for its intricacy. Numerous beloved dishes can be savored both from roadside stalls and upscale eateries with equal delight. Yet, it’s precisely this simplicity, coupled with nuanced regional twists and the use of fresh ingredients that continually entices our palates. In this blog post, Indochina Motorcycle Tours will explore the culinary delights of Vietnam, presenting 21 must-try dishes for an unforgettable gastronomic adventure on a Vietnam motorbike tour.

Vietnam Food: Grilled Beef in Lolot Leaf noodles

In Vietnam food culture, Grilled Beef in Lolot Leaf noodles is a prime example of culinary finesse. This dish showcases the Vietnamese skill in culinary presentation. The beef, wrapped in lolot leaves, undergoes grilling rather than being served raw or deep-fried. This grilling process tenderizes the exterior while imbuing the beef with the fragrant spiciness of the lolot leaves.

Great delicious dishes that few people know about

Fried Fish Cake Noodle Soup (Bún chả cá)

Fish ball noodle soup is a well-loved option in Central Vietnamese culinary traditions. It consists of grilled fish cakes, fresh vegetables, and vermicelli. Typically served alongside sweet and tangy fish sauce, green onions, and additional spices, this dish offers a delightful combination of flavors and textures. The amalgamation of grilled fish cakes, crisp vegetables, and tender vermicelli provides a distinct and memorable culinary journey within Vietnam food culture.

Fried fish cake noodle soup is a specialty and unique food of Vietnam

Steamed rolled rice pancake (Bánh Cuốn)

Steamed rolled rice pancake, known as Banh cuon, typically features a filling of minced meat and wood ear mushrooms, topped with crispy dried onions and accompanied by a savory fish sauce for dipping. It can be paired with either patties or eggs. For optimal enjoyment, these rolls are best consumed warm and tender. This dish is a quintessential part of Vietnam food culture.

Vietnamese steamed rice rolls are among the most attractive dishes in the world

Vietnamese Banana Flower Salad

The Vietnamese banana flower salad presents a more enticing option compared to a standard plate of assorted vegetables. Banana flowers are meticulously prepared by removing outer layers and slicing thinly, then combined with green papaya, carrots, coriander, tender chicken or pork’s ears meat, a dash of flavorful fish sauce, and topped with crunchy peanuts, creating a delightful ensemble of flavors and textures in Vietnam food.

Vietnamese banana flower salad is attractive with an irresistible sweet and sour taste

Vietnam Food: Grilled Fish (Chả Cá)

Grilled fish – a culinary gem of Vietnam food culture – has garnered acclaim from the global press and renowned culinary platforms as “a must-try dish in your lifetime”. The key to its delectable flavor lies in the marinade. Comprising turmeric powder, garlic, onions, galangal, salt, sugar, fish sauce, and a hint of shrimp paste, these natural and straightforward ingredients, when skillfully combined by the chef, yield an enticing and distinctive flavor profile. This rustic yet refined dish continues to captivate palates worldwide with its irresistible allure.

Grilled fish - The quintessence of Vietnamese cuisine

Nam Vang Noodle Soup (Hủ Tiếu Nam Vang)

Nam Vang noodle soup, a dish rooted in Vietnam food culture, is a Khmer creation hailing from Nam Vang, which is the phonetic name for Phnom Penh. Known as “kuay tiev” in Khmer, this noodle soup features tapioca noodles, often referred to as chewy noodles, swimming in a broth enriched with minced meat and pork intestines cooked together.

Nam Vang noodle soup - A famous delicacy in the Southern region

Vietnamese Mini Pancakes (Bánh Căn)

Banh Can share a round shape akin to Southern “banh khot”, yet it is baked on a clay mold, resulting in a soft and non-greasy crust. Renowned for its impeccable blend of fragrant rice flour, richness from eggs, and freshness from ingredients like shrimp, squid, minced meat, this dish has earned its place in the spotlight of Vietnam food culture.

Banh Can is a gift that the coastal city gives to Vietnamese cuisine

Vietnam Food: Vietnamese Spring Rolls (Gỏi Cuốn)

When indulging in a surplus of fried delights in Vietnam, “Gỏi Cuốn” emerges as a nutritious alternative. These translucent spring rolls begin with a bed of lettuce, topped with a choice of meat or seafood and a sprinkling of cilantro, before being delicately rolled and served alongside Vietnam’s beloved condiment – fish sauce.

Vietnamese spring rolls are popular with tourists from all over the world

Vietnamese Crab Noodle Soup (Bún Riêu)

In Vietnam food, this crab vermicelli dish comes in several renditions, but fundamentally, its broth is crafted from crab and tomatoes. The essence of crab imparts a captivating fragrance to the dish, while tomatoes contribute both a vibrant red hue and a hint of sourness to the broth. Bun Rieu is a typical food of Vietnam that features fine noodles and may incorporate an array of ingredients such as meatballs, pork belly, crispy tofu, fish, and even snails.

Bun Rieu is a rich, delicious dish, loved by both locals and tourists

Vietnam Food: Water Fern Cake (Bánh Bèo)

Water Fern Cake, also known as Bánh Bèo, offers a treat reminiscent of the delightful chewiness of mochi. Within each petite round cake lies a filling of dried shrimp, green onions, and crispy fried shallots. A touch of fish sauce drizzled over the top completes this delectable snack, making it a must-try in the realm of Vietnam food.

Bánh Bèo Huế varies a series of unique variations throughout the 3 regions

Sticky Rice (Xôi)

Vietnam food includes sticky rice, cooked to perfection using fragrant and glutinous rice varieties. Additionally, natural ingredients like pandan leaves for green hues, gac leaves for red tones, and camphor leaves for purple shades infuse both color and aroma into the rice, enhancing its visual appeal and nutritional value. In northern Vietnam, five-color sticky rice is especially popular and meaningful, colored from different vegetables. The 5 colors represent the five elements: metal, wood, water, fire, and earth.

Vietnam has the most unique and attractive sticky rice dishes in the world

Across different regions, sticky rice is prepared in various styles but typically falls into two main categories: salty and sweet. Sweet versions are complemented with toppings like beans, sesame, sugar, and coconut milk, while salty variations boast diverse fillings such as sausage, pork rolls, pate, shredded meat, roasted chicken, and more.

Kebab Rice Noodles (Bun Cha)

Kebab Rice Noodles, also known as Bun Cha, hail from Hanoi and stand out as a beloved dish in the city. Pork slices and pork balls are grilled over charcoal until perfectly cooked. These grilled delights are then submerged in a bowl of savory dipping sauce, while the noodles are served separately on a plate. Accompanied by a selection of fresh herbs and raw vegetables, this dish is a cherished part of Vietnam food tradition.

Vietnamese bun cha is ranked 'best in summer' by the world

Banh Xeo (Vietnam Food)

An appetizing banh xeo is defined by its crispiness and airy texture, filled with shrimp, pork, bean sprouts, and garnished with fragrant herbs, embodying the essence of many genuine Vietnamese dishes. To relish it in the local style, slice the cake into manageable portions, wrap it in rice paper or lettuce leaves, and dip it into the chef’s specially prepared sauce for a truly authentic experience with Vietnam food.

Banh Xeo - A delicious rustic dish from three regions

Quang st yle Noodles

Similar to pho, vermicelli, or noodles, Mi Quang is crafted from rice but boasts its distinct nuances and flavors. From the selection of rice to the water and various spices and ingredients, each aspect is meticulously chosen. The broth for Mi Quang is a blend of diverse ingredients, tailored to the type of noodles preferred by the diner. Traditional Quang noodles feature natural shrimp and fresh pork as their primary components.

Mì Quảng is a 500-year-old specialty in Vietnam

In contrast to pho, the broth for Mi Quang possesses a dense essence derived from crushed shrimp and characteristic ingredients, offering just the right balance of richness and sweetness. Consequently, only a minimal amount of broth is added to the noodles, ensuring they are never fully submerged and presenting an aesthetically pleasing appearance. This dish has been an integral part of Vietnam food culture for over 500 years.

Chicken Rice

For fans of chicken rice, exploring the irresistible Vietnamese chicken rice specialties is a must-do. Despite slight variations in preparation techniques, each dish holds an irresistible allure. Hoi An chicken rice stands out as one of the quintessential Vietnamese chicken rice specialties, tracing its origins back to the 1950s in Tam Ky, Quang Nam province. This region is renowned as the birthplace of exquisite chicken rice. Initially sold as street food, chicken rice could be found in every nook and cranny of Hoi An. Over time, this rice dish underwent enhancements and became available in numerous upscale restaurants.

The more you eat Chicken Rice in Vietnam, the more addicted you become

Cao Lau Noodle Soup

Cao Lau, the pork noodle dish of Hoi An, bears a resemblance to culinary influences from various cultures that have traversed this historic trading port. Its substantial noodles share similarities with Japanese udon, while the crispy wonton noodles and pork evoke echoes of Chinese cuisine. However, the distinctive flavors of the broth and herbs firmly root it in Vietnamese culinary tradition. True authenticity in Cao Lau is ensured by using water solely sourced from the local Ba Le well, enhancing its unique character in Vietnam food.

Cao Lau dish in Vietnam originates from the Japanese dish "Ise Udon"

Bun Bo Hue

Referred to simply as beef noodle soup at times, the name “Hue” indicates its roots. The broth, crafted from beef, boasts abundant lemongrass flavor, enhanced with fine shrimp taste and cashew oil. Unlike traditional vermicelli, the noodles in this dish are rounded, sizable, smooth, and mildly chewy, served alongside meat, bean sprouts, and fresh herbs. This culinary delight offers a harmonious blend of sourness, spiciness, saltiness, and sweetness, all contained within a single bowl of Vietnam food. For a truly immersive experience, consider embarking on a Hue motorcycle tour to uncover the authentic flavors and cultural richness of this iconic dish.

Vietnam food: Bun Bo Hue is a famous specialty of the dreamy land

Broken Rice (Cơm Tấm)

Broken rice is a cherished and widely favored dish within Vietnam food culture, particularly in the Southern region. Crafted from broken grain rice, this dish is typically accompanied by an assortment of side dishes including fried eggs, grilled pork ribs, egg rolls, and shredded pork skin. Additionally, it is served with garnishes such as chopped green onions, chili garlic fish sauce, tomatoes, cucumbers, and pickled vegetables.

Vietnamese broken rice is on the list of the world's most delicious rice dishes

Bread

In Vietnam food culture, Banh mi represents a type of Vietnamese baguette renowned for its crispy exterior, soft interior, and flavorful fillings. Variations in the choice of accompaniments, influenced by regional customs or personal preferences, often dictate the name of the sandwich. Nevertheless, the most prevalent versions typically feature pork sausage, meat, fish, or vegetarian options, complemented by additional ingredients such as pate, avocado, vegetables, chili, eggs, and pickles. 

Vietnam food: Banh mi is officially added to the Oxford dictionary

Moreover, banh mi pairs well with an array of dishes including sardines, shumai, or braised beef. As a popular fast food choice, it is commonly enjoyed for breakfast or as a snack throughout the day due to its affordability, making it a beloved and widely consumed dish.

Vietnam Food: Pho

What compilation of Vietnamese cuisine would be lacking without the inclusion of Phở? It’s practically inevitable to stroll through Vietnam’s bustling cities without stumbling upon a bustling pho eatery, where eager diners enthusiastically savor each spoonful. With its basic components of flavorful broth, tender pho noodles, a sprinkle of herbs, and choice of chicken or beef, this dish embodies deliciousness, affordability, and versatility, making it a go-to option for any time of the day. For a deeper dive into the culinary wonders of Vietnam, consider joining a Hanoi motorcycle tour, where you can explore the vibrant streets and uncover the secrets behind this beloved dish.

Vietnamese Pho is considered a 'symphony of flavors'

Vietnam Food: Banh Chung (during Tet holiday)

For Vietnamese individuals, the arrival of Tet and the spring season is synonymous with the presence of banh chung; its absence would undoubtedly diminish the Tet atmosphere. Banh Chung encompasses a blend of flavors, including the enticing scent of sticky rice, the delightful sweetness of green beans, the savory richness of fatty meat, and the distinctive aroma of pepper, onions, and arrowroot leaves. This traditional food in Vietnam represents a meticulously crafted and innovative fusion, tailored to fulfill the nutritional requirements of individuals spanning various age groups, embodying a quintessential aspect of Vietnam food culture.

Vietnam food: Banh Chung - Traditional culinary symbol of Vietnamese Tet

In conclusion, Vietnam food offers a direct route to a sense of “home,” where the intricate interplay of “sweet, sour, spicy, and bitter” flavors harmonize perfectly. These distinctive culinary creations serve as a bridge, connecting us to the rich cultural heritage and lifestyle of the nation across generations. Even if you haven’t had the chance to visit renowned tourist destinations throughout the country, a visit to Saigon promises a culinary journey through a paradise boasting delectable dishes from all corners of Vietnam. Alternatively, for an expansive culinary adventure across Indochina, explore the diverse regional treasures showcased on the Indochina Blog, featuring specialties from popular tourist destinations like Hanoi, Saigon, Da Nang, Quy Nhon, Ha Long, Vung Tau, Phu Quoc, Hoi An, and beyond.

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