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10 Super Tasty Vietnamese Dishes You Must Try

June 8, 2014

Our nine favorite Vietnamese dishes that you can’t miss out

Some cuisines have certain magical properties to them. You can’t quite put a name to it, but after just a tiny taste, you’re coming back, begging for more. The best cuisines use fresh, simple ingredients in a variety of ways. Vietnamese food is a perfect example of that. When the food is as good in a five star restaurant as it is at the food stall on the corner, you know you’re talking about world class food. And out of a whole culture of food, there are some real stand outs.

 

1. Pho

Don’t be so quick to roll your eyes at this one. Yes, it may the most westernized of all Vietnamese food (with maybe the exception of spring rolls). But if you’ve had it in some fast food style chain place, you have no idea what you’re missing out on. Mostly eaten for breakfast, the clean, simple broth is topped off with fresh noodles, thinly sliced chicken or beef, or can easily be made vegetarian with bean sprouts and tofu. Make sure it’s got a sprinkling of fresh herbs; then you know it’s the real deal.

 

2. Spring Rolls

Speaking of the devil, this classic isn’t so run of the mill here. Every area alters the recipe just a bit to suit what’s common around them. What you get in Hue can be completely different in taste than what you try in Saigon, even if they look like they could be twins. Spring rolls also come cooked two ways, fresh or fried. Take advantage of all the variety and try them all!

3. Ban Mi

Westerners may have invented the sandwich, but without a doubt, the Vietnamese perfected it. Stealing ideas from French colonists, a baguette has never looked so darn tasty. Crunchy, delicious bread, stuffed to the brim with pate, pork of every imaginable kind, pickled carrots and radish, cucumbers, and a dash of chilies and cilantro for that extra something. Rubens and PB&J’s are a thing of the past, and Ban Mi your one and only future.

 

4. White Rose Dumplings

A speciality only found in the city of Hoi An, the Chinese influence of the region is clearly found in this scrumptious dish. Translucent white dough is folded and steamed in such a way, that it clearly resembles its namesake. The center is filled with shrimp and pork, and garnished with crunchy toasted garlic. If it wasn’t already good enough, it’s meant to be dipped in a tasty sweet sauce, that really brings all of its flavour together. Tran Tuan Ngai is the secret keeper behind the original recipe, and sadly, he won’t be letting the delicious cat out of the bag any time soon.

 

5. Cha Ca

For such a long country, with an incredibly diverse landscape, it shouldn’t be surprising that the food variety is just as much of a mixed bag. In Hanoi, they’re particularly proud of this fish dish. So fond of it in fact, that there is an entire street, Cha Ca La Vong, dedicated to serving just this. Grilled or fried, and cooked with turmeric, curry and dill (an herb really only used in this region!), cha ca is served over a bed of the ever popular vermicelli noodles. This is the epitome of simple yet delectable Vietnamese style cooking.

6. Banh Xeo

Who doesn’t love delicious French crepes? They’re thin, crispy, and filled with tasty goodness. These pancakes are Vietnam’s twist on the crepe. Banh xeo literally means ‘sizzling cake,’ a named garnered from the sound of the rice batter hitting the frying pan. Unlike its french cousin though, don’t expect cheese or lemon and sugar in these though. Instead, they’re brimming with pork, bean sprouts, shrimp and herbs. In Hue, the former Imperial capital, they have their own variation called banh khoai, meaning ‘delicious cake.’ Open faced rather than folded in half, it’s the perfect name for this meal.

7. Bun Rieu

Soup is a popular go to, as in ‘bun,’ or the vermicelli noodles. Both together, no wonder this dish is a hit! A light but tasty tomato broth, mixed with noodles and a type of meat. The best variation is most likely bun rieu cua. Freshwater crabs found in the rice paddies are steamed up and mixed in with the broth for an indescribably distinctive and delightful feast. Feel free to add banana flowers, mint, water spinach, bean sprouts, or whatever else makes it perfect to your tastes.

8. Bo Luc La

This is the perfect marriage of French and Vietnamese cuisine. Cubes of savory beef sauteed together in soy sauce, with crisp cucumbers, fresh tomatoes, onions and peppers. The name is clever; it means ‘diced meat,’ due to the size of the chunks being about the same as playing dice. Fresh ground pepper sprinkled over the top makes this fare a taste bud sensation.

9. Hoa qua dam

Desserts are a bit of a different fare in the West than they are in Vietnam. If you see a sign for che, you know you’re in the right place for something luscious. While often sweet, treats tend to be more refreshing. It’s no surprise, considering just how hot it can get in Vietnam! Fresh, seasonal fruit is common, and is the star of hoa qua dam. For the true experience, make sure there are layers: either shaved ice or cream, sweet fruit, and a healthy slathering of condensed milk.

10. Lau

This soup is not for the germaphobes out there. This is a communal dish with everyone digging their spoons and chopsticks in simultaneously. Steaming hot broth is used to cook vegetables and whatever meat you’d like, from vegetarian friendly tofu, to slivers of beef or shellfish, you can even find frogs being tossed in there. For the best experience, try not to mix too much: it’s best to pick one meat rather than a variety. After the fixings are gone, shamelessly slurp down the broth that has been flavoured with all the good stuff that’s already been devoured.

 

It’s okay to feel overwhelmed with options. Hundreds of years of history has culminated into some of the most exquisite, tantalizing food on the planet. Dive in head first into this foodie wonderland, and start planning your trip to Vietnam today with Trekeffect!

 

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Maria Tugayeva
Mariya is a Marketing guru and writer, with a world experience from living and growing up in different countries. Her work quote is: "In a word: pleasure. It's like, my pleasure in other people's leisure." -Daniel "Spud" Murphy, Trainspotting