When we visited Vietnam we often found it difficult when ordering food (besides Pho) as we didn’t really know what the traditional Vietnamese dishes were. So, to help you make the dining experience easier we put together this list of the best Vietnamese food and traditional Vietnamese cuisine to help you eat well. We’ve also included links to our favorite Vietnamese recipes so you can try to make them at home.
Traditional Vietnamese Cuisine
Did you know that Vietnamese culture is one of the oldest in all Southeast Asia? This impressive feat has given the Vietnamese people plenty of time to master their art of cooking. Today, the best Vietnamese food staples are in restaurants in many major cities around the world.
In this article, we’ll be exploring famous Vietnamese dishes from noodle soups to popular Vietnamese street food. You’ll have the opportunity to find out not only what ingredients are in each dish, but also the history and tastes behind every dish. To start off our discussion, we’ll begin with Bun Cha, a flavorful and simple dish and also a very popular food in Vietnam.
1. Bun Cha (Vietnamese Meat Balls)
Bun Cha has roots in Hanoi, which is the capital of Vietnam. If you’ve ever visited Hanoi, you may know that you can find bun cha on any street you pass. It is a traditional Vietnamese dish that remains a popular Vietnamese street food today.
Bun Cha is essentially a noodle dish filled with meatballs, broth, herbs, and spices. The dish is made by making flat patties out of ground pork in a mixture of fish sauce, sugar, and spices. You then grill the pork until it is caramelized and slightly charred. The pork meatballs are then served with a bowl of rice vermicelli noodles, fresh greens, and sometimes herbs, along with a dipping sauce made from a mixture of fish sauce, sugar, garlic, and vinegar.
What I love about Bun Cha is it has this great taste, with a balance of sweet, salty, sour, and spicy flavors. It is no wonder that it is considered one of the most delicious traditional Vietnamese dishes. Make these at home with this delicious recipe!
2. Banh Mi (Vietnamese Baguette)
Banh Mi is another popular food in Vietnam and could easily be mistaken for a baguette by the untrained eye. What gives away its origins is that it is significantly shorter than a traditional French baguette. This similarity is not a coincidence since it is a product of the French introducing baguettes to the Vietnamese during the 1800s.
Along with the baguettes, the French also brought their love of sandwiches to Vietnam. However, over time, the Vietnamese departed from ham and cheese sandwiches which were, and still are, a favorite of the French. Instead, they incorporated their own flavors into their own Vietnamese baguette. The dish originated in Saigon, Vietnam (now known as Ho Chi Minh City), and is widely enjoyed in Vietnam and other countries. Read more about Ho Chi Minh City at The Top Things to Do in Ho Chi Minh City
To make Bánh Mì, a baguette is split open and filled with meats, such as grilled pork or chicken pâté, pickled vegetables like carrots and daikon, fresh herbs like cilantro and mint, and sauces such as mayonnaise and chili sauce. The sandwich is then toasted to warm the ingredients, before being served. These sandwiches may be filled with pork, cucumbers, sardines, or pickled carrots.
Bánh Mì can be found at restaurants and cafes and is a popular Vietnamese street food. It is a reasonably priced dish, with prices varying depending on the type of ingredients used. Follow the Recipe here to make your own at home.
3. Banh Xeo (Vietnamese Crepes)
Banh Xeo may look like an omelet, but it’s not the kind of omelet you might know. Instead of fluffy and sugary, it is made from rice flour and turmeric along with water to turn the mixture into a smooth batter.
This traditional Vietnamese food takes a little more effort to make at home than the previous dish. To make Banh Xeo, you first make a batter by mixing rice flour, coconut milk, turmeric, and salt. Then pour it into a pan and make a thin crepe. Add the pork, shrimp, mung bean, bean sprouts, and some green onion in the center of the crepe, which is then folded in half to seal the filling inside. The Banh Xeo is then fried until crispy and golden brown on both sides.
When you serve Banh Xeo make sure to have lettuce leaves and herbs, which are used to wrap the crepe, along with dipping sauces like nuoc cham or a sweet chili sauce. To eat it, cut off a larger-than-bite-sized piece, wrap it in the lettuce leaves or rice paper, and dip it into the sauce before taking a bite. Delicious.
Banh Xeo is undoubtedly a savory rather than a sweet dish. It reminds me of an omelet but it doesn’t use any eggs. You are going to love them, especially if you try this recipe!
4. Bun Bo Hue (Spicy Beef & Pork Rice Noodles Soup)
If you are looking for the best food in Vietnam in soup form, look no further than bun bo hue. Its name pays homage to its origins since this dish comes from the city of Hue. However, this soup is not for the picky eater since it is often made with pig knuckles and congealed blood. This definitely qualifies as a traditional Vietnamese food.
It is known for its spicy and flavorful broth made from a combination of beef and pork bones, lemongrass, and a variety of spices such as chili pepper, shrimp paste, and garlic.
To make Bun Bo Hue, the broth is first simmered for several hours to extract the flavors from the bones and spices. The noodles used for the dish are thick and round, made from rice flour and tapioca flour. The noodles are then cooked in boiling water until they are soft and tender.
In addition to the noodles, the broth is typically served with a variety of ingredients, including thinly sliced beef, round slices of cooked ham, and pig’s blood cubes. The dish is also often topped with herbs like mint, basil, and cilantro, as well as bean sprouts, lime wedges, and chili peppers.
Don’t let the ingredients dissuade you from trying bun bo hue, however. This soup contains an amazing mix of umami flavors and lemongrass as well as a spicy kick. Bun bo hue is filled with rice noodles and a variety of vegetables such as red cabbage, cilantro, basil, and mint.
5. Pho (Noodle soup)
More likely than not, you’ve already heard of pho. It is one of Vietnam’s most popular soups next to bun bo hue. It is also a great alternative if bun bo hue sounds a little too much for you.
What really makes Pho so good, like most Vietnamese soups is the broth. You have to simmer beef bones and aromatic spices such as cinnamon, star anise, cloves, and ginger for several hours. This really creates that rich, savory broth that is the foundation of the dish.
Once the broth is ready to go, place the noodles in a bowl and pour it over them. Then add your favorite ingredients, I like to use thin slices of raw beef or cooked chicken, and then add the flavor explosion of basil, cilantro, and mint, as well as bean sprouts, lime wedges, and chili peppers.
Depending on where you get your pho, it could be mild or very spicy. The dish can be customized to individual tastes, with options for adding additional ingredients such as hoisin sauce, sriracha, or chili paste to adjust the level of spice or sweetness. Try making it at home
6. Banh Cuon (Rice Rolls)
Banh Cuon are rolls of fermented rice batter made into rice paper. It is a typical Vietnamese food you simply cannot pass up. The Vietnamese rice paper wraps up little balls of pork and minced mushrooms, resulting in little packets of flavor.
Making Banh Cuon takes a little finesse as you are working with a really thin batter that is made up of rice flour, water, and a pinch of salt. You then pour it onto a large, flat steamer basket and steam it until it is cooked through and translucent. Then add your filling of seasoned minced pork, mushrooms, and minced onions onto one half then fold it over to seal it.
When you serve the Banh Cuon top it with chopped herbs, bean sprouts, and cucumber slices. It is best when served with a dipping sauce that is made up of fish sauce, vinegar, and chili peppers.
These rolls need to be cooked very carefully because the batter is so thin. Because of this, they are briefly steamed and soon ready to eat. They are the perfect dish to make at home.
7. Che (Sweet Pudding)
Have you ever heard of a dessert soup? Vietnamese Che is precisely that. While chè has some savory hints, it is mostly a sweet dish. This is because coconut milk and tapioca fruit are some of the main ingredients of this soup. The savory ingredients include mung beans and vegetables. To make this recipe at home try this Che Bap Recipe for your own sweet corn pudding.
8. Mi Vit Tiem (Braised Duck Noodle Soup)
If you love duck, Mi Vit Tiem is what you’re looking for. It is another noodle soup but instead of sweet flavors, it boasts the savory flavors of roasted duck. Mi Vit Tiem has roots in Chinese cuisine, but there is undoubtedly a Vietnamese twist to it. Instead of rice noodles, egg noodles are used. This soup can also be quite spicy.
To make Mi Vit Tiem, the duck meat is first marinated in a mixture of spices and seasonings, then braised in a sauce made from soy sauce, rice wine, and other ingredients. The broth is made by simmering chicken or duck bones with spices, herbs, and seasonings until a rich and flavorful broth is produced. The egg noodles are then boiled and added to the broth along with the braised duck meat and vegetables.
It is known for its rich and savory flavor and is often enjoyed as a main course. The dish is typically served with a variety of herbs and dipping sauces on the side. Follow this traditional recipe to make it at home.
9. Hu Tieu (Pork and Seafood Noodle Soup)
On the other hand, if you want Vietnamese cuisine to warm you up, why not opt for Hu Tieu? It can be hard to find any single version of this noodle soup dish since it can vary so much from place to place, but every version has its own charm. It almost always contains pork and some kind of seafood. Hu Tieu is a pork bone soup. Beyond that, from the noodles to the vegetables and herbs, there is no standard recipe. So get creative and see if you can make your own hodge podge of goodness.
10. Goi Cuon (Vietnamese Spring Rolls)
What Vietnamese cuisine should you be looking for if you want something cool and refreshing? Goi Cuon is your answer. Goi Cuon is like a salad wrapped up in convenient rolls. These rice paper rolls are filled with seafood, leafy greens, and sometimes pork. There’s no better dish for a hot summer day. These are our favorite Vietnamese dishes to make at home. as they are so easy to eat. While traveling in Vietnam, they are a perfect alternative after you have been eating too much fried food. Follow this easy recipe to impress your friends.
11. Cao Lau
If you want to experiment with textures, Cau Lau is the perfect Vietnamese food for you. It consists of thick, chewy noodles and crunchy crackers. On the other hand, it also is full of succulent pork and broth. Try Cao Lau for a true gastronomical adventure. We had this quite a few times in Vietnam and loved it.
The dish is made with rice noodles that are soaked in a mixture of ash and water from a specific well in Hoi An. The noodles are then stir-fried with slices of pork, greens, and sometimes bean sprouts. The dish is topped with a broth made from a mixture of pork stock, soy sauce, and spices, and is finished with a sprinkle of crispy rice paper.
Cao Lau has a distinct flavor that is savory, salty, and slightly sweet, with a combination of textures from the chewy noodles, tender pork, and crispy fried noodles. Asian Inspirations has the full recipe to follow.
12. Ga Tan (Poached Chicken soup)
If you want to try some Vietnamese foods that are similar to your grandmother’s homemade soup, Ga Tan is what you’re looking for. It is a warm and very healthy soup sure to clear out your sinuses if you’re feeling stuffed up. This specialty has its roots in Hanoi and is fully stocked with chicken as well as herbs. The aroma and the taste of ga tan can do wonders.
Looking for more information about Vietnam? Read these articles to help with travel planning.
13. Ga Nuong (Barbeque Chicken)
Are you looking for sweet yet savory chicken? Ga Nuong is what you need. It is essentially Vietnam’s version of barbeque chicken with spices. You’ll be amazed at how Ga Nuong can cook for such a long time and still be succulent instead of dry. This is one of those Vietnamese dishes that really surprised us. It is a nice detour from all the soups.
14. Bot Chien (Fried Rice Cakes)
Bot Chien can be enjoyed in the morning or late at night. It is definitely our favorite fried food in Vietnam. It is a simple dish consisting of fried pieces of rice flour with egg mixed in. However, the refreshing flavors of accompanying papaya and vegetables can transform the flavors of Bot Chien into something wonderful.
15. Chao (Vietnamese Rice Porridge)
Chao might not seem very impressive to you. After all, it’s only porridge. However, this creamy dish is ideal if you’re not very hungry or are dealing with stomach troubles. You can easily make Chao more flavorful by adding meat and herbs. Hungry Huy has an easy-to-follow recipe here.
16. Lau (Hot Pot)
Lau is not something to be eaten alone. In fact, the making of Lau is a community experience surrounding a large, boiling pot. You’ll never eat the same Lau twice because of how much it can vary. One pot might be stuffed with tofu and another might be filled with fish. There are no limits when it comes to making Lau.
Looking for some vegetarian Vietnamese cuisine? Look no further than Com Chay. Com Chay is a crispy rice delight stuffed with imitation meat, although some places use the real deal. Because of this, make sure you know what you’re getting when you order com chay.
18. Bun Rieu (Crab Noodle Soup)
Are you hungry for lunch and don’t know what to eat? Do you also love seafood? Why not choose Bun Rieu? This crab and noodle soup is sure to delight your taste buds, especially if you like a crab. You’ll find that the type of noodles can vary greatly with this soup but the taste is incredible.
19. Dau Phu Sot Ca Chua (Fried Tofu in Tomato Sauce)
This is sure to be a favorite if you love tofu. Dau Phu Sot Ca Chua consists of deep-fried tofu chunks which are then drenched in tomato sauce. The tofu is then sprinkled with aromatic herbs. There’s no shortage of flavor with this tofu dish and it is easy to see why this is a popular food in Vietnam.
20. Bo Bit Tet (Vietnamese Beef Steak)
Craving something fast and greasy? You can find this steak and egg dish just about anywhere because of how easy it is to prepare. This thin steak often comes with eggs, metaballs, and freshly cooked potatoes.
21. Goi Xoai Xanh Tom Hap
Goi Xoai Xanh Tom Hap (Vietnamese Shrimp and Green Mango Salad) is a type of Vietnamese salad that is typically made with shredded green mango, boiled shrimp, and a dressing made from fish sauce, sugar, lime juice, and chili peppers. The origin of this dish is not specific to one city in Vietnam, and it can be found in various regions throughout the country.
To make Goi Xoai Xanh Tom Hap, the shredded green mango is tossed with boiled shrimp, fresh herbs such as mint and cilantro, and the dressing. The salad is then typically garnished with crushed peanuts and served as a light and refreshing dish.
Goi Xoai Xanh Tom Hap has a sweet and sour flavor, with a balance of tangy mango, savory shrimp, and spicy chili peppers. The crunchy texture of the green mango and crushed peanuts add an extra layer of texture to the dish.
22. Bánh Khot – Mini Vietnamese Crispy Pancakes
Bánh Khot is a popular Vietnamese dish made from a small, round, rice flour cake that is filled with seasoned whole or ground shrimp and then deep-fried until crispy. The cakes are usually served with a dipping sauce made from fish sauce, sugar, and chili peppers, and are often garnished with freshly chopped herbs such as mint and cilantro.
With its crispy exterior and a soft, savory filling with a balance of sweet, salty, and spicy flavors, Bánh Khot is the perfect snack. The dipping sauce provides a tangy contrast to the savory filling, while the herbs add a fresh, fragrant flavor.
Bánh Khot is sometimes referred to as Vietnamese shrimp pancakes or fried rice cakes. It is a popular Vietnamese street food snack and is also found in Vietnamese restaurants and Vietnamese food markets.
23. Banh Ghoi (Vietnamese Fried Dumpling)
Bánh Ghoi is a Vietnamese dish made from thin, round, rice flour cakes that are filled with seasoned ground pork and then deep-fried until crispy. The dish originated in the northern region of Vietnam and is a popular snack and street food item.
To make Bánh Ghoi, the rice flour cakes are filled with seasoned ground pork, rolled up, and then deep-fried. The dish is typically served with a dipping sauce made from fish sauce, sugar, and chili peppers, and is often garnished with freshly chopped herbs such as mint and cilantro.
Bánh Ghoi has a crispy exterior and a savory filling with a balance of sweet, salty, and spicy flavors. The dipping sauce provides a tangy and spicy contrast to the savory filling, while the herbs add a fresh, fragrant flavor.
24. Ban Hue
Banh Hue is a type of Vietnamese rice noodle soup that originated in the central region of Vietnam. It is made by simmering beef or pork broth with lemongrass, shrimp paste, and spices, then adding rice noodles and various toppings such as sliced pork, shrimp, and bean sprouts. The soup is typically served with a side of fresh herbs such as basil, cilantro, and mint, and a squeeze of lime juice to add brightness and acidity to the dish.
Banh Hue has a flavorful, savory broth that is slightly sour and spicy, and the toppings provide texture and crunch. The noodles are soft and chewy, and the herbs add a fresh, bright flavor to the dish.
Yes, Banh Hue comes in different types, including vegetarian versions that use a mushroom broth instead of meat broth, and variations with different toppings such as beef, seafood, or meatballs. There are also regional variations of Banh Hue that use different ingredients and spices, reflecting the local cuisine of different parts of Vietnam.
25. Mi Xao Mem (Traditional Vietnamese Stir-Fried Noodles)
Mi Xao Mem is a traditional Vietnamese dish made from stir-fried egg noodles and a variety of ingredients such as meats, seafood, vegetables, and spices. The dish originated in the southern region of Vietnam and is popular street food and a home-cooked meal.
To make Mi Xao Mem, the egg noodles are stir-fried with ingredients such as beef, chicken, shrimp, or tofu, along with a variety of vegetables such as carrots, onions, bell peppers, and mushrooms. The stir-fry is seasoned with spices and sauces to create a flavorful and savory dish. It is often served with a garnish of fresh herbs such as mint or cilantro.
26. Bun Dau Mom Tom
Bun Dau Mom Tom (Vietnamese rice Vermicelli with Shrimp Sauce) is a Vietnamese noodle dish made from vermicelli noodles served with a spicy, savory sauce made from fermented shrimp paste and topped with deep-fried tofu and boiled shrimp.
It has a unique combination of chewy noodles and spicy, savory sauce, with a balance of sweet, salty, and spicy flavors. The deep-fried tofu and boiled shrimp provide a crispy and tender contrast to the noodles, and the fresh herbs add a fragrant, refreshing flavor.
Bun Dau Mom Tom can be found at street food stalls, Vietnamese food markets, and Vietnamese restaurants, and is typically a reasonably priced dish.
27. White Rose Dumplings
White Rose Dumplings are made from a mixture of ground pork and shrimp, combined with mushrooms, vermicelli noodles, and seasonings, and wrapped in a thin, translucent dough made from tapioca flour. They are typically served with a dipping sauce made from soy sauce, vinegar, and chili. The taste of White Rose Dumplings is described as savory, slightly sweet, and a little bit sour, with a chewy texture from the tapioca flour dough and a satisfying filling of seasoned meat and mushrooms.
28. Chao Tom
Chao Tom is a type of Vietnamese dish that originated in the southern part of Vietnam. It is made by grinding cooked prawns with sugar, salt, and spices to form a mixture, which is then shaped around sugarcane sticks and grilled until golden and crisp. The grilled prawn mixture is then dipped in a sweet and savory sauce made from fish sauce, sugar, and lime juice.
Chao Tom has a unique texture, with a crisp exterior and a tender, juicy interior. The combination of sweet and savory flavors in the sauce balances well with the natural sweetness of the prawns. The sugarcane stick provides a crunchy texture, and the dish is typically served with fresh herbs such as mint and cilantro to add a fresh, bright flavor.
There are different types of Chao Tom that use different ingredients, such as minced chicken or beef, in place of prawns, or different seasonings and spices to vary the flavor profile. Additionally, there are regional variations of the dish in Vietnam that reflect local ingredients and culinary traditions.
29. Mi Quang
Mi Quang is a type of Vietnamese rice noodle dish that originated in the central region of Vietnam’s Quang Nam Province. A quintessential Da Nang food It is made with a mixture of rice noodles, various toppings such as sliced pork, shrimp, quail eggs, bean sprouts, and a flavorful broth made with chicken or beef broth, turmeric, and spices.
The dish is typically topped with crushed peanuts, crispy fried onions, and fresh herbs such as cilantro and basil, and served with a side of fresh vegetables and a lime wedge.
Mi Quang has a rich, savory broth with a slightly spicy and slightly sweet flavor, and the toppings provide a mix of textures, with the soft noodles and tender meats contrasting with the crunchy peanuts and crisp vegetables. The fresh herbs and lime juice add a bright, acidic flavor to the dish.
There are different types of Mi Quang that use different ingredients, such as seafood or vegetarian versions that use mushrooms or tofu as the main topping, and regional variations that use different spices and seasonings to reflect local culinary traditions. There are variations that incorporate different types of noodles, such as egg noodles or glass noodles, in place of traditional rice noodles.
30. Banh Beo (Vietnamese Steamed Rice Cake)
Banh Beo is a type of Vietnamese steamed rice. It is made by mixing rice flour with water to form a batter, which is then steamed in small, shallow dishes until set. The cake is then topped with various ingredients such as chopped shrimp, pork cracklings, scallions, and a savory sauce made from Vietnamese fish sauce, sugar, and lime juice. The dish is typically served as an appetizer or snack and is often enjoyed with a cold Tiger beer or other refreshing beverages.
Banh Beo has a soft, delicate texture with a subtle sweetness from the rice flour, and the toppings provide a variety of flavors and textures, including savory shrimp, crunchy pork cracklings, and bright, acidic sauce.
This popular Vietnamese food is enjoyed for its delicate, subtle flavor and unique texture, and is a staple of the central region’s cuisine. Banh Beo is also favored for its versatility, as it can be made with a variety of toppings to suit different tastes and preferences. Additionally, Banh Beo is a traditional and cultural dish in Vietnam and is often served at family gatherings and special occasions.
31. Goi Cá Mai – Vietnamese Raw Fish Roll
Goi Cá Mai is a type of Vietnamese salad that originated in the central region of Vietnam. It is made by combining thin slices of raw fish (often catfish or snakehead fish) with fresh herbs such as mint, cilantro, and basil, shredded green papaya, and a dressing made from fish sauce, sugar, lime juice, and chili peppers. The salad is typically served cold and is garnished with crushed peanuts and crispy fried onions.
The thin slices of raw fish provide a delicate, tender texture, while the fresh herbs and green papaya add a crisp, crunchy texture. The crushed peanuts and fried onions add even more depth and texture to the flavor of the dish.
Goi Cá Mai can be found at Vietnamese restaurants and street food stalls, especially in the central region of Vietnam where the dish originated. It is also a popular dish in Vietnamese communities around the world and can be found at specialty Vietnamese restaurants and food markets. If you are looking to try Goi Cá Mai, it is recommended to seek out a reputable Vietnamese restaurant that serves authentic dishes.
32. Com Tam (Traditional Vietnamese Broken Rice)
Com Tam, also known as broken rice, is a traditional Vietnamese food that originated in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. It is made by cooking short-grain glutinous rice and then breaking it into small pieces, which are then served with a variety of toppings such as grilled pork, steamed eggs, and pickled vegetables.
Broken Rice is typically garnished with a sauce made from fish sauce, sugar, and lime juice, and is often served with a side of freshly cooked greens such as morning glory.
Com Tam has a soft, slightly chewy texture and a mild, slightly sweet flavor. The toppings provide a variety of flavors and textures, including savory grilled pork, creamy steamed eggs, and tangy pickled vegetables. The sauce adds a balance of salty, sweet, and sour flavors to the dish.
33. Xôi Vietnamese Sticky Rice
Vietnamese sticky rice
34. Chè Ba Màu
The beautiful three-colored dessert, chè ba màu is often called the rainbow dessert. This is a layered spectacle of red beans, mashed mung beans, and pandan jelly, topped with crushed ice and coconut milk.
Finding The Best Food in Vietnam
By the end of this article, you know all about the best Vietnamese food around. If you want to try some amazing new dishes, look no further than Vietnamese cuisine.