Southeast Asia is famous for its diverse variety of local food; however, Vietnam is one of our favourites. Home to friendly locals, peaceful villages and bustling cities, there is a meal that even the pickiest eater will love! With a distinct use of fresh herbs and spices, combined with a carbohydrate and protein, every meal is a flavour explosion. We could go on and on, but here are ten things you must eat in Vietnam before you die.
1. Bánh Cuốn
The texture of bánh cuốn is soft, punctuated with an umami mix of pork mince and mushrooms. Rice flour pancakes are filled with this mixture and rolled up to be served fresh and hot. To make the perfect bite, dip it into nước chấm sauce.
2. Bánh Xèo
Bánh xèo is the sister pancake to the aforementioned bánh cuốn, except the crispy version. It is filled with prawns, pork and bean sprouts, served folded in half and almost resembling an omelette. How do you eat it? Cut it up, wrap in a lettuce leaf, dip in nước chấm sauce and enjoy.
3. Bún Chả
Bún chả was already much-loved by locals, but it shot to fame when featured on an episode of Anthony Bourdain’s ‘Parts Unknown’ series with Barack Obama in 2016. Charcoal-grilled pieces of pork and pork patties are served in a big bowl of dipping sauce along with a plate of rice noodles, fresh herbs and lettuce. The sweet and salty dipping sauce cuts through the deliciously fatty, smoky pork – making it a sought-after meal in Vietnam.
How could we leave phở off this list? Cheap, tasty and easily found on practically every street corner, a real Vietnamese experience is to pull up a short stool on the pavement and slurp away with the locals.
5. Báhn Mì
Due to its previous French influences, Vietnam has continued baking the humble, yet delicious, baguette. If you thought you knew sandwiches, think again! Báhn mì takes them to the next level. A crusty, fresh baguette is stuffed full of mayonnaise, pate, pickles, cucumber, herbs and your choice of protein. You will often see street carts selling these for just over $1!
6. Bún Bò Huế
As the name suggests, this soup noodle dish originates from Huế. Its beef broth is widely appreciated for its perfect balance of the four s’s: salty, spicy, sour and sweet. The noodles are thicker than those in phở and the meat is a combination of beef and pork; so is a heartier dish than phở.
We have been talking a lot about savoury meals, but what about dessert in Vietnam? You must try chè, a layered pudding made up of tapioca, bean jelly, coconut milk, fruit and ice. Served chilled, it’s the perfect way to cool down on a humid day.
A versatile sticky rice dish, xôi is traditionally eaten savoury for breakfast (with added protein) and sweet for dessert! Locals in Vietnam love to pick this up as an on-the-go snack as they go about their daily lives.
9. Cao Lầu
A bowl full of contrasts – cao lầu is soft from its thick noodles, crunchy from a scattering of peanuts and deep-fried wonton skins, spicy from the chillies and fresh from the Vietnamese herbs and broth. Delicious!
10. Chả Cá
Chả cá is Hanoi’s famous dish, so much so that there is a street dedicated to it! Pieces of fish are stir-fried with garlic, ginger, turmeric and dill and served on a hot plate to your table. The sound of it sizzling away will hit you before it makes an appearance!
Are you hungry yet? These are just some of the hundreds of meals you must eat in Vietnam before you die! Don’t miss out by booking a trip to Vietnam on an Avalon Waterways river cruise, or a Globus or Cosmos tour.