10 Vietnamese dishes you need to try
Vietnamese cuisine is known for its unique blend of textures and flavours, combining sweet, sour, spicy and salty, with fresh ingredients and herbs (and plenty of fish sauce). When thinking of Vietnamese food, most would think of the very popular Pho. However, there is so many more tasty and dishes to Vietnamese cuisine.
Here are ten classic Vietnamese dishes to try:
1. Pho: An aromatic noodle soup with rice noodles. It is a fresh and healthy dish – packed with vitamins and minerals – and is actually the national dish of Vietnam. It consists of a tangy base meat stock, seasoned with pungent fish sauce, then layered aromatics, often lemongrass or star anise; fresh herbs such as mint or coriander; a spicy kick of chilli, and a refreshing squeeze of lime juice. It is usually served with meat – traditionally beef. It is comforting and warming, full of fresh ingredients, and definitely a must try this winter.
2. Banh Xeo: Literally translated as ‘sizzling cake’, Banh Xeo is a South East Asian take on a crepe – showing French influence from colonial times on Vietnamese cuisine. A delicious, yellow coloured
crispy crepe, made with rice flour, water and turmeric. It is a simple dish, usually stuffed with pork, prawns, onions and beansprouts.
3. Bun Cha: Originating in Hanoi, Bun Cha is a very popular dish in Northern Vietnam. It consists of grilled meatballs made from fatty pork (cha) served over white rice noodles (bun) and herbs. It is usually served with a dipping sauce or sweet and sour broth.
4. Com Tam: Literally meaning ‘broken rice’, it is a dish made from rice with rice grains broken up into smaller pieces. It is especially served in southern Vietnam and Saigon, served with grilled pork ribs or shredded pork, pork skin, pickled vegetables, grilled prawns, fried egg, and various vegetables.
5. Cao Lau: A regional Vietnamese dish from Hoi An. Hoi An was an important port from the 15th to 18th century – a melting pot, with many different international influences which extended to food. Cao Lau is Hoi An’s signature dish, consisting of thick rice noodles, thinly sliced pork cooked in the traditional Chinese method ‘char siu‘, fresh local greens and often bean sprouts. A fantastic combination of tastes and textures.
The noodles, similar to udon noodles, are surrounded by mystery, with a legendary tale surrounding them and the exact recipe known only to a few people. Cao Lau noodles are supposedly made using water only from the Ba Le well, an ancient Hoi An well. In addition, the water is also said to have to be mixed with a specific kind of ash in order to create a lye solution. This ash is said to come from a type of tree found on the Cham Islands, off Hoi An’s coast.
6. Goi Cuon: Meaning ‘salad rolls’ these are Vietnamese spring rolls. They are a very fresh and healthy traditional Vietnamese dish, consisting of pork, prawns and fresh herbs and vegetables wrapped in rice paper. They are usually served cold (not fried) with hoisin sauce on the side, and have become very popular in surrounding countries and the West.
7. Banh Mi: Essentially a Vietnamese-style sandwich, using French imported baguette as a base, filled with Vietnamese ingredients. The typical filling is pork prepared in different ways (pork belly, slices,
meatballs, liver paté) with vegetables and herbs – for example coriander, cucumber, shredded pickled carrots and daikon.
8. Banh Khot: A Vietnamese snack or light meal, Banh Khot are delicious bite sized fried pancakes from southern Vietnam, flavoured with turmeric and coconut milk, topped with prawns, herbs, vegetables and served with a sweet spicy fish dipping sauce.
9. Bo Kho: Vietnamese beef stew served with baguette bread. It is said to be inspired by French origins, but its fragrant and spicy flavours make it distinctly Vietnamese. It is a blend of hearty meat, aromatic spices, fresh herbs and vegetables and lime juice. It is a nourishing, comfort food kind of dish perfect for winter months.
10. Banh Cuon: Literally meaning ‘rolled cake’, Banh Cuon is a northern Vietnamese dish, generally eaten for breakfast. It consists of very delicate, thin steamed rice sheets filled with pork,
mushrooms and fried onions, eaten with ham, beansprouts and cucumbers.