Where to eat in Vietnam, so having previously lived in Vietnam, I thought I’ll list some of the best foods of Vietnam (in my opinion). The best food and cheapest is by far the food on the street (street food stores) or food sold in front of a locals house that they turn into a “Quán An” or in English “Restaurant”.
Without further adieu, here is my list of the most popular and favourite dishes enjoyed by the local Vietnamese people.
Phở (Vietnamese rice noodle soup) – Pho is Vietnamese rice noodle soup made with either beef broth (phở bò) or chicken broth (phở gà). The soup consists of rice noodles, beef or chicken eaten with bean sprouts and basil. You will find Pho throughout Vietnam, but the best place for Pho is in the northern parts of Vietnam since this is where it originated.
Major cities in the north such as Hanoi or Hai Phong have plenty of restaurants or street stores you can try. If you can’t make it up north, then there is a famous Pho restaurant in Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) you may want to visit called Phơ Hoà Pastuer, it’s very popular with the local people.
Bánh đa cua (Crab Noodle Soup) – Besides Pho, this is probably one of my favourite noodle soups in Vietnam, mainly because I grew up with it and the fact my mum used to sell this dish for a living before we left Vietnam. The broth is made from crabmeat, tomato, and vegetables served with Chả lá lốt (pork wrap in betel leaf) or Chả lụa (pork ham) as toppings.
What’s special about this soup is the broth and red rice noodle, its different to Pho and in my opinion taste better. If you don’t like the red rice noodle, this dish also comes in vermicelli noodles called “Bún riêu cua”.
If you want to try this soup you will have to go to Hai Phong, a city about 2 hours from Hanoi, as this is where this dish originated.
Bún thịt nướng/Bún chả (Grilled Pork with Vermicelli Noodles) – Another one of my favourite dishes. The pork is grilled and served with vermicelli noodles and vegetables. You eat the grilled pork with dry vermicelli noodles and marinated fish sauce
Generally this dish is more popular in the northern parts of Vietnam particularly Hanoi. A popular restaurant where all the locals go to in Hanoi is called Bún Chả Hàng Mành.
Bún chả ca (Fish Noodle Soup) – This soup is popular in central Vietnam particularly the city Danang. The broth is made with fish, tomato, vegetables and other herbs. Toppings include fish cake, fish meat and pork wrap in betel leaf. You will find various places in Vietnam that sell this soup either in a restaurant or on the street. Most of the major cities like Ho Chi Minh City, Hanoi, Hai Phong, and Danang will have this soup.
Bánh mì pâté (Vietnamese Baguette with Pate) – People often get mix-up between Banh mi pate and the Pork rolls here in Australia. Banh mi pate is very simple and only contains pate with shredded pork toppings. The baguette is usually in the oven ready for serving making it very crunchy and tasty with the pate and shredded pork.
When you order this dish, make sure you also get a glass of soymilk to go with it! Its something all locals do and this combination goes very well together. You will find this dish mainly in the northern parts of Vietnam (Hanoi, Hai Phong), but if you ask around you will be able to find this in Ho Chi Minh City as well.
Bánh cuốn (Vietnamese steamed rice rolls) – Banh cuon usually comes in two types, plain rice rolls or rice rolls filled with mince pork, mushrooms, and fried shallots. Banh cuon is served with Giò lụa or Chả lụa (Vietnamese pork ham) with marinated fish sauce.
This dish is usually eaten for breakfast, but you will be able to find this during the day in some restaurants. This dish originated from northern Vietnam so your best bet is to go up north. However, the south of Vietnam has lots of northern people living in Ho Chi Minh City so you should be able to locate this popular dish.
Ốc luộc (Boiled snails) – In Australia after a late night out we often go to McDonalds for a burger or grab a kebab for a late night feed. In Vietnam boiled snails is one of the dishes the locals eat after a night out. You’re probably thinking snails? Don’t ask me why locals here eat this, but you just have to try it.
Lets just say it won’t get you anywhere near sober but it will get your taste buds wanting more food. Boiled snails are available in most major cities in Vietnam, however the cooking styles will vary depending on the region. In the northern parts of Vietnam snails are usually boiled and eaten with marinated fish sauce.
In the southern parts of Vietnam i.e. Ho Chi Minh City, snails are cooked using western ingredients such as coconut, chilli, onions, butter and garlic. Both styles are delicious! To truly experience good snail dishes, you must eat them from the street stores just like all the locals.
Mực nướng (Grilled dry squid) – Muc Nuong is squid that has been dried before being grilled and ripped into pieces eaten with chilli sauce along with a nice cold beer. This is a very popular and lighthearted dish, usually eaten for entrée or as “nhậu” by the local people. Nhau refers to “eating and drinking” in the Vietnamese culture. This dish is everywhere in Vietnam and is best eaten from street stores.
Bánh xèo (Vietnamese sizzling crepes) – Banh xeo is Vietnamese crepes filled with pork, shrimp, onions, mushroom and bean sprouts. This dish is popular throughout the country and can be found in most of the major cities. The best place to eat this dish is in the south of Vietnam particularly Ho Chi Minh City because this is where the dish originated.
Hủ Tiêu’ (glass noodle soup) - Hu Tieu is a popular noodle dish in the south of Vietnam. The soup is made from pork broth serve with prawns, wontons, boneless pork, fried garlic and shallots as toppings. This is another one of my favourite soups in the south and I often have this when I’m visiting Ho Chi Minh City.
You can have Hu Tieu in two ways, one with the soup and the other without the soup (dry Hu Tieu). Both taste delicious so I recommend getting both :). (Portions are quite small so you can easily down 2 bowls) I often visit a restaurant calledHủ Tiêu’ Nhân Quán when I’m in Ho Chi Minh City. (Address: A67 Nguyễn Trãi, Phường Nguyễn Cư Trinh, Quận 1 – Hồ Chí Minh)
Cơm sườn (Vietnamese grilled pork with broken rice) – if you’re a Vietnamese food lover you would have probably tasted this dish. It’s a common dish in pretty much all Vietnamese restaurants in Australia. Com suon is marinated grilled pork serve with fried egg and rice. You will find this dish throughout Vietnam but the best Com suon I’ve tasted is in Ho Chi Minh City.
Bún bò Huế (Hue style beef noodle soup) – Bun Bo Hue originated from central Vietnam in the city Huế. The broth is made from beef bones and beef shanks serve with vermicelli noodles and beef slices. This soup is quite hot so beware if you cannot handle the chilli. You should be able find this soup in Ho Chi Minh City but the best Bun Bo Hue off course is in its hometown Huế.
Cháo long/Cháo Sườn (Rice Porridge) – Chao is Vietnamese rice porridge and can be cooked in a few different ways. The two most popular is Chao long and Chao suon.
Chao long is cooked using the innards of a pig such as liver, intestine, stomach, and overcook rice that becomes mashie then eaten with fried dough and “Huyet” (pig’s blood). Sounds yummy right? This dish is not for everyone but it’s a very popular breakfast dish with the locals and apparently its healthy for you.
Chao suon on the other hand is my favourite out of the two. It is cooked with the good stuff, pork bones and pork meat. It has an amazing smell to it and taste delicious! Chao is available throughout Vietnam and the taste will vary between the different cities.
Đồ Biển (seafood) – You can’t go to Vietnam and not eat seafood, after all it’s much cheaper than Australia. There are plenty of coastal places in Vietnam with plenty of seafood to offer. In the south you can go to Vung Tau, Mekong Delta and Nha Trang.
In the north you have Do Son Beach located in Hai Phong, Cat Ba and the world famous Ha Long Bay. All these places have all kinds of seafood on offer, so make sure you buy and grill some fresh seafood.
Cafe Sữa Đá (Vietnamese coffee with condense milk) – Finally I’ll finish the list with a local favourite drink. Even if you’re not a coffee drinker Café Sua Da is something you must try. Vietnamese people drink this every day of the week. It’s a very simple drink, a mixed of coffee, ice and condense milk. I drink this all time when I’m in Vietnam. All tourists should drink this just to feel like a local :).
Well there you have it! Off course there are plenty of other delicious foods I have not listed but these above dishes are most common and loved by the locals. So next time you’re in Vietnam ask your taxi driver to take you to the best restaurants or street store they know of, you will truly experience Vietnamese food!