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The best dishes to try in Vietnam

Vietnam's cuisine is one of the most well renowned globally for many reasons, and while you are there, you must try some of the most popular local dishes. Here are the best dishes to try in Vietnam.
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Vietnam Food

Like a lot of Southeast Asian food, Vietnamese food is very healthy and combines many in-season vegetables with delicious flavors and sometimes even a spicy kick; however, there might be some shocking things that you will regularly see on menus, and this we will delve into more later.

While in Vietnam, there are, of course, some main dishes which you must try before leaving. As food generally varies from region to region in countries, you can learn more about the local cuisine from a local ‘Destination Expert.’ Until then, we have a few must-try dishes that you will find almost everywhere in this culinary haven we call Vietnam.

Vietnam is famous for its many delicious meals, its food markets, its street food scene, and the somewhat startling options on their menus, but when you are there, we urge you to try these main dishes. The rest is up to you. You will find Vietnamese restaurants all over the world, and many of them will have these meals, but when you are at the source, you cannot leave without having the authentic version.

Vietnam food is renowned for having aromatic flavors. Many of these dishes contain lemongrass, ginger, mint, coriander, cinnamon, chili, lime, basil leaves, or even a few of these together, which makes them so flavorsome. The cuisine is centered around fresh vegetables, fish sauce, and rice noodles, which make it very low in sugar and gluten-free, so it is a cuisine that can suit just about everyone. 

With that in mind, here are the main dishes you must try in Vietnam.

Pho:

Pho
Good stuff at Pho Central in Davie Village

This ultra-famous Vietnamese soup dish can be found worldwide, with some restaurants dedicated to serving only Pho, but in Vietnam, you must try an authentic version, especially in the region of Hanoi. It consists of broth, rice noodles, herbs, and meat or can be made vegetarian. It can be found at street vendors, restaurants, and households all over the country and is known to be Vietnam’s national dish.

Banh Mi:

Banh Mi

Every country seems to have its version of a sandwich, and this is indeed the Vietnamese version. This is an iconic Vietnamese staple food and can be found everywhere. Ideal for an on-the-go snack, perfect to keep you going during your days of sightseeing and adventure.

Cao Lau:

Cao Lau

This noodle dish from Hoi An consists of rice noodles, green vegetables, and pork which is usually shredded; however, shrimp is not uncommon. 

Bun Bo Hue:

Bun Bo Hue

This spicy and salty noodle dish, which originates in the town of Hue, is generally a mix of beef, pork knuckles, and thick rice noodles and has a strong flavor of lemongrass, which makes it very wholesome, fresh and flavorsome meal to try in Vietnam.

Bun Cha:

Bun Cha
Eating delicious Vietnamese Bun Cha noodles with pork

These are technically Vietnamese meatballs, or at least pork patties, from the capital city of Hanoi but can be found everywhere in the country. Unlike many of the other dishes, which are super healthy, these meatballs consist of grilled fatty pork (Cha), which is laid on a bed of white rice noodles (Bun), which is where it got its name. After featuring on a popular television show, showcasing former president Obama and world-renowned chef Anthony Bourdain sharing this meal, Bun Cha rose to fame and is a meal you will see all around the country. 

Goi Cuon or Vietnamese Spring Rolls:

Goi Cuon Or Vietnamese Spring Rolls

These light, airy, and super healthy spring rolls are nothing like the usual spring rolls from Chinese cuisine. Instead, they consist of rice paper with pork, prawn, vegetables, and noodles in a see-through roll. These are a great snack or appetizer and are delicious with various dipping sauces. We urge you to try them all!

Rau Muong:

Rau Muong
Source: https://oivietnam.com/2017/08/ga-tan-recipe-month/

This healthy option contains water, spinach, garlic, salt, sugar, oyster sauce, and fish sauce, which are stir-fried together to create an aromatic, flavorsome meal. This meal which is sometimes referred to as ‘river weed,’ considering the water spinach grows in abundance in Vietnam, is very common, and you will find it in beer gardens and restaurants.

Ga Tan:

National Museum of Vietnamese History, Hanoi
Source: https://vietfuntravel.com/blog/museum-of-vietnamese-history-in-ho-chi-minh-city.html

This might not be one of the meals you will indulge in time and time again in Vietnam, but it is what the locals trust as a medicinal soup, just as chicken soup is used in western countries. This is the perfect meal to have if you feel like you are under the weather, and it is a must-try in Vietnam, considering it is a massive part of the culture and has been relied on for years to keep the locals feeling their best. 

Banh Xeo:

Banh Xeo

Craving a crepe while in Vietnam? Well, you must try this Vietnamese version, which contains pork, shrimp, and bean sprouts and must be eaten by cutting it into small pieces, wrapping them in rice paper, and dipping it in the local sauce, which the chef will decide on, wherever you are. Believe us. This is what the locals do!

Some strange menu options:

Vietnam Food

So, we have talked about all the main things you must try in Vietnam, but there are a few surprising things you will see on menus that are worth knowing about. In Vietnam, the consumption of dogs as a meat ingredient is widespread, just as it is in China, so be aware that you will see this a lot, especially on display at markets. 

As well as this, you might come across Vietnamese coconut worms, which are a trendy dish and are generally served alife in a bowl of fish sauce and red chili. It is not uncommon to see a hardboiled egg with a fully grown fetus inside, which can be horrifying, but others might be brave enough to try it. However, it is good to know that although most Vietnamese dishes are healthy and made of ‘normal’ ingredients, others can be quite the opposite, so keep your eyes open if that is not for you.

Culinary Tours and Cooking Classes

CULINARY TOURS AND COOKING CLASSES

There is no doubt that while you are on your epic Vietnamese adventure, you will come across a staple food you consistently order, and during your trip, you might even want to learn how to make it, and that is where a cooking class is a great idea. You will find cooking classes all over the country, and it is a great way to delve into the culture, learn a new skill and be able to make your favorite Vietnamese dish when you get home. 

There are plenty of culinary-centered tours when it comes to tours, which you should opt for if you are a real foody. Many of these will incorporate cooking classes, food markets, trips to organic farms, and a look at how the famous Vietnamese coffee is made. 

Here is a great one to consider if food is your thing.

Eating coconut in a Vietnamese street food market
Eating coconut in a Vietnamese street food market

A 15-day trip includes learning how to make local specialties, local coffee, and a visit to an organic farm.

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