10 Best Vietnamese Food to Start Exploring Vietnamese Cuisine

10 Best Vietnamese Food That You Have to Try

Taste (and learn) why Vietnamese cuisine is exploding in popularity among international foodies!

Picking the best Vietnamese food is tough to do because there are just so many to choose from. It is a cuisine that highlights the flavours of fresh ingredients harmonising together to create balance for both the palate and the stomach. Going through the best Vietnamese dishes is also a great way to learn about their history and culture.

Vietnamese cuisine draws inspiration from its heritage and its local geographical qualities. Differences found in these dishes range from alternate ingredients or cooking techniques that could be both native to the region. Try to go through and explore these dishes and you’ll understand why the country’s cuisine is constantly gaining popularity across the world.

Popular Vietnamese food you have probably tried before

1. Phở

Pho as one of the best vietnamese food

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When you think of Vietnamese cuisine, chances are, this noodle soup is the first thing in your mind. Phở is the most popular dish outside of Vietnam and it is a great introduction to the principles of Vietnamese cuisine. It is hearty in nature, with its flavours coming from the freshness of its ingredients as well as the techniques used in creating the broth.

Phở is said to have originated in North Vietnam and once it gained popularity in the south, it has since evolved into the dish that we love today. Typically, a bowl of phở made from the north is simple. It doesn’t have a lot of vegetables, just thinly sliced beef and some minced ginger on top. It is usually accompanied by fresh chilis and lime for the diner’s preference. A bowl from the south, on the other hand, makes use of fresh vegetables as its ingredients: basil leaves, bean sprouts, and saw herbs, just to name a few.

Whatever preference your phở bowls lie, one thing is certain: it is undeniably delicious.

Also read: 10 Delicious Foods to Try in Hanoi, Vietnam as Recommended by a Local

2. Bánh mì

Banh mi vietnamese cuisine

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The other popular Vietnamese food apart from phở is their humble sandwich, bánh mì. It owes its roots to the country’s French colonial history. When the baguette was first introduced in Vietnam, they usually ate it with their cold cuts, cheese, butter, and liver spread. The sandwich was first born in Saigon, but its popularity spread fast through food carts.

Bánh mì is a combination of delicious flavours packed inside diverse textures. The airy and crunchy baguette is filled with tender meats and fresh vegetables that harmonise together to create a sweet, savoury, flavour profile, with hints of citrus on occasion. Its most popular proteins of choice are typically Vietnamese ham, grilled pork, or chicken. These are usually paired with sliced cucumbers, pickled carrots, and daikon.

Bánh mì has since grown popular around the world and its flexibility has helped tailor international versions of the sandwich.

3. Gỏi cuốn (Fresh spring rolls)

Gỏi cuốn (Fresh spring rolls) best vietnamese food

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Gỏi cuốn are salad rolls that are very easy to eat and prepare. Legend has it that in times of war, soldiers were packed with rations of gỏi cuốn because they’re light to eat and are sustainable. They can also be enjoyed even when they’re cold which gives them a reputation for being complete meals on the go.

These salad rolls consist of protein and vegetables housed inside a rice wrapper. The most popular filling is usually shrimp, lettuce, and vermicelli. But as with most Vietnamese dishes, recipes are not as rigid and can be made with ingredients that are up to the diner’s preference. There are even variants with fruits inside them!

Try out a shrimp and pomelo gỏi cuốn dipped in sweet and spicy vinegar and prepare yourself for a culinary experience like no other!

4. Gỏi bưởi tôm (Pomelo salad with shrimp)

Gỏi bưởi tôm (Pomelo salad with shrimp) best vietnamese food

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Speaking of shrimp and pomelo, this humble salad is easy to prepare and a joy to eat, especially with friends and family. Gỏi bưởi tôm are usually made with seared or steamed shrimps or scallops tossed with pomelo and assorted herbs and vegetables. It is then dressed with a lovely combination of lime, chilli, garlic, and fish sauce.

This salad is unbelievably aromatic and fragrant. The sweetness of pomelo comes out, while the seared seafood and dressing complement the fruit with a slight acidity. It is also a joy to eat, as the contrasting textures of the firm seafood and juicy pomelo create a beautiful dance of flavours inside the mouth. 

For an added flair to your presentation, you can have it served inside the pomelo husk!

The best Vietnamese dishes that you need to try

5. Bún chả (Vietnamese meatballs)

Bún chả (Vietnamese meatballs) vietnamese noodle

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Bún chả made its name in the West when the late chef and writer Anthony Bourdain had this served when dining with former President Barack Obama in a local restaurant in Hanoi.

It is a staple of Hanoi cuisine and is made of seasoned pork patties served with vermicelli noodles, and a rich broth. These are often caramelised and seasoned with traditional Vietnamese flavours like lime, chillis, and fish sauce. The noodles and the pork are made to be dipped in broth. For something packed with a lot of flavour, bún chả brings out the very best of its ingredients to create something nutritious, delicious, and simple.

Also read: Food Guide to Northern Vietnam: Top Local Dishes to Try!

6. Bún riêu (Crab noodle soup)

Bún riêu (Crab noodle soup) vietnamese cuisine

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The bún riêu is another Vietnamese noodle soup that is popular with locals during the summer. Made with tomato broth and freshwater crab broth topped with congealed pig’s blood and fresh vegetables, this rice vermicelli noodle soup is rich in taste but light and easy to eat. The best thing about bún riêu is that while it is delicious, it is just as nutritious, with crushed crab shells providing calcium, the pig’s blood with iron, and vitamins from the abundance of vegetables.

Also read: Could Hanoi in Vietnam Be Another Garden City in the Making?

7. Bánh xèo (Rice pancakes)

Bánh xèo (Rice pancakes) popular vietnamese dishes

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While there are variants of this dish that can also be found in neighbouring countries like Cambodia, China, and Thailand, the unassuming bánh xèo is said to have originated from Central Vietnam. This crispy rice flour pancake is a popular snack on the streets of Vietnam but you may find some included in restaurant menus as well. Bánh xèo literally means “sizzling cake”, presumably derived from the sound it makes when it is being cooked on a heated skillet.

These delicious snacks differ in filling depending on which region of Vietnam you’ll have them. In Central Vietnam, most chefs would include bananas and star fruit, while the South Vietnam version will incorporate mushrooms or coconut. The bánh xèo’s versatility is proof enough that anyone will enjoy Vietnamese dishes and can be adjusted according to your liking.

8. Cua rang me (Tamarind crab)

Cua rang me (Tamarind crab) popular vietnamese foood

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Despite the simplicity in cooking the cua rang me, the dish is a great example of the complex flavour profile that Vietnamese cuisine has. Known among English speakers as tamarind crab, this simple dish breaks down the crab which will then be deep-fried. It is then stir-fried with a sauce made with the finest flavours that you can taste in the best Vietnamese food. The result is a variety of flavours, ranging from sweet, salty, sour, and savoury tastes infusing the light taste of crab.

9. Bò kho (Braised beef stew)

Bò kho (Braised beef stew)

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Bò kho is a meticulous dish that is filled with complex flavours. This traditional dish is said to be from Saigon, but has since been adapted by other regions. It is a showcase of the flavours and techniques found among the best Vietnamese food.

Braised beef is the star of this hearty soup. This protein is marinated by the intense flavours of basil, cilantro, lemongrass, fish sauce, star anise, and sometimes, even cinnamon. It is usually cooked for hours to make sure that the beef will be at its most tender. This creates a seamless harmony between the beef and the broth. It is traditionally served with noodles or baguettes and a dish of assorted vegetables.

10. Cơm gà (Chicken over turmeric rice)

Cơm gà (Chicken over turmeric rice)

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Cơm gà is another simple dish that is popular in any region of Vietnam. This is the Vietnamese version of chicken and rice but with the addition of wonderful Vietnamese ingredients. Strips of chicken are laid over a bed of turmeric rice and are served with pickled daikon radish, shallots, and herbs to give a fresh zest to cut through the turmeric rice and chicken. It is best enjoyed when it’s spicy!

Also read: Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh: Which City in Vietnam Is Perfect for You?

It is tough to pick the best Vietnamese food out of a diverse cuisine because there is just so much to explore. It is likely that you will find something that you will love because there are just so many options. So when you begin your culinary adventure in Vietnamese cuisine, prepare for pleasant and often nutritious surprises!

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About Author

Aldous Vince Cabildo
Aldous Vince Cabildo

Ever since growing up, Aldous learned how to look at things from an historical perspective. So whenever the opportunity to travel arises, he makes sure to go to places that contain local stories and memories. From there, he takes in the lessons from the past and picks out what to learn, or should it interest him, what to unlearn. At any chance he gets, he also makes sure to try out local cuisine. When not charting his next destination, Aldous likes to explore worlds found in video games, hip-hop, film, and professional wrestling. He is a proud resident of Tondo.