Adventures in Vietnamese Food

As we’ve mentioned in a few of our posts, when eating street food in Vietnam, most of the restaurants will specialize and sell only one or two dishes (except for in Hoi An, where most restaurants and street food stalls sell a wider variety of dishes). There is usually a sign outside of the restaurant indicating what food they’re selling (though sometimes they also have a larger menu inside), but the signs don’t explain what the foods are, they just list them. Because of this, if you don’t know what foods you’re looking for, it can be a little tricky. With the help of our Lonely Planet, a few other books/articles we read, and some reccos from friends, we put together a list of all the foods that we wanted to try and carried it around with us so we knew what we were looking for. Here’s a list of all the foods we tried and an explanation. Hopefully this will help anyone traveling to Vietnam (or just wanting to try different Vietnamese dishes) make a little more sense of them:

Bun Cha (ate in Hanoi but have seen all over): Bun Cha is probably my favorite dish we’ve tried in Vietnam. It’s BBQ pork in a great broth that is served with a plate of vermicelli noodles and fresh herbs on the side, which you add to the soup as you go.

Buon Cuon (ate in Hoi An, but have seen all over): These are steamed rice crepes filled with minced pork, mushroom, and ground shrimp. Not one of our favorite dishes we’ve tried, as we thought they tasted very fishy.

Pho Bo (can find all over): This is one of the most famous Vietnamese dishes and is delicious. It’s a hearty broth served with beef and flat noodles. It’s typically eaten for breakfast/lunch and can be a little hard to find if you want to try it for dinner.

Bahn Mi (can find all over in street stalls): Bahn Mi is the famous Vietnamese sandwich made on French bread and filled with different kinds of meats or egg, cucumber, lettuce, chili sauce (and a few other ingredients). You can get one for about a dollar on any street corner and they are amazing.

Nem (can find all over): Nem are spring rolls, either fried or fresh. They are filled with a variety of meats and/or veggies and are delicious regardless of the fillings and the type (fresh/fried).

Chao (ate in Danang, have seen sporadically all over): This is a savory porridge served with different kinds of seafood (we tried it with clam – actually, when we ordered it, we thought it was going to be clam chowder). It’s supposed to be the best cure for a cold or a hangover. I loved it, but Dave wasn’t crazy about it.

Bahn Bao Bahn Van (White Rose – Hoi An): It’s a dumpling filled with crushed shrimp and mix of spices. It was good, but I found it a little bland and a little mushy.

Cao Lau (Hoi An): This is probably the most famous dish in Hoi An and can be found everywhere there. It’s a more chewy noodle that comes with different kinds of meat (we had it with pork) and then herbs on top. It was delicious!

My Quang (Hoi An): Hoi An’s other very famous noodle dish, which are served al dente. It comes with pork, maybe shrimp, peanuts, veggies, herbs, and rice crackers. The flavor tasted pretty similar to Cao Lao for me, but has more other ingredients in it.

Fried Wantons (Hoi An): These are probably the best wantons I’ve ever had. They are very thin and filled with pork then topped with the Vietnamese chili sauce (see below). They are amazing!!

Com Ga (chicken rice – Hoi An): Yellow rice that’s simmered with turmeric and coconut milk and then cooked with chicken stock. The rice is soft and fluffy and the chicken is very tender. More of a Muslim dish than Vietnamese but still very good.

Bahn Xeo (tried in Hue, but have seen all over): This is a sizzling/fried pancake (it kind of looks like a little taco) that’s filled with pork, shrimp and bean sprouts. It tastes very similar to a fried omelet dish that we love in Thailand and is a great appetizer. (NEED MORE DESCRIPTION).

Dau Sot Ca Chua (ate in Hanoi): This is fried tofu. The one that we had was ok, but I think with a different (or even just more) sauce, they would be better.

Thit Cho (Tried in Hanoi but can find it everywhere if you look for it): Thit Cho is a very local Vietnamese dish, dog. Maybe not something that many people in the US would try, but if you’re up for it, it is delicious… Probably one of the best meats I’ve had. It is a little chewy but very hardy. It is cut into pieces and you wrap it in lettuce/herbs, dip it in a sauce made of salt and lime, and eat it like that. It was a real treat and something I’m very glad I was able to try.

Chili Sauce: I’m not sure what the name for this is, but the chili sauce here (which they have out on all the tables at restaurants) is amazing. It’s on the thicker side, and is sweet and spicy (it’s not too hot). It’s one of my new favorite sauces!

Vietnamese Coffee: Get it hot or iced and with milk. It is probably the best coffee I’ve ever had.

6 thoughts on “Adventures in Vietnamese Food

  1. Your description of a Bahn Xeo where you say “need more description” is always how i feel when i am trying to tell people about it here! 

    sounds like an awesome time – we are considering Vietnam for our second destination for our honeymoom after Thailand.  any problems with the civil unrest there right now?

    any other suggestions? malaysia? singapore?


    • Jordan – haha, I totally did not mean to leave the “need more description” in there. I meant to actually get a better description of it, but I guess I forgot. Thanks for the reminder! We were trying to find the lotus root salad you told Dave about the whole time we were here, but no one seemed to know what it was??

      Vietnam really was amazing. Probably the most beautiful country I have been to. It would definitely be a great choice for your honeymoon though I still think Thailand is a little easier to travel around. No problems with civil unrest at all. We’ve loved the Philippines too since we’ve been here. Once we get back from our trip though, we’ll be able to tell you which places we liked the best. We still haven’t been to Indonesia, Singapore, or Malaysia so will let you know about those after we visit them. Depending on how much time you have though, you can probably hit a few countries in SE Asia.


  2. Stefanie – This makes me want to go out for Vietnamese food. I’ll take your descriptions with when we do. It all (mostly) sounds so good.


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