Vietnamese cuisine, known for fresh ingredients, unique dishes, and an array of tastes, has been gaining popularity all across the globe—with good reason. Food is at the very heart of Vietnamese culture, and many local single-dish food stalls are run by families, passed down through generations of women. Traditional Vietnamese food has perfected the mixture of flavors, from salty to sweet and sour to spicy. With so much variety and so many beloved dishes to enjoy, the possibilities are endless when planning a trip to this breathtaking country. Check out our Vietnamese food guide to learn about the must-try meals you don’t want to miss!
Goi cuon is one of the country’s most famous dishes, and it’s affordable to boot! These translucent spring rolls are filled with minced pork, shrimp or crab, healthy greens, and coriander. Goi cuon is often served with lettuce or mint on the side. You can’t visit Vietnam without dining on this savory delicacy—your taste buds will thank you!
Banh mi has taken off around the world. This sandwich is made from a perfectly flaky baguette filled with greens, pâté, and a savory omelet. The north of the country sticks to a basic recipe, while the south adds some flair; potential ingredients include sausage, cheese, fried egg, pickled vegetables, cilantro, and chili sauce. This mouthwatering meal is often enjoyed for breakfast.
Com tam translates to broken rice; it’s known as such because the meal is made with the rice that wasn’t up to selling standards. This common lunch option is a street-stand favorite and can be found just about anywhere. Rice is served with marinated pork, a fried egg, cucumbers, tomato, pickled vegetables, and grilled shrimp.
Probably the country’s most famous meal, pho has taken on a life of its own! This national dish is a staple across Vietnamese households, and no Vietnamese food guide is complete without it. Pho can be enjoyed at any time of day, although it’s most popular at breakfast. It consists of salty broth, rice noodles, an abundance of herbs (quintessential of all Vietnamese cuisine), spring onions, and chicken or beef.
Although you can find imitations throughout Vietnam, you’ll have to head to the city of Hoi An for an authentic dish of cao lau. This light soup is flavored with mint and star of anise, and it’s full of rice noodles, pork-rind croutons, bean sprouts, and thin slices of pork. True cao lau is made with water from a secret well in town. Don’t visit Hoi An without getting a bowl of this unique dish.
A famous seafood dish in Vietnamese cuisine, it consists of white fish sautéed in dill, ginger, garlic, fish sauce and turmeric. Served with rice noodles and peanuts, cha ca is particularly loved in its hometown of Hanoi.
Known to foreigners as Vietnamese pancakes, the name actually translates to “sizzling cake” because of the noise it makes in the frying pan. This delightful staple is becoming a go-to breakfast in other parts of the world, too. The savory crepe is made with pork, shrimp, bean sprouts, and fresh herbs, and it gets its bright yellow color from turmeric.
Bun bo hue
Bun bo hue is a true classic of traditional Vietnamese food, finding the perfect balance of a variety of flavors. The broth is made by simmering beef bone, fermented fish sauce, and lemongrass, giving it a pleasant aroma. The dish is complete with thick noodles, beef or pork, and an array of vegetables and herbs. It’s topped off with chili for a spicy kick that the locals love.
This Hanoi specialty varies from place to place but generally consists of meat noodles, shrimp, quail eggs, peanuts, oils, mint, and fresh sprigs of leaves. Mi quang is an affordable dish that doesn’t always get the recognition it deserves—give it a try on your Vietnamese getaway!
Already a top seller in Ho Chi Minh City, one taste of bot chien will have you hooked. Chunks of rice flour dough are fried and then topped with an egg, shallots, green onions, and sometimes papaya. As if it couldn’t get any better, pickled chili sauce gives it an extra flair.
Bun cha is a standout amongst traditional Vietnamese food and is a classic example of Hanoi cuisine. Meat is charred to perfection before being added to rice noodles, herbs, and a thick fish sauce. It’s a top lunch choice, and you’ll know when it’s being prepared by the plumes of aromatic smoke rising from street-side restaurants—typically around 11am.
You’ll never want to stop munching on these delectable crunchy spring rolls! The meal is called nem ran in the north of the country, but the ingredients remain the same. Minced pork and vegetables are wrapped in rice paper and fried. Crab and tofu are other common fillings. It’s the perfect dish for sharing with friends.
No Vietnamese food guide would be complete without some Vietnamese desserts! Che signifies a traditional sweet beverage, and there are many delicious varieties to choose from. Indulge in che chuoi, a creamy banana pudding, or che ba mau, the three color dessert. It includes sweetened coconut milk and three kinds of beans, which create vibrant hues of yellow, green, and red. No matter what kind of che you delight in, you’re in for a real treat!
Banh chuoi hap
This dessert has just the right amount of sweetness. It’s a steamed cake similar to banana bread, but much softer in texture. The recipe calls for plenty of ripe bananas, and the finished product is oh so good—you won’t be able to stop at just one slice!