Explore 15 Vietnam's Iconic Dishes: Where Flavor Meets Tradition
Uncategorized Vietnamese food

Top 15 Iconic Vietnamese Food

15 Vietnamese food
Written by Merry Taylor

Vietnamese dishes are renowned worldwide for their exquisite balance of flavors, fresh ingredients, and intricate culinary techniques. Rooted in centuries-old traditions and influenced by a myriad of cultural influences, Vietnamese dishes reflect the country’s rich history, diverse geography, and vibrant cultural heritage.

At the heart of Vietnamese meals lies a profound respect for the harmony of flavors, where sweet, sour, salty, bitter, and umami come together in perfect equilibrium. Each dish is a testament to the culinary mastery and creativity of the Vietnamese people.

In this article, we will delve into some of the most iconic dishes of Vietnam, beloved by both locals and visitors alike.

The Best Vietnamese Cuisine

In our exploration of Vietnamese cuisine, let’s delve deeper into some of the most beloved dishes that have captured the hearts—and taste buds—of food enthusiasts worldwide. Here, we’ll uncover the essence of each dish, along with recommendations for must-visit establishments where you can savor these culinary delights to the fullest.

1. Pho

Pho is a quintessential Vietnamese noodle soup consisting of a flavorful broth, rice noodles, and various cuts of meat (typically beef or chicken), garnished with fresh herbs, bean sprouts, lime, and chili.

The allure of Pho lies in its complex, aromatic broth, which is simmered for hours with a blend of spices such as cinnamon, star anise, and cloves, resulting in a deeply satisfying flavor profile. The tender slices of meat, slippery rice noodles, and crisp, fresh garnishes create a harmonious balance of textures and flavors that is both comforting and invigorating.

Pho is more than just a soup—it’s a cultural institution that holds a special place in the hearts of Vietnamese people. It is often enjoyed as a hearty breakfast or a comforting meal shared with family and friends. In Vietnam, phở stalls can be found on nearly every street corner, each with its own unique recipe and loyal following.

Try it:

  • Pho Gia Truyen – Hanoi’s Old Quarter
  • Pho Thin (Phở Thìn) – 13 Lo Duc, Ha Noi
  • Pho Bat Dan – 49 Bat Dan, Hoan Kiem, Ha Noi
  • Pho 10 Ly Quoc Su, Ha Noi

2. Banh Mi

Banh Mi is a Vietnamese sandwich made with a crispy baguette filled with a variety of savory ingredients such as grilled meats, pate, pickled vegetables, cucumber, cilantro, and chili peppers.

What sets Banh Mi apart is its perfect marriage of textures and flavors—the crunchy exterior of the baguette gives way to a soft, chewy interior, while the savory fillings are complemented by the tangy crunch of pickled vegetables and the freshness of herbs and spices. It’s a portable feast that offers a symphony of tastes and textures with every bite.

Banh Mi is a delicious testament to Vietnam’s culinary fusion, combining French-inspired bread with traditional Vietnamese flavors. It has become a symbol of Vietnamese street food culture, enjoyed by people from all walks of life.

Try it:

  • Banh Mi Phuong – 2b Phan Chau Trinh, Hoi An, Quang Nam
  • Banh Mi Quynh Hoa – 26 Le Thi Rieng, Ben Thanh, District 1, Ho Chi Minh
  • Banh Mi Hanoi’s Old Quarter – 38 Hang Bac, Hoan Kiem, Ha Noi

3. Bun Cha

Bun Cha consists of grilled pork patties and grilled sliced pork belly, served over a bed of vermicelli noodles and accompanied by a dipping sauce, fresh herbs, and pickled vegetables.

The appeal of bún chả lies in its smoky, charred flavor imparted by the grilled meats, which is perfectly complemented by the light, refreshing texture of the vermicelli noodles and the zesty crunch of the herbs and vegetables. The dipping sauce, made with fish sauce, vinegar, sugar, and chili, adds a burst of umami and acidity that ties the dish together.

Bun Cha is a beloved dishes that originated in Hanoi and has since become a culinary icon of the capital city. It is often enjoyed as a leisurely lunch or dinner, with diners relishing the opportunity to savor each element of the dish separately or combine them to create the perfect bite. 

Try it:

  • Bun Cha Huong Lien in Hanoi
  • Bun Cha Ha Noi – 34 Hang Than, Ba Dinh, Ha Noi
  • Bun Cha Dac Kim – 1 Hang Manh, Hoan Kiem, Hà Nội

4. Goi Cuon

Goi Cuon, also known as fresh spring rolls or summer rolls, are translucent rice paper rolls filled with a variety of fresh ingredients such as shrimp, pork, vermicelli noodles, lettuce, and herbs, served with a peanut dipping sauce.

Goi Cuon is a refreshing and healthy alternative to fried spring rolls, with each bite bursting with the vibrant flavors of the fresh ingredients. The delicate rice paper wrapper provides a light and chewy texture, while the combination of savory meats, crisp vegetables, and fragrant herbs creates a harmonious medley of flavors that is both satisfying and nutritious.

Goi Cuon is a popular dish in Vietnam, often enjoyed as a light meal or appetizer. It is prized for its versatility and adaptability, with endless variations of fillings to suit every palate.

Try it:

  • Ụt Ụt Restaurant – 168 Vo Van Kiet, Ward Cau Kho, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City.
  • Traditional Fresh Spring Rolls Stall – 103 Le Lai, Ben Thanh Ward, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City.
  • Ngon Restaurant – 18 Phan Boi Chau, Hoan Kiem District, Hanoi.

5. Chicken Rice

Chicken Rice is a simple yet satisfying dish consisting of fragrant rice cooked in chicken broth and served with tender poached or roasted chicken, accompanied by a side of clear chicken broth, fresh herbs, and a zesty dipping sauce.

Diners are drawn to cơm gà for its comforting flavors and nourishing qualities. The succulent chicken, infused with the aromatic essence of the broth, pairs perfectly with the fluffy, fragrant rice. The dish’s simplicity belies its depth of flavor, making it a favorite among locals and travelers alike.

Try it:

  • Hai Nam Chicken Rice Stall – 26 Hang Bai, Hoan Kiem District, Hanoi.
  • Le Nguyen Trai Restaurant – 116 Le Nguyen Trai, Ben Thanh Ward, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City.
  • Ba Lan Chicken Rice Stall – 64/2 Tran Hung Dao, Hai Chau District, Da Nang.

6. Banh Xeo

Banh Xeo (Vietnamese Savory Pancake) is a crispy, savory pancake made from a batter of rice flour, coconut milk, and turmeric, filled with a delicious combination of shrimp, pork, bean sprouts, and green onions, and served with fresh herbs and a sweet and tangy dipping sauce.

You will love Banh Xeo for its crispy texture and bold flavors. The pancake’s golden exterior gives way to a flavorful filling of succulent shrimp, savory pork, and crunchy bean sprouts, all enhanced by the fragrant aroma of turmeric. Wrapped in fresh lettuce leaves and herbs and dipped in the tangy sauce, each bite is a delightful explosion of taste and texture.

Try it:

  • Banh Xeo 46A – 46A Dinh Cong Trang, Tan Dinh, District 1, Ho Chi Minh.
  • Banh Xeo Mười Xiềm – 76 Le Loi, Hai Chau, Da Nang.
  • Banh Xeo 327 – 27 Phan Chu Trinh, Hoi An, Quang Nam

7. Bun Bo Hue

Bun Bo Hue is a spicy and aromatic beef noodle soup originating from the central region of Vietnam. It features tender slices of beef, pork knuckle, and beef shank, served in a flavorful broth infused with lemongrass, shrimp paste, and chili oil, and accompanied by thick rice noodles and fresh herbs.

Diners are enticed by the bold and complex flavors of Bun Bo Hue. The rich, aromatic broth, with its layers of umami and heat, is complemented by the tender meat and chewy noodles, creating a hearty and satisfying dish that is beloved by locals and travelers alike.

Try it:

  • Bun Bo Ganh – 110 Le Thanh Ton, Ben Thanh Ward, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City.
  • Bun Bo Gia Truyen 69 – 69 Mai Hac De, Ha Ba Trung, Ha Noi
  • Bun Bo Hue 31 – 31 Vo Thi Sau, Ward 10, Hue City, Thua Thien Hue Province.

8. Banh Cuon

Banh Cuon (Steamed Rice Rolls) is a delicate and savory dish made from thin sheets of steamed rice batter filled with a savory mixture of ground pork, wood ear mushrooms, and shallots, and served with crispy fried shallots, fresh herbs, and a tangy dipping sauce.

Most people who have tried bánh cuốn appreciate it because of its light, melt-in-your-mouth soft texture and the flavor of the filling shines through. The combination of tender rice rolls, savory fillings, and aromatic herbs creates a harmonious blend of flavors and textures that is both delicious and refreshing.

Try it:

  • Banh Cuon Ba Hanh – 26B Ly Quoc Su, Hoan Kiem District, Hanoi.
  • Gia An Steamed Rice Rolls Stall – 74/21C Hoang Hoa Tham, Ward 7, Binh Thanh District, Ho Chi Minh City.
  • Banh Cuon 14 – 14 Dien Bien Phu, Phu Hoi Ward, Hue City, Thua Thien Hue.

9. Vietnamese Egg Coffee

Vietnamese Egg Coffee – a unique and indulgent Vietnamese coffee beverage, is crafted with robust Vietnamese coffee, a creamy egg yolk foam, sweetened condensed milk, and a hint of vanilla or cocoa. Diners are intrigued by its rich and velvety texture, reminiscent of a decadent dessert. The combination of strong coffee, creamy foam, and sweetened milk creates a luxurious and indulgent drink that delights coffee enthusiasts and sweet tooths alike.

Try it:

  • Giang Café – 39 Nguyen Huu Huan, Hoan Kiem District, Hanoi.
  • Cafe Dinh – 13 Dinh Tien Hoang, Hoan Kiem District, Hanoi.
  • Hanoi Social Club – 6 Hoi Vu, Hoan Kiem District, Hanoi.

10. Cha Ca La Vong

Cha Ca La Vong, a famous dish from Hanoi, features marinated fish filets grilled with turmeric and dill, served with vermicelli noodles, fresh herbs, roasted peanuts, and a dipping sauce. Diners are enchanted by its fragrant aroma and complex flavors. The tender fish, infused with the earthy notes of turmeric and the fresh brightness of dill, offers a delightful contrast to the soft vermicelli noodles and crunchy peanuts. Wrapped in fresh lettuce leaves and herbs and dipped in the tangy sauce, it’s a culinary experience that celebrates the rich heritage of Hanoi’s cuisine.

Try it:

  • La Vong Grilled Fish – 14 Cha Ca Street, Hoan Kiem District, Hanoi.
  • Thang Long Grilled Fish – 19 – 21 – 31 Thanh Street, Hoan Kiem District, Hanoi.
  • Ha Thanh Grilled Fish – 87 Dinh Tien Hoang, Da Kao Ward, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City.

11. Ca Kho To (Braised Fish in Clay Pot)

Ca Kho To is a classic Vietnamese dish featuring catfish or other types of fish braised in a flavorful sauce made from caramelized sugar, fish sauce, shallots, garlic, and black pepper. The fish is slow-cooked in a clay pot until tender and infused with the rich, savory flavors of the sauce.

Diners are drawn to Ca Kho To for its succulent and tender fish, which absorbs the complex flavors of the caramelized sauce. The dish’s aromatic blend of sweet, savory, and umami notes creates a truly satisfying dining experience that pairs perfectly with steamed rice.

Try it:

  • Le Hoa Braised Fish Restaurant – Ho Chi Minh City: 82 Nguyen Thi Minh Khai, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City.
  • Bich Tay Braised Fish Restaurant – Hanoi: 99 Bich Cau, Hoan Kiem, Hanoi.
  • Manh Hung Clay Pot Braised Fish Restaurant – Da Nang: 87 Nguyen Tri Phuong, Hai Chau District, Da Nang.

12. Bo Luc Lac

Bo Luc Lac is a popular Vietnamese stir-fried beef dish featuring tender cubes of beef marinated in a flavorful mixture of garlic, soy sauce, oyster sauce, and sugar, then quickly stir-fried with onions and served with fresh vegetables and a side of dipping sauce.

Try it:

  • Vườn Chuối Shaking Beef Restaurant – Ho Chi Minh City: 41 Nguyen Van Giai, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City.
  • Le Quy Don Shaking Beef Restaurant – Hanoi: 29 Le Quy Don, Hai Ba Trung, Hanoi.
  • Beef Luc Lac 14 Restaurant – Hue: 14 Hung Vuong, Phu Hoi Ward, Hue City, Thua Thien Hue.

13. Nem Nuong

Nem Nuong – a Vietnamese delicacy, consists of grilled pork sausage crafted from a blend of ground pork, garlic, shallots, fish sauce, sugar, and spices. The mixture is then formed into small patties or skewered and grilled until achieving a golden, caramelized exterior. Diners are captivated by the smoky fragrance and succulent, flavorful pork of nem nướng. Its enticing aroma, coupled with the sausage’s tender texture and well-balanced seasoning of herbs and spices, offers a sensory delight that leaves a lasting impression, drawing diners back for more.

Try it:

  • Thanh Xuyen Grilled Pork Skewers Stall – Ho Chi Minh City: 74/8 Hoang Hoa Tham, Tan Binh District, Ho Chi Minh City.
  • Ninh Hoa Grilled Pork Skewers Restaurant – Hanoi: 67 Hang Dieu, Hoan Kiem, Hanoi.
  • Ninh Thuan Grilled Pork Skewers Stall – Nha Trang: 100 Hung Vuong, Phuoc Tan Ward, Nha Trang City, Khanh Hoa.

14. Chè Khúc Bạch (Khuc Bach Sweet Soup)

Khuc Bach Sweet Soup – a quintessential Vietnamese dessert, harmonizes translucent jelly, coconut milk, pandan-infused tapioca pearls, and a sweet syrup brewed from sugar, water, and mung bean paste. As diners delve into this concoction, they are transported to a realm of delicate and invigorating flavors. The interplay of chewy jelly, velvety coconut milk, and aromatic pandan evokes a symphony of sensations, offering a sublime juxtaposition of textures and tastes. Indulging in chè khúc bạch is not merely a culinary experience but a blissful journey of comfort and indulgence.

Try it:

  • Ha Long Khuc Bach Sweet Soup – 31 Hang Dieu Street, Hoan Kiem District, Hanoi.
  • Da Nang Khuc Bach Sweet Soup – 85 Le Dinh Duong Street, Hai Chau District, Da Nang.
  • Sai Gon Khuc Bach Sweet Soup – 72 Nguyen Thi Minh Khai Street, Ben Thanh Ward, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City.

15. Mi Quang

Mi Quang is a specialty noodle dish originating from the Quang Nam Province in central Vietnam. It features thick rice noodles topped with a flavorful broth made from pork, shrimp, and aromatic spices, garnished with fresh herbs, roasted peanuts, and crispy rice crackers.

Diners are captivated by Mi Quang’s rich and fragrant broth, which is infused with the savory flavors of pork and shrimp. The dish’s generous toppings of fresh herbs, crunchy peanuts, and crispy rice crackers add layers of texture and taste, creating a satisfying and memorable dining experience.

Try it:

  • Mi Quang Ếch Restaurant – 24 Le Ngoc Han Street, Thanh Khe District, Da Nang
  • Ba Mua Mi Quang Restaurant – 39 Nguyen Thai Hoc Street, Hoi An Ancient Town, Quang Nam
  • Old Mi Quang Restaurant – 110 Le Thanh Ton Street, Ben Thanh Ward, Quang Nam

These distinctive Vietnamese iconic dishes offer a taste of the country’s diverse culinary heritage, inviting diners to embark on a flavorful journey through its rich and vibrant food culture. Whether you’re savoring the robust flavors of Ca Kho To or indulging in the refreshing sweetness of Che Khuc Bach , each dish promises to delight the senses and leave a lasting impression on your culinary palate.

About the author

Merry Taylor

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