10 Must-Try Dishes in Vietnam: A Taste of Authentic Vietnamese Cuisine

by Huy Huỳnh Ngọc

Vietnam is a food lover’s paradise, offering a tantalizing array of flavors, textures, and aromas. From hearty soups to delectable street snacks, Vietnamese cuisine is renowned for its fresh ingredients and bold flavors.

Whether you’re a seasoned traveler or embarking on your first visit to Vietnam, exploring the country’s culinary delights is an absolute must. In this article, Palm Vietnam Travel will guide you through the top 10 dishes you simply can’t miss during your Vietnamese food adventure.

Introduction to Vietnamese Cuisine: A Fusion of Flavors and Freshness

Vietnamese cuisine is a harmonious blend of influences from Chinese, French, and Southeast Asian cooking traditions. Emphasizing fresh, locally sourced ingredients, Vietnamese dishes are known for their vibrant colors, aromatic herbs, and balanced flavors.

The cuisine’s emphasis on herbs, vegetables, and grilled or steamed dishes makes it a healthy and refreshing choice for food enthusiasts.

The quintessence of Vietnamese cuisine, a harmonious blend of many cultures.

1. Pho: The Quintessential Vietnamese Noodle Soup

No exploration of Vietnamese cuisine would be complete without indulging in a steaming bowl of pho.

This iconic dish consists of rice noodles served in a fragrant broth with various toppings such as thinly sliced beef or chicken, fresh herbs, bean sprouts, and lime.

The broth, simmered for hours with aromatic spices like star anise and cinnamon, is the heart and soul of pho. Whether enjoyed as a hearty breakfast or a comforting dinner, pho is sure to captivate your taste buds with its rich and complex flavors.

Vietnamese beef pho has made it into the top 100 most delicious dishes in the world.
Pho is the quintessential street food of Vietnam.

2. Banh Mi: The Perfect Vietnamese Sandwich

Banh Mi, the Vietnamese sandwich, is a mouthwatering fusion of French and Vietnamese culinary traditions. Featuring a crispy baguette filled with various savory ingredients, banh mi is a delightful explosion of flavors and textures.

From succulent grilled meats like pork or chicken to pâté, pickled vegetables, and fresh herbs, each bite offers a symphony of tastes.

Whether enjoyed as a quick street snack or a light lunch, banh mi is a must-try dish that showcases the creativity and diversity of Vietnamese cuisine.

The Vietnamese baguette, a perfect fusion of Vietnamese and French cuisines.

3. Bun Cha: Grilled Pork Noodles from Hanoi

Originating from the bustling streets of Hanoi, Bun Cha is a beloved dish that will transport you to the heart of Vietnamese culinary culture.

This delectable dish consists of grilled pork patties, served alongside rice noodles, fresh herbs, and a tangy dipping sauce called nuoc cham.

The combination of smoky grilled meat, fragrant herbs, and the sweet and sour flavors of the sauce creates a harmonious balance that will leave you craving more. Don’t forget to savor every bite of the fresh herbs, as they add a refreshing contrast to the rich pork flavors.

4. Ca Kho To: A Hearty Clay Pot Braised Fish

Ca Kho To is a Vietnamese delicacy that showcases the country’s love for seafood. This dish features fish, typically catfish braised in a clay pot with a medley of flavorsome ingredients.

The fish is slowly simmered in a caramelized sauce made from a mixture of sugar, garlic, black pepper, chili, and fish sauce. The result is a succulent and tender fish with a rich and complex flavor profile.

Served with steamed rice and a side of pickled vegetables, Ca Kho To is a true Vietnamese comfort food that will warm your heart and satisfy your taste buds.

Braised Fish in Clay Pot, is a common dish in Vietnamese cuisine.

5. Nem Nuong: Grilled Meat Skewers with Zesty Flavors

Nem Nuong is a popular Vietnamese dish consisting of grilled meat skewers bursting with bold flavors. Traditionally made with ground pork or beef, seasoned with fragrant spices like chilies, ginger, and lemongrass, Nem Nuong is a true delight for meat lovers.

The skewers are grilled to perfection, resulting in a juicy and aromatic dish that can be enjoyed on its own or paired with rice noodles and fresh herbs.

The combination of smoky, tender meat and zesty flavors makes Nem Nuong a must-try dish that will leave you craving more.

Grilled Pork Skewers (Nem Nướng), a favorite dish among young people.

6. Mi Quang: A Colorful Central Vietnamese Delight

Mi Quang is a vibrant and flavorful noodle dish that hails from Central Vietnam.

This colorful dish features thick rice noodles, topped with a variety of ingredients such as shrimp, pork, herbs, and crunchy rice crackers.

What sets Mi Quang apart is its distinctive turmeric-infused broth, which lends a beautiful hue to the dish. The combination of textures, flavors, and fragrant herbs makes Mi Quang a truly memorable culinary experience.

Mi Quang, a Colorful Central Vietnamese Delight

7. Banh Cuon: Delicate Steamed Rice Rolls

Banh Cuon is a classic Vietnamese dish that showcases the country’s love for delicate and flavorful steamed rice rolls.

These light and silky rolls are made by pouring a rice flour batter onto a steamer and then filling it with a savory mixture of pork, mushrooms, and shallots.

Topped with crispy fried shallots and served with a tangy dipping sauce, Banh Cuon is a delightful treat for breakfast or as a light snack.

The combination of soft rice rolls, savory filling, and the contrasting textures of the toppings creates a symphony of flavors with every bite.

Traditional dishes of Vietnamese people.

8. Cao Lau: A Unique Noodle Dish from Hoi An

Cao Lau is a specialty dish that can only be found in the charming town of Hoi An in Central Vietnam.

This unique noodle dish features thick rice noodles, slices of succulent pork, fresh herbs, and crispy rice crackers. What sets Cao Lau apart is the use of water from a specific well in Hoi An, which is said to impart a distinct flavor to the noodles.

The combination of flavors and textures in Cao Lau creates a delightful and satisfying dish that is sure to leave a lasting impression.

Cao Lầu is a renowned specialty of the ancient town of Hoi An.

9. Goi Cuon: Fresh and Healthy Vietnamese Spring Rolls

Goi Cuon, also known as Vietnamese Spring Rolls or Fresh Rolls, is a light and refreshing dish that perfectly embodies the freshness and vibrancy of Vietnamese cuisine.

These translucent rice paper rolls are filled with a variety of fresh ingredients, such as shrimp, pork, rice vermicelli, and an abundance of herbs and vegetables.

The rolls are typically served with a peanut dipping sauce, adding a rich and nutty flavor to the ensemble. Whether enjoyed as an appetizer or a light meal, Goi Cuon is a healthy and delicious choice that will leave you feeling satisfied and nourished.

Shrimp and Pork Fresh Spring Rolls.

10. Egg Coffee: A Unique Vietnamese Beverage

No Vietnamese food adventure would be complete without trying the unique and indulgent Egg Coffee. Originating from Hanoi, this decadent beverage is made by whipping egg yolks with condensed milk and Vietnamese coffee.

The result is a creamy and velvety concoction that can be enjoyed hot or iced. Egg Coffee is a true Vietnamese specialty that showcases the country’s creativity and innovation in the world of beverages.

Egg coffee, a must-try beverage when visiting Vietnam.
Savoring a cup of egg coffee while watching the passing train.

Conclusion: Embark on a Flavorful Journey through Vietnamese Cuisine

Vietnamese cuisine offers an unparalleled culinary experience that combines bold flavors, fresh ingredients, and a rich cultural heritage. From the iconic pho to the delightful banh mi, each dish tells a story and invites you to savor the unique flavors of Vietnam.

Whether you’re exploring the bustling streets of Hanoi or the enchanting alleys of Hoi An, be sure to indulge in these 10 must-try dishes and discover the true essence of Vietnamese cuisine.

Prepare your taste buds for a journey of flavors and embark on a culinary adventure that will leave you with unforgettable memories of Vietnam.

Huy Huỳnh Ngọc

Written by Huy Huỳnh Ngọc