Traveling is an exercise of all 5 senses and eating the local cuisines is an essential part of any travel experience. We spent 2 weeks in Vietnam eating our way through this beautiful country and chose the top 10 foods that excited our Western palettes the most to share with you.
This is an amazing soup consisting of fish broth, various meats, rice noodles and delicious herbs. Pho originated in the early 20th century in Northern Vietnam and became popularized throughout the world by refugees after the Vietnam War. This is actually a breakfast food eaten by the locals and street stalls in Hanoi open as early as 6am for you to enjoy a delicious piping hot bowl. We had already experienced Pho in New York prior to our arrival in Vietnam, and believe us, the Pho in Vietnam was plentiful and truly did not disappoint! Pho is most popular with beef (Pho Bo) but is also available with chicken (Pho Ga).
This is a popular dish in Hanoi made of pork, noodles and herbs, served with a side of dipping sauce. This was by far our favorite dish in Vietnam and we actually decided to eat it twice while in Hanoi. Bun Cha is popular mostly around Hanoi. In other parts of the country, it is not as available but a similar type dish is served called Bun Thit Nuong. Fun Fact: this is also the dish Anthony Bourdain eats with Barack Obama in the little café they have dinner at in Hanoi, on “Parts Unknown.”
Cha Ca is a fish dish served for the more wealthy in Vietnam. Cha Ca La Vong, a gorgeous upscale restaurant in Hanoi allows you to cook this dish yourself right at your table! The base ingredients include fish sauce, garlic, lime juice & sugar. We had a lot of fun cooking it ourselves and enjoyed the fruits of our labor while eating it. The taste is not overly fishy so we’d definitely recommend it even if you don’t like seafood!
Vietnamese Egg Coffee
This delicious beverage is made by beating an egg yolk with sweetened condensed milk for about 10 minutes until it makes a creamy-like fluff. The eggy goodness is then slowly poured on top of hot espresso or iced coffee. This beverage surely satisfied Sam’s caffeine addiction and ensured he’d be awake well into the night to eat until his heart’s content!
Nuoc Mia ‘Sugar Cane Juice’
Nuoc Mia is a delicious drink made from the juice of the sugar cane plant. Everyone in the city was walking around with one of these frothy bright yellow colored drinks & we knew we had to have one! Nuoc Mia is made by a machine that grinds up the raw sugar cane plant until there’s no more juice left. Once the sugar cane plant has been entirely emptied of its juices, the carcasses are discarded and the juice is ready for drinking. This juice dons a sweet, tropical taste and cooled us off even during the hottest of days under the Vietnam sun.
Sinh To Fruit Smoothie
Sinh To is the Vietnamese word for ‘Milkshake’ and these Sinh To Fruit Smoothies are a favorite of locals and tourists alike throughout all of Vietnam. They come in a range of flavors and they are easily enjoyed with classics like the Banh Mi & Pho. We tried the Mango Flavor and it was a refreshing, healthy snack to help us beat the heat.
Bun Bo Nam Bo
Bun Bo Nam Bo is a stirred beef vermicelli consisting of raw vegetables, fried onions, bean sprouts, shallots & peanuts. The beef used for the dish is soaked in sugar, fish sauce, pepper and other seasonings. The name of the dish is actually the name of the restaurant that we had this dish at, located @ 67 Hang Dieu Street in Hanoi. This dish is mostly eaten with chopsticks and is widely available at street stalls throughout the city. We loved this dish so much we actually made up a song about it. Look for our new hit single in a store near you! 😉
‘Bia’ is the word for ‘beer’ in Vietnamese and drinking beer is among a favorite pastime of the locals. In fact, Hanoi has its own section of the city dedicated to this delicious thirst quencher, appropriately named ‘Beer Corner.’ 3 of the local beers we tried were ‘Hanoi Beer’, ‘Bia Hoi’ and ‘Bia Saigon’. ‘Bia Hoi’ is a steam beer served specifically in ‘Beer Corner’ and it is about 10 cents in USD! Beer is inexpensive, plentiful & delicious throughout the entire country so if your liver is in need of something to soothe its soul, look no further than some delicious ‘bia’.
Bun Cuon is made from a thin fermented sheet of rice batter filled with a mixture of seasoned ground pork, mushrooms & shallots. This, like the Pho, is also generally eaten for breakfast, as the fermented sheet is sort of like thin rolled pancake.
Vietnam is plentiful of all sorts of delicious and colorful fruits, many of them which one cannot find here in the States. We tried many fruits, mostly in Ho Chi Minh City, including Dragonfruit, Rambutan, Mangosteen, Rose Apple, Custard Apple & Longan. We were able to find all these amazing fruits (and so much more!) at the Ben Thanh Market. Dragonfruit comes in both a white variety and a pink one. We had the pink one in Vietnam but were also lucky enough to try the white one during our travels to Thailand.
One warning: whatever you do, DO NOT TRY THE DURIAN. While it’s spiky appearance may come off as appealing, we assure its smell and taste is not. This fruit is so smelly many places in Vietnam actually have signs saying “no durian”. With that, we say, try at your own risk!
That is all for the foods we have chosen to write about but that is not certainly the full list of what we ate or what we enjoyed. We suggest you come to Vietnam and eat as much as you possibly can. The street foods are very cheap and delicious and most chefs cook all day and well into the night… and if you’re getting sick of Eastern cuisine and missing the tastes of home, Vietnam is also filled with some Western favorites too. We were able to get KFC & Mexican food (surprisingly tasty!) in Ho Chi Minh City.
If you have visited Vietnam and enjoyed a particular food that we haven’t mentioned, please let us know and we would love to give it a try!