The discovery of Vietnam necessarily passes by its cuisine, one of the greatest pleasures of a trip to this country.
It is not that the country lacks monuments or great landscapes, on the contrary, but theincredible diversity of the dishes and the freshness of the ingredients alone are worth the trip.
Food is everywhere. Whether it’s a fruit stand at the market, a street food stand, a small café or a restaurant, on every corner someone is selling their specialty.
It’s hard to resist the mountains of colored fruits, the tempting smells of fritters or pancakes being fried. A bánh mì for the road? Why not!
Just like the landscapes, which vary enormously from North to South, the Vietnamese gastronomy follows the same path.
In fact, after two stays in the south of the country, I still feel that I have a lot of dishes and recipes to discover.
Nevertheless, I offer you an overview of Vietnamese cuisine with these 10 dishes!
1. The soups
If we had to name only one emblematic dish of Vietnam, it would probably be Pho.
Known all over the world, this soup is unanimously appreciated.
In Vietnam, it is consumed at any time of the day, in the morning at breakfast as well as in the evening.
While the traditional broth is made with cinnamon, black cardamon, ginger and star anise, with the addition of thinly sliced beef, lime and herbs such as Thai basil and bean sprouts, there are several variations of soups.
One constant, a tasty taste.
Hu Tiu: Pork, shrimps, quail eggs in a broth flavored with fried French onions, chives and coriander are often used. There is also a dry version of Hu Tiu, where the broth is served in a separate bowl.
Canh chua man: this soup is made of a slightly sweet and sour broth, with pineapple, tomatoes, tamarind, garlic, bean sprouts, vegetables, okra, fish and sometimes shrimp. Herbs, including coriander, mint (rau bac hà) and paddy grass (rau ngo), flavour the whole. This soup offers lesser known flavors than the traditional pho and it’s one of my favorite soups.
Bun bo Hue: a specialty of Hue region. With its pronounced lemongrass flavor, it is a real delight. It includes beef, pigs’ feet and pork sausage, the inevitable cilantro, onions and Thai basil.
Cao lau: speciality of Hoi-An city, it contains less broth than other Vietnamese soups, thicker rice noodles and crackers, accompanied by pork slices. It is said that the water used for the broth is drawn from a particular well in Hoi-An. I doubt that the tradition is still respected but the soup is still delicious!
2. The bánh mì
Here is another Vietnamese specialty to have crossed the borders and for good reason! A well-executed bánh mì is, in my opinion, the quintessential sandwich, nothing less!
Again, to be enjoyed at any time of the day.
The French heritage can be seen in the bread used for the bánh mì, a mixture of crispy crust and airy crumb, but also in the use of mayonnaise or pâté to garnish it.
The combinations are numerous: fried egg, grilled chicken, pork, pâté… My favorite? Crispy pork!
We add pickled vegetables, cucumbers, coriander, soy sauce, hot pepper but sometimes also Paris-Pâté and la Vache qui rit, a soft cheese.
No matter what combination you choose, it’s a treat every time.
There are small kiosks selling these sandwiches everywhere, on the street and in the markets.
3. Bánh xèo
Bánh xèo are rice flour pancakes with turmeric that are filled with pork, shrimp, bean sprouts and fresh herbs before being folded.
They are lightly fried with crispy sides.
It’s a bit of a hybrid between a pancake and an omelette, served with a fish sauce spiced with chilli and garlic.
Of course, like many Vietnamese dishes, there are many variations.
4. The roll
The spring roll is also a classic but even better on the spot, with the abundance of herbs to garnish it.
Rice vermicelli, the inevitable herbs, sometimes shrimp, tofu, grilled meat, cucumbers and various julienned vegetables.
The ingredients arrive in separate dishes that are shared at the table.
We garnish and roll our own rolls and especially, we savor accompanied by fish sauce and sometimes shrimp sauce (which personally, I am not a fan).
I also really like the fried versions of the rolls, no matter if it’s chicken, pork or seafood stuffing.
5. Pork and caramelized eggs
Thit kho tau is a very popular dish, also served during Tet.
This mixture of braised pork and hard-boiled eggs combines the sweet taste of caramel, nuoc nam, ginger and sometimes coconut milk.