A Food-Lover’s Guide to Vietnam: 6 Dishes You Have to Eat
To those who have ventured to this culinary mecca of South-east Asia, the name alone often evokes dreamy thoughts of vibrant, flavorful dishes, mouth-watering street snacks and succulent tropical fruits. Vietnam is a must-visit destination for those with a strong passion for eating their way around the world. Food in Vietnam is usually made with the freshest of ingredients, a very limited amount of dairy and oil and topped with a healthy dose of herbs and vegetables making it one of the healthiest cuisines in the world. Like much of South-east Asia, Vietnamese cuisine is all about a balance of different flavors; predominately salty, sweet, bitter, sour and spicy.
Here are some of the culinary delights that make Vietnam such an important food mecca of the world.
A Food-Lover’s Guide to Vietnam: 6 Dishes You Have to Eat:table of contents
Bún chả rose to fame around the world as the dish dined on by former US President Barack Obama and his iconic street food dinner with Anthony Bourdain. Once you've tried Bún chả, you'll never wonder why it was picked by Bourdain to introduce to the presidents palate. These juicy succulent strips of pork are grilled and then dunked in a cold slightly sour dipping sauce. Throw in some rice noodles and herbs and the dish comes together as absolute perfection. First originating in Hanoi, any visit to the city's old quarter is incomplete before sinking your teeth into some Bún chả.
The culinary offspring of French Indochina, these baguette sandwiches are stuffed full of meat and pickled veg and served all over the country, usually at the side of the street where vendors whip up this far-eastern fast food in seconds. Borne from the French occupation of Vietnam, baguettes started to become popular there during the 19th century and eventually vendors starting filling them with more local ingredients like Vietnamese grilled pork, pickled radish and carrot along with a healthy hand of cilantro.
Xôi a Vietnamese dish made from sticky rice can either be sweet or savory, but we're all about the savory one. The Vietnamese breakfast of champions, Xôi is usually overlooked by visitors to the country, most likely due to its fairly bland appearance of just rice and meat. The consequent feeling inside your mouth is far from bland however as one bite of this calorie-packed carbohydrate explodes in flavor. Make sure to top it with fried shallots and pork lard and thank us later, yes it's not exactly the colorful health-centered cuisine the country is known for, but this is a devilish treat you just have to indulge in. If you're in Hanoi, be sure to check out Xôi Yến in the old quarter for some of the best offerings of this wonderful dish.
Another culinary child of the French occupation, Bò kho is inspired by the beef stews of France albeit with a twist of Vietnamese flavor. Generally consisting of stewing beef, carrots and onions, the broth is usually customized with five-spice, fish sauce, tomato paste, lemongrass and smothered with herbs. It's another dish that tends to fly under the radar of tourists visiting Vietnam so we like to think of it as our delectable little secret. Like you might expect from a French inspired dish, it's usually served with a side of baguette for you to dip in and soak up that delicious sauce.
It would be sacrilege to write a list of Vietnamese food and not include Phở, often seen as the national dish of the country, this steaming bowl of noodles has become world famous in recent years for its soul-feeding flavor. Each store will have their secret recipe for making the mouth-watering broth and you'll generally see a change of flavor as you head from north to south Vietnam, particularly between in the Hanoi and Saigon versions. Although the beef version is usually the most popular among foreigners visiting the country we'd highly recommend trying Phở gà, with its soul-cleansing chicken broth and topped with strips of chicken.
Another staple for anyone visiting the country, Gỏi cuốn are the perfect accompaniment to any meal. These light bites of pleasure are made with Vietnamese rice paper and usually stuffed with prawns, pork, vegetables, herbs and rice noodles. The filling is generally quite light on any seasoning, so to top the whole thing off you'll want to dunk it in the dipping sauce that's usually provided, often either a kind of hoisin sauce or mix of vinegar, chili and fish sauce.
This only just begins to scratch the surface of the culinary wonders that we're thankful to Vietnam for. Don't just take our word for, book a flight to Vietnam now, get lost in this street-food mecca and discover just why Vietnamese food is starting to take over the world.