Oh, Vietnam! The nation that left me wishing there were more mealtimes in the day. I’ve already talked about how much I enjoyed travelling through the country, and one of the main reasons was the food! Whether I was eating fresh veggie rolls or sipping on a hot bowl of soup, every dish I tasted was wondrous!
One of the things I liked about Vietnamese cuisine was that it was quite healthy. They used less oils and fats than a lot of other Asian foods, and there was a strong emphasis on fresh vegetables. I also liked the fresh and zesty flavours that came from spices like mint, lime, lemon, ginger, and basil.
So without further ado, I present some dishes I think you should try if you visit Vietnam:
One of the best known Vietnamese dishes is pho. This dish is a simple broth that includes ingredients like noodles, traditional herbs, and meat, and while it may sound and look a little bland, it is absolutely delicious. A good bowl of pho should be an explosion of flavours – cilantro, basil, ginger – and it should awake your senses. I enjoyed starting my mornings off with pho from either a little family run restaurant or a vendor on the street.
Banh is probably the second most popular food in Vietnam and the name roughly translates to ‘cake’ or ‘bread’. Banh is an exceptionally diverse food item and you’ll find that these rolls can be either sweet or savoury. They can also be steamed, baked, fried, deep fried, grilled, or boiled. These cakes or breads are often made into sandwiches, and it is even possible to get rolls that already have shredded meat baked into the bread.
A very important supper item in Vietnam is bun cha. This is a dish that is believed to have originated in Hanoi, and it consists of grilled sausages with a side of rice. Bun cha is served on top of a bed of basil, ginger, and lemon leaves, and it’s common to eat a large portion of herbs with each bite of sausage. Like most Vietnamese dishes, bun cha is dipped in a wonderful sauce called nuoc cham.
Ca Kho To
Ca kho to is delicious! This is a braised fish cooked in a clay pot, which is heated over a fire for hours. The end result is a sweet, caramalized fish that will leave you licking your fingers. The mixture of sugar, garlic, black pepper, chilli and vegetables causes the dish to become a nice, rich soup. This is something you need to try for yourself!
Nem noung is a meat dish that consists of ground meat (usually pork or beef) that has been formed into small balls or cubes and then grilled on a skewer. Nem nuong is heavily seasoned with chilies, ginger, and lemon grass, making it very flavourful. While you can eat this dish on its own, I prefer to pair it with either some greens or some rice noodles.
There are many ways to experience Vietnamese cuisine aside from trying these dishes in restaurants. For example, while in Vietnam, I decided to take a cooking class and also visit an organic farm that allowed me to see where many of the ingredients in my meal came from. Services like WithLocals also offer the opportunity to have a cultural exchange through food. If you’d like to enjoy a home cooked meal with a family or go on a food walk around the city, then this is a great place to start.
Now bon appetit!