When it comes to popular Vietnamese food, most people immediately think of two main dishes: pho and banh mi and I completely understand why.
Pho noodle soup is considered to be Vietnam’s national dish and Banh mi is a flavorful sandwich filled with pickled carrots, chargrilled pork, and liver pâté -Banh mi is inexpensive and delicious and can be found at any street stand.
But just as Italian food is comprised of more than pasta, and Mexican food is so much than tacos. Vietnamese food is also so more than pho and banh mi.
Popular Vietnamese food includes everything from noodle soups and beef stew, to rice cakes and delicious fish dishes that you will not see anywhere else in the world.
If you find yourself in Vietnam (or you’re just looking to broaden your culinary horizons) I suggest trying a few of the following Vietnamese Dishes:
Here are 13 famous Vietnamese dishes you need to try today
1. Cao Lau
A specialty dish made from wheat noodles in a pork broth, Cao Lau is a unique dish that can only be found in Hoi An in central Vietnam’s Quảng Nam Province.
It typically consists of pork and greens on a bed of rice noodles made from rice which has been soaked in lye water, giving them a characteristic texture and color that sets the dish apart from other Vietnamese noodle dishes, including others from the same region, such as mì Quảng.
2. Vegetable Rice Curry
Being a largely Buddhist country, there are a plethora of delicious vegetarian options in Vietnam. One of my favorites is the simple vegetable rice curry, usually containing, potatoes, carrots, lentils, celery, red bell peppers, onions, and steamed greens.
The dish is cooked in a savory sauce infused with flavorful curry spices, aromatic lemongrass, and creamy coconut milk. Perfectly balanced, it’s not overly rich or heavy. Whether you’re a vegetarian or just looking for a meat-free meal, this dish is guaranteed to be a palette pleaser.
3. Papaya Salad
A delicious (sort of) vegetarian option, papaya salad is a traditional Vietnamese dish that can be found from Hanoi all the way to Ho Chi Minh City.
The perfect papaya salad is all about the aesthetic combination: sweet and salty, crunchy and soft, green, and red.
Made from shaven unripe papaya and various herbs, the bittersweet mix is paired with a tart fish sauce and topped with fried onions, shrimp and eaten with a shrimp cracker.
This delicious salad is refreshing, healthy, and surprisingly filling.
4. Fresh Squid
Hoi An is famous for its delicious seafood—in particular fresh squid caught daily by the local fisherman.
If you’re relaxing by any beach restaurant you will always see moc on the menu. It can be prepared in almost any fashion: fried, boiled, or raw.
5. Banh Mi Sandwich
A classic sandwich popular with tourists and locals alike, a Bahn mi is the perfect mid-afternoon snack. The oblong bread used to make a ban mi is reminiscent of a baguette, a reminder of Vietnam’s French colonial past.
The bread is cut into a pocket and filled with delicious meats, spices, steamed vegetables, and fresh greens. I prefer mine with pork or spicy tofu and extra vegetables.
6. Mi, hu tieu, or pho kho
Most Vietnamese restaurants that serve noodle dishes also frequently offer an option to order the dishes “kho,” or dry.
7. Ca kho to
One of the typical dishes that make up a Southern Vietnamese family meal ca kho to is a dish of caramelized fish filet in a clay pot.
Vietnamese restaurants specializing in com phan, or family meal, will serve it as part of a set menu for two people or more.
8. Banh Xeo
Banh Xeo is made from rice flour flavored with turmeric and coconut milk, banh xeo, which means “sizzling cake” is the Vietnamese version of a savory French crepe.
It is filled with bean sprouts, sliced pork belly, and shrimp, this Southern Vietnamese dish can be ordered as either an appetizer or as the main dish.
Light and delicate, with textures reminiscent of Japanese tempura, the dish is best when dipped in a sweet and savory nuoc cham fish sauce.
9. Bun rieu
This is one of my favorite Vietnamese dishes because it is full of crab meat! A rice vermicelli noodle soup made with tomato and crab, bun rieu is one of Northern Vietnam’s most popular meals.
Originating in the Red River Delta, both the broth and topping are made from rice-paddy crabs that have been pounded into a paste.
10. Banh cuon
A Northern Vietnamese speciality that translates to “rolled cake,” banh cuon are made from steamed, translucent rice noodle rolls that are served either plain (banh cuon thanh tri), filled with ground pork and wood ear (banh cuon nhan thit), or stuffed with shrimp (banh cuon tom).
11. Cha ca
Another famous dish from the northern Vietnamese capital of Hanoi, cha ca is a dish of grilled white fish chunks marinated in turmeric and galangal (an aromatic root herb, similar to ginger), served with fresh dill, rice vermicelli, peanuts, and crispy puffed rice paper, called banh da.
12. Banh beo chen
Fun to eat and totally Instagrammable, banh beo chen are delicious steamed glutinous rice cakes (banh beo) served in little round saucers (chen).
13. Bo kho
Available on breakfast, lunch, and dinner menus, bo kho is the Vietnamese version of France’s boeuf bourguignon.
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