Memos from Asia

10 Most Iconic Vietnamese Food from North to South

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Famous Youtubers like Sonny Side or world-renowned master-chef Anthony Bourdain have taken a shine to Vietnamese cuisine for a reason. It has been taking the world by storm for the past five years.

After weeks of traveling the length of Vietnam, globetrotters bring home the memory of Vietnamese food like a walk to remember. If you are about to visit this food paradise anytime soon, here are ten best dishes from North to South to look out for!

Kebab Rice Noodle (Vietnamese Name: Bún Chả)

Probably the best Hanoi’s cuisine that will land on the list of your favorite foods is Bun Cha! Well, who wouldn’t after partaking bite-sized pork belly pieces and meatball cooked over charcoal? Then it’s combined with vermicelli in a steamy and tangy broth emanating the smell of fresh herbs. Vinegar and fish sauce could be used to season the dish according to your taste.

Best place to try: Bún Chả Hàng Mành Số 1 (Address: 1 Hang Manh, Hang Gai, Hoan Kiem, Hanoi).
Price: ~150.000 VND (~ $6.5)

Vietnamese Grilled Fish Cake with Dill (Vietnamese Name: Chả Cá)

Bun Cha is Hanoi’s most iconic dish. But perhaps other than that is Chả Cá. The fish cake is grilled after being seasoned with heaps of greens such as lemongrass, shallots, and dill! This famous food cannot go without cold vermicelli, chopped peanuts. And the most crucial ingredient is mắm nêm, which is a pungent yet delicious fermented fish paste.

Best place to try: Chả Cá Thăng Long (Address: 21 – 31 Duong Thanh, Cua Dong, Hoan Kiem, Hanoi).
Price: ~ 66.000 VND (~ $2.86)

Steamed Rice Rolls (Vietnamese Name: Bánh Cuốn)

A cuisine that originates from Northern Vietnam, Bánh Cuốn, is a spectacular dish that’s light and perfect for food-hopping. It’s a simple dish made up of thin rice flour pancakes filled with a mixture of meat and mushroom.

The minced pork and wood-ear mushrooms fillings are seasoned with a spicy sauce. Think of it as a steamed pork roll, the Vietnamese version of the classic Spam! Each serving of Banh Cuon varies depending on which region it came from. Some stalls you’ll find theirs incorporating minced shrimp instead of pork, while others use much simpler ingredients.

Best place to try: Bánh Cuốn Bà Hanh (Address: 26B Tho Xuong, Hanoi).
Price: ~ 40.000 VND (~ $1.73)

Hue-style Spicy Beef Noodle (Vietnamese Name: Bún Bò Huế)

The combination of rice vermicelli (bún) and beef (bò) makes up the popular Vietnamese soup called Bún bò Huế. In comparison to Pho, the noodles used for this one are thicker and more cylindrical.

It’s well known for the balance of its spicy, salty, sweet, and sour flavors. How is that possible you may ask? It’s not that hard to explain quite frankly. Beef bones and shanks are simmered with lemongrass that makes the broth. Once done, it’s seasoned with fermented shrimp sauce and sugar. Finally, they add chili oil in for that spicy kick.

Best place to try: Bún Bò Mỹ Tâm (Address: 5 Tran Cao Van, Vinh Ninh, Hue).
Price: ~ 40.000 VND (~ $1.73)

Quang-style Wide Noodle (Vietnamese Name: Mì Quảng)

The province of Quang Nam is the origin of our next Vietnamese noodle dish. Mì Quảng as it’s called is made up of noodles, meat, and herbs. It is typically served with wide rice noodles in a bed of herbs, blanched by a strongly flavored broth.

The meat selection isn’t as limited as the ones mentioned above. Shrimp, pork, chicken, or fish are other alternatives. Then as far as the seasoning goes, fish sauce, black pepper, shallots, and garlic are the standard.

What makes this soup stand out is the use of turmeric. Added to the broth, it imparts a subtle distinct taste and a yellowish hue to the broth itself. Other garnishes include peanuts, rice crackers, and even hard-boiled eggs and steamed sausages.

Best place to try: Mỳ Gà 37 Gốc (Address: QL1A, Binh Nguyen, Thang Binh, Quang Nam)
Price: ~ 25.000 VND (~ $1.08)

Baby Basket Clams Rice (Vietnamese Name: Cơm Hến)

Hue contributes another one of its iconic dishes through the dish called Cơm Hến. Literally translated, Cơm means “rice” while Hến means “baby basket clam”. The dish includes basket clams and leftover rice.

Other ingredients are fried pork rind, roasted peanuts, mint, chili pepper, and fermented shrimp sauce. The dish may resemble a rice salad, albeit the Vietnamese version. It’s sweet, salty, and spicy all at once, with that added bit of crispy crunch!

Best place to try: Cơm Hến Hoa Đông (Address: 64 Kiet 7 Ung Binh, Hue).
Price: ~ 30.000 VND (~ $1.3)

Hoian-style Noodle with BBQ Pork (Vietnamese Name: Cao Lầu)

Hoi An is proud to have a dish exclusive to the city. Cao Lầu, as the dish is called, is made up of noodles, pork, and locally grown vegetables. The Vietnamese termed it as the “mixing dish” partly because it includes a mixture of vegetables, fried animal fat, and the sauce on top of the noodles. Such a combination creates a flavor profile of sweet, sour, and bitter yet palatable taste.

Best place to try: Cao Lầu Thanh (Address: 26 Thai Phien, Minh Anh, Hoi An).
Price: ~ 33.000 VND (~ $1.43)

Broken Rice (Vietnamese Name: Cơm Tấm)

Cơm tấm is another classic dish hailing from Southern Vietnam. This particular dish is a serving of grilled tender pork served on top of cooked broken rice. Each serving is paired with a mix of stir-fried onions and pickles, which greatly complements the succulent meat.

The pork is pre-marinated in lemongrass, pepper, garlic and fish sauce, then freshly grilled upon your order. It remains a popular dish for breakfast since it’s typically served during the morning.

Best place to try: Cơm Tấm Ba Ghiền (Address: 84 Dang Van Ngu, Phu Nhuan District, Ho Chi Minh City).
Price: ~ 40.000 VND (~ $1.73)

Phnom Penh-style Rice Noodle Soup (Vietnamese Name: Hủ Tiếu Nam Vang)

Hủ tiếu Nam Vang is a noodle dish with roots tracing back to Cambodian and Chinese origins. Though named after Cambodia’s capital of Phnom Penh, its preparation has been altered to suit the Vietnamese palate.

The noodles could be altered from transparent rice noodles, chewy tapioca noodles and even Chinese egg noodles. The defining characteristic of this food is determined by the broth.

Simmered pork bones, pork, dried squid and shrimp are the key ingredients making the soup clear and rich. A piping hot bowl is often topped with sliced pork liver, meat, quail eggs, fried shallots, garlic, and poached shrimp.

No noodle dish would be complete without the assortment of herbs and spices. Chives, celery, green onions, cilantro and lettuces are typically served along as garnishes on the side.

Best place to try: Hủ Tiếu Nam Vang Thành Đạt (34 Co Bac, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City).
Price: ~ 50.000 VND (~ $2.17)

Fermented Fish Broth Vermicelli (Vietnamese Name: Bún Mắm)

Last but not the least, we have a traditional dish originating from the Mekong Delta. Bún mắm consists of rice vermicelli noodles and the salty fermented fish-flavored broth.

In a nutshell, other ingredients are squid, shrimp, catfish, eggplant, fish cakes, and roasted pork belly. However, the key ingredients that influence the taste are fresh herbs. These natural additives contribute to its pungent but alluring aroma.

Best place to try: Bún Mắm Cô Ba (451 Phan Huy Ich, Go Vap, District 10, Ho Chi Minh City).
Price: ~ 55.000 VND (~ $2.38)

It may take you years to sample all of the Vietnamese dishes available in our food dictionary. Don’t wait anymore! Go ahead and note down this list above to rock the Vietnam food scene as a real local!

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