Last Updated December, 2020
If you’ve been following me for a while, you noticed how much I love Vietnam. There is so much about this country to love and enjoy. Food is one of those things I miss and try to find in many cities outside Vietnam. I created this Vietnamese food guide for everyone who wants to get acquainted with Vietnamese food culture and cuisine.
It will help you understand what to order at a Vietnamese restaurant when in Vietnam or anywhere else outside the country. Vietnamese food is incredibly popular all over the world. So if you are living in a city with plenty of Vietnamese restaurants and would love to learn what to order next time, this post will answer your questions. Pho is not the only dish to try.
By the way, I didn’t include pho on this list on purpose. Why? Because I feel that’s the only dish everyone knows about. Vietnamese cuisine includes way more than just pho.
While living in Vietnam, I spent three full months to taste various foods from different food vendors, cafes, and Vietnamese restaurants. I talked to the locals and asked dozens of questions. Ordering from the menu sometimes was tricky since I didn’t understand the language and didn’t know how my meal was going to look like.
So, after trying hundreds of different Vietnamese dishes and drinks and after reading a dozen of books about food travel in Vietnam, I was able to make a list of the most popular dishes that are also incredibly delicious! And I invite you to check out this Vietnamese restaurant food guide for your next trip to Vietnam or a nearby restaurant in your hometown. Next time you’ll know what to order!
Psst: But Before I jump to the section about the food, take a look at a few facts about Vietnam’s food culture.
1. Mì Quảng
Mì Quảng is a most popular noodle dish that people eat almost on any occasion across Vietnam (both as street food and in cafes) and you can find it on the Vietnamese restaurant menu in many cities around the world.
Rice noodles are served with meat, fish, shrimp, or tofu, garnished with peanuts, broth, and herbs. Depending on the cook, this dish can come with more sauce and look like soup. You can order it hot or mild. In Vietnam, people like to eat it at any time of the day, be it breakfast, lunch, or dinner.
2. Vằn Thắn Mỳ as a Vietnamese Restaurant Food
Originally from China, but very popular in Vietnam. Vằn Thắn Mỳ is a soup, made of a broth with rice or egg noodles, shrimp or meat dumplings, pork, herbs, lime, and fried bread. You can choose your own variation and omit the meat if you are vegetarian.
Add sauce, chili paste, or marinated garlic to enhance the flavor. Usually, this is dinner food but some vendors sell it during the early afternoon too.
Many Vietnamese restaurants in America and Europe have this dish on the menu. If you are new to Vietnamese cuisine but look to taste popular yet authentic Vietnamese food, an alternative to pho, try Vằn Thắn Mỳ soup.
3. Bánh Căn
This meal is protein overload that will give you energy for the entire day. It is not necessarily a breakfast food, you can have it any time during the day as a snack or full-size meal.
Bánh Căn is basically a dish that looks like biscuits. People make them using quail eggs, rice powder, and fry without any oil in a special frying mold. Depending on the place this dish can be cooked using only eggs and rice flour or mixed with shrimp and pork.
Incredibly scrumptious Bánh Căn comes together with dipping bullion made out of ginger, lemon, fish sauce, onion, chives, and oil. Would you like to add more protein? Then order a side portion of Vietnamese pork or chicken sausage. Also, add a little bit of hot red chili paste to spice it up, and enjoy!
4. Bánh Ướt Lòng Gà
Here is not so famous Vietnamese food which is common in the mountainous Dalat city. There is still a chance to find it on the menus in many restaurants.
I have never thought that a cold chicken and noodle dish can be so delicious. Yes, Bánh Ướt Lòng Gà is served cold. Usually, it is an evening meal, made of thick rice noodles with fresh onions, herbs, sprouts, chicken, and red and black pepper.
Depending on a cook, Bánh Ướt Lòng Gà can be slightly different. Some places add a bit of a broth or greens. Not everyone enjoys eating cold dinner, but give this one a try at least once.
5. Mì Trộn Tóp Mỡ
Simple, quick, delicious, and cheap food to try in Vietnam. So, basically, it is a dry noodle served with any type of meat, egg, and cooked veggies. Sometimes a side soup can come together with noodles. Lunch or dinner food. Yummy! You can have it as a snack or a meal. Depends on how many sides you choose.
6. Bún Riêu
This soup is so good that, if you are in Vietnam, you’ll want to eat it every time you pass a cart that sells this food.
Bún Riêu is made with tomato broth, crab cakes, fried tofu, of course, noodles, banana flower, and mint. Every street food stall or restaurant that makes it will serve Bún Riêu with loads of greens, herbs, marinated papaya, tangy lime, and water spinach. It seems that sweet, sour, and savory flavors are combined in just one bowl of this heavenly delicious, and healthy meal.
7. Bánh Tráng Nướng
Is anyone for pizza tonight? Surprisingly to us, Vietnamese pizza tastes very delicious. There are a lot of different toppings but all of them always have an egg as a base.
Bánh Tráng Nướng is a large, round, flat rice cracker covered with egg, scallions and butter, and toppings of your choice. Vietnamese people don’t eat cheese, so this pizza won’t have any of it but it still tastes incredible! Can be also vegetarian.
8. Bánh Nậm
How to describe what is Bánh Nậm? These are thick and thin rice cakes with peanuts, seasoning, scallions, and tomato paste. Not my favorite but was good to try for the experience. Take a look at the picture to get an idea of what those are. Two different dipping sauces come on the side.
This dish is probably not very common in Vietnamese restaurants outside Vietnam, but try to ask, it’s very quick and easy to make.
9. Bánh cuốn
Steamed rice rolls in English or Bánh cuốn in Vietnamese. These are not your typical spring rolls and they don’t even taste anything like spring rolls. This traditional food comes from Northern Vietnam, but I found it as street food in Saigon, Nha Trang, and Dalat. Keep in mind this is a breakfast food and there is not much chance to have it for dinner.
I would say that Bánh cuốn is a version of healthy Vietnamese food. It comes with different fillings and rice crepe is very soft compared to a more chewy one in a spring roll.
There are rolls with cooked ground pork, minced wood ear mushrooms, and shallots. If you are vegetarian, you can get rolls with mushrooms and veggies only. My Vietnamese colleague in the school where I thought English mentioned that people in Vietnam use these mushrooms in medicine to help prevent various diseases.
All of them have sides such as Vietnamese pork sausage (the one on the picture), bean sprouts, mint or cucumber as well as fish sauce for dipping which complements the flavor of spring rolls.
10. Bún Dậu Thập Cẩm
Bún Dậu Thập Cẩm is a banana leaf platter that consists of rice vermicelli, tofu, pork, rice nuggets, cucumbers, lattice, and herbs. The secret is in the fermented shrimp dipping paste with lemon and chili pepper. If you are vegetarian, ask to serve it with extra veggies and corn fritters.
11. Bánh Canh Ca
Banh Can Ca is another famous Vietnamese soup that comes with noodles but noodles in this dish are usually made with tapioca flour (or a mixture of tapioca and rice flour). They are usually chewy, served with boiled pork, liver, veggies, and herbs. Add soy sauce to enhance the flavor and enjoy!
It is a great alternative to pho.
12. Bot Chien
Bot Chien is a Vietnamese rice cake with egg. Usually, it is sold as street food, is very cheap (costs between $1-$1.50), and suitable for vegetarians.
If you look at the picture below you’ll see brown pieces of something that look more like fried fat. In reality that’s a cut rice cake. This dish usually comes with greens or marinated papaya and soy sauce on the side.
I thought it tasted just like omelette. That’s why if you feel like having a western type of breakfast, Bot Chien is the right choice. Also, in many places, you can find this food for dinner.
13. Bánh mì
Anywhere you go in Vietnam you’ll be finding Bánh mì, or in other words sandwich. Saigon, one of the world’s best cities for street food, is home to Banh mi, so there, you can find it around each corner.
I am personally not a fan of bread, but these sandwiches are so good that it’s difficult to resist.
They come with eggs, different types of meat, crab meat, shrimp, veggies, and various sauces. You can choose whatever you want. Depending on the place Bánh mì can cost as little as 40 cents.
14. Bánh xèo
This dish is a savory fried pancake in Vietnamese style made with rice flour, water, and turmeric powder. It can also remind an omelette, but has nothing to do with it. The filling of Bánh xèo will always meet your preferences, meaning it will be either vegetarian or with some meat or shrimp.
15. Cơm Gà Xối Mỡ
Cơm Gà Xối Mỡ is crispy grilled chicken with yellow fried rice. This dish comes together with fermented cabbage, fresh cucumber and lettuce salad, and hot kale chard soup.
Some vendors sell this meal strictly for breakfast while others only for dinner. I could find it any time during the day in big cities and small towns. Cơm Gà Xối Mỡ is very popular as Vietnamese restaurant food and as street food. You won’t miss it!
16. Chao Tim
Thick rice porridge with pork, soft and spongy liver, chewy pigs’ ears, and intestines. A lot of people prefer this dish for breakfast, but you can find it at any time during the day.
At first, it may look weird, but tastes really good and is very nutritious. Even though Chao Tim is considered to be food for the poor, it is healthy and light at the same time.
17. Cơm Tấm
Cơm Tấm refers to rice with fractured rice grains. Every time you see a stall with this name it means you’ll be able to get rice with grilled pork or ribs, fried or steamed egg, fermented and fresh vegetables. Also, a bowl of soup is served along with it. This meal is so huge that you can buy one to share with someone or take leftovers for later.
18. Bún Chả Hà Nội & Chả Cốm
Bún Chả Hà Nội is a dish you can see on the left, rice glass noodles with grilled fatty pork sausage, herbs, greens, and sweet vegetable sauce. Chả Cốm is a dish of fried green rice flakes with shrimp and corn, and you can see it on the right.
Both of them are popular Vietnamese foods among locals, although not many foreigners get to try.
19. Bánh Tét
Bánh Tét is a national dish of Vietnam which is always cooked for Vietnamese New Year Tet but stores sell it in smaller quantities year-round.
So it is a rice cake from glutinous rice with mung bean and/or pork, egg filling. It is cooked in banana leaf and boiled in water.
The one you see in the picture Mark and I ate at an Airbnb home in Nha Trang. Owners cooked it with peanuts and egg. If you get Bánh Tét in a store, don’t eat it cold. Better fry it with a bit of oil and dip in soy sauce.
20. Xôi Xéo
The rice you see in the picture is glutinous sticky rice with spicy-sweet sauce, turmeric, and steamed chicken or grilled pork. It is garnished with green onions and sauce that reminds mayonnaise. I ordered it by mistake and didn’t even finish because it was too heavy for me. If you want to try, get one with mung bean and fried shallots. That one is really good!
21. Bánh Cam
This is a rice ball made of glutinous rice flour and fried in oil. I know, I know it is not the healthiest food, but I gave it a try and wanted to buy more.
Fillings are different, from savory to sweet. The one on the picture was with mushrooms and carrots. You can find them with mung bean, meat or vegetables.
22. Gỏi Cuốn
I am sure that everyone who is looking at the Vietnamese food menu knows what spring rolls are. They come as a snack, but also as a meal. Can be vegan as well as with meats, shrimp, and egg. So many to choose from!
In Vietnam, you can find them everywhere – at the cheapest street food stalls and expensive restaurants.
23. Banh Dap
Banh Dap is a Vietnamese fried rice cracker that can be eaten as a snack on its own or together with a meal.
Some places offer Banh Dap with soups, noodles (Mì Quảng for example), or fried eggs (Bot Chien).
You can buy it at the market or store anywhere in the country.
Banh Dap crackers can be less or more fried, have fewer sesame seeds, and be in light or dark color (depending on what flour was used – white or brown rice flour). A healthier version of chips.
24. Avocado Ice-cream
Did you know that some regions of Vietnam grow avocado? Lâm Đồng province, for instance, with a well-known capital Dalat grows really good avocados.
In their taste, they differ from avocados grown in some states of the U. S. or Mexico. When I tried this dessert I could hardly call it ice-cream. It was more like a nutritious avocado meal, very fulfilling and healthy.
I watched the guys from the ice cream shop making this dessert and saw them blending avocado with a little bit of water and garnishing it with frozen coconut milk with sugar. My ice cream was never as healthy as this one in southern Vietnam.
25. Coconut Iced Coffee
I didn’t want to write about coffee at first but then changed my mind and decided to mention a few words. I can’t drink coffee because it makes me feel dizzy but this one was so light that I drank almost a whole glass.
What you see in the picture is a chunk of frozen coconut milk, mixed with one shot of coffee and condensed milk. It tastes like a dessert and contains less caffeine than regular coffee. Must try when in Vietnam and ask for in Vietnamese restaurants around the world!
26. Siêu Sạch
Sugarcane juice is very refreshing on hot days. It is very common as a street drink and can be found anywhere.
I’ve been ordering this drink in some of the Vietnamese restaurants in the U.S. Try it and you’ll ask for more!
27. Egg Coffee
Of course, any Vietnamese food list should have egg coffee on it, so I had to mention it too.
You’ve probably heard that egg coffee is a typical drink of the North. However, I found it in Saigon and central regions too. More than that, I had egg coffee in Ukraine, in one of the famous Lviv cafes where coffee culture is also big. It is absolutely delicious and you simply can not leave a country without trying it!
If you are living in the US or Europe, there definitely should be a cafe serving Vietnamese coffee.
Alright, so this is my list of Vietnamese dishes. Have you tasted any of them? Or maybe you gave a try to something that is not on my list? In any case, share your experience and let me know what you think about Vietnamese food.
More Tips For Vietnam Travel
– For short-distance flights within the Asia continent and within Vietnam, refer to AirAsia.
– Use i-Visa to check if you need a tourist visa for Vietnam and apply for an expedited visa online.
– Find the best Vietnam hotel deals on Agoda.
– If you need an apartment for a long-term, check tips on the apartment rent in Vietnam – how much you get and what you need to pay.