Vietnam

Vietnamese Food Guide: 27 Dishes to Try At the Vietnamese Restaurant

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. 

Quick Vietnam Food Facts

1. Vietnamese cuisine includes cuisines originating from the three diverse regions of Vietnam: northern, southern, and central.

The cuisine of northern Vietnam is more traditional, with the famous Vietnamese Pho soup. The cuisine of southern Vietnam developed under the influence of immigrants from China and French colonialists. That’s why dishes have a sweet taste and a wider variety of herbs. Central Vietnamese cuisine offers a variety of small appetizers served with the main course.

Well, the basis of all Vietnamese dishes, of course, is rice. It almost always comes with any dish instead of bread.

2. Almost everywhere and always in any cafe or restaurant when ordering food you will also get cold green tea for free. The next most popular drink after tea in Vietnam is coffee.

Coffee in Vietnam is strong, tasty, and cheap. However, you can hardly order cappuccino or espresso because Vietnamese coffee usually comes with ice and condensed milk.

The third place in the ranking of Vietnamese drinks goes to cane juice. Locals drink it a lot with ice and lime or just as it is. It is a natural and fresh product prepared in front of you. In any restaurant, you can order cane juice or fruit juice.

3. Sauces and spices. In any Vietnamese restaurant, you will find fish sauce (with a very specific strong smell), chili sauce, black and red peppers (very hot), ketchup, plum sweet and sour sauce, tamarind sauce, and, of course, soy sauce. Salads are not common in Vietnam but a slice of tomato and cucumber will usually be present in main courses.

4. Vietnamese people eat every part of the pork, except for the hair. They eat liver, heart, kidneys, lungs, ears, nose, tongue, hooves, etc. They even invented one famous soup (which I put on this list) made with the lungs, kidneys, liver, and intestines.

5. Vietnamese cuisine has dozens of types of noodles, including instant ones. People cook them in different ways and eat at least once a day. Overall, with a variety of noodles, Vietnam is second after Japan.

6. One of the interesting and authentic Vietnamese traditions is adding broths to rice bowls. In other Asian countries, people usually eat rice as a side dish with something else. In Vietnam, there will be always a small bowl of broth which you put over rice.

7. Sweet soups are a real feature of Vietnam. Variations of the word Chè on the menu always mean the “sweetness” of the soup. Be sure to try the taro soup, glutinous rice soup, or tapioca soup.

8. Vietnamese eat about 70 types of herbs. Greens are an essential part of every meal in this country. Some dishes will not be considered complete if they come without aromatic herbs. The most popular herbs in Vietnam are lemongrass, coriander, apricot leaves, mint, and Thai basil. 

9. Most Vietnamese dishes consist of four main ingredients: fish sauce, rice vinegar, salt, and sugar. Pepper is not popular here despite the fact that Vietnam is one of the world’s largest producers.

10. One of the most frightening dishes for foreign visitors is blood soup made from pork blood, the blood of ducks, goats, and even (rarely) dogs. Despite its disgusting composition, locals say the soup is extremely beneficial in the fight against colds and a number of viral diseases.

Vietnamese Food Guide – What to Order At the Vietnamese Restaurant 

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.

Vietnamese restaurant
Any time of the day food

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.

Vietnamese food scene
Yummy Van Than My

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!

Vietnamese restaurant
It is one of my favorite breakfast foods in Vietnam
Vietnamese food
Bánh Căn in the making

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.

Vietnamese restaurant
This dish is very popular among locals. Each place offering this dish is always fully packed

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.

Vietnamese restaurant
Not very common as street food, but still, you’ll be able to find it around many cities in Vietnam.
Vietnamese restaurant food
Vietnamese restaurant food. Another variation of Mì Trộn Tóp Mỡ

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.

Vietnamese restaurant food
Great for lunch or dinner

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.

Vietnamese pizza
Vietnamese pizza is surprisingly very delicious!
Vietnamese restaurant
Pizza in the making

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.

Vietnamese restaurant
Bánh Nậm is on the top, spring rolls on the bottom.

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.

Vietnamese food
Steamed Rice 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.

Vietnamese restaurant
Vietnamese restaurant food: good for dinner

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.

Vietnamese restaurant food
Vietnamese comfort food

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.

Vietnamese food
Looks like a Western-style omelette. Tastes like it too.

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.

Vietnamese restaurant food
If you are in Vietnam, you’ll find many stalls that sell Bánh mì
Vietnamese restaurant food
So many types of sandwiches in Vietnam

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.

Vietnamese food
Looks like an omelette or a crepe
Vietnamese food
Locals taught us to eat bánh xèo wrapped up in lattice and mint leaves and dipped in sweet red pepper sauce

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!

Vietnamese restaurant food
Chicken and rice for breakfast? Easy!

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.

Vietnamese restaurant food
$1 breakfast food is yummy and nutritious

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.

Vietnamese restaurant
This food is very popular for breakfast or for dinner.
Vietnamese restaurant food
A similar dish with broken rice too. It is not as heavy as the previous one. It comes with pickled palm root, omelette, and tofu (or sardines, fried fished, chicken, and various greens). You pick.
Vietnamese restaurant
One more from another vendor

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.

Vietnamese restaurant food
Vietnamese restaurant food: typical dinner

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.

Bánh Tét Vietnamese food
Bánh Tét in the center on the plate next to chicken sausage, soy sauce, and fermented cabbage

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!

Vietnamese restaurant
One dish with ribs, another one with chicken. I thought it was heavy, maybe because of the meat and sauces.

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.

Snack food

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.

One of the most famous street foods in Vietnam and always on the menu in Vietnamese restaurants around the world. Cheap and light. Or, and one of the healthiest Vietnamese foods for sure.

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.

Vietnamese Rice Cracker

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.

Vietnamese restaurant
Avocado and coconut milk ice-cream

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!

Coconut Coffee

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!

 drink in Vietnam
Street drink in Vietnam

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.

Egg coffee Vietnam
Doesn’t it look like a dessert?

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 long-distance flights, I recommend you to compare prices on Google Flights and Skyscanner. Sometimes Skyscanner finds better deals than google with lower prices and fewer stops.

– 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.

When in Nha Trang, spend a day in luxury Amiana Resort & Spa!

 
The list of main dishes, snacks, desserts and drinks from Vietnam. Even if you don't travel to Vietnam but would love to try Vietnamese food, this guide will help you understand what to order at the restaurant in your home country and eat like a local #vietnamfood #travelvietnam #bestasianfood
Vietnamese food guide
 
 

Anya is originally from Ukraine but in heart she is a citizen of the world. She is working online and that’s why has an opportunity to travel slowly and live in different countries around the world. At present time, she is living between Lviv, Ukraine and Istanbul, Turkey. On this blog, her main goal is to inspire others to travel to under-the-radar-places and discover the world while working remotely.

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