Food & Drink

Vietnamese cuisine is based on a mixture of Vietnamese, Chinese and French traditions. Breakfast is generally noodle soup, and noodles or rice provide the basis of most meals. Fish sauce (nuoc mam) is an essential accompaniment.

Vietnamese recipes use many vegetables, herbs and spices, including lemon grass, lime, and kaffir lime leaves. Throughout all regions the emphasis is always on serving fresh vegetables and/or fresh herbs as side dishes along with dipping sauce. The most common meats used in Vietnamese cuisine are pork, beef, prawns, various kinds of tropical fish, and chicken. Duck, goat and lamb are used much less widely.

Regional Food

Vietnamese cuisine can be basically divided into three categories, each pertaining to a specific region. With North Vietnam being the cradle of Vietnamese civilisation, many of Vietnam's most famous dishes (such as pho) have their birthplace in that area. As a new land, the South's cuisine is more exotic and liberal, using many herbs. The South's cuisine has been influenced by the cuisines of southern Chinese immigrants, and thus Southerners prefer sweet flavours in many dishes. Central Vietnamese cooking, is quite different from the cuisines of both the Northern and Southern regions, in its use of many small side dishes, and also its distinct spiciness.

Typical Dishes

Popular Vietnamese dishes include:

  • Banh Bao: steamed bun dumpling that can be stuffed with onion, mushrooms, vegetables, and other foods.
  • Banh Beo: a central Vietnamese dish consisting of tiny and round rice flour pancakes, each served in a tiny round dish. They are topped with minced shrimp and other smaller ingredients and then dipped in nuoc cham.
  • Banh Bot Chien: a Chinese influenced pastry with many versions all over Asia, the Vietnamese version features a special tangy soy sauce on the side.
  • Banh Bot Loc: a Hue food, consisting of tiny rice dumplings made in a clear rice flour batter, often in a small, kind of flat tube shape. Stuffed with shrimp and ground pork, it is wrapped and cooked inside banana leaf, served often as Vietnamese hors d'oeuvres at more casual buffet-type parties.
  • Banh Canh: a thick rice noodle soup with a more basic broth. Often includes pork, crab, chicken, shrimp, spring onions and freshly sautéed onions sprinkled on top.
  • Banh Chung: sticky rice wrapped in banana leaves and stuffed with mung beans, fatty pork and black sesame seeds, traditionally eaten during the Lunar New Year (Tet).
  • Banh Cuon: rice flour rolls and/or pancakes sometimes stuffed with ground pork and onion.
  • Banh Hoi: a special Vietnamese noodle that is extremely thin and woven into intricate bundles. Often topped with spring onion and a complementary meat dish.
  • Banh Mi Thit: Vietnamese baguette, French bread containing paté, Vietnamese mayonnaise, different selections of Vietnamese cold cuts and deli (a large variety, most commonly with ham, head cheese, and a Vietnamese bologna), pickled daikon and carrot, cucumber slices. Often garnished with coriander, black pepper. This food is common everywhere in Vietnam as a favourite of factory workers and school children, and commonly eaten for breakfast and lunch.
  • Banh Tet: same ingredients as banh chung but in cylindrical form and wrapped in banana leaves. It is served during Tet.
  • Banh Xeo: crepe made out of rice flour with turmeric, shrimps, slivers of fatty pork , sliced onions, and sometimes button mushrooms, fried in one or two teaspoons of coconut oil. It is eaten with lettuce and various local herbs and dipped in Nuoc cham or sweet fermented peanut butter sauce. Rice papers are sometimes used as wrappers to contain banh xeo and the accompanying vegetables.
  • Bo 7 Mon: Vietnamese seven courses of Beef. A less popular version is the Ca 7 Mon (Ca 7 Mon) - or, seven courses of fish.
  • Bo Kho: Vietnamese beef and vegetable stew, often cooked with warm, spicy herbs and served very hot with French baguettes for dipping.
  • Bo Luc Lac: Beef cut into cubes and marinated, served over greens (usually watercress), and sautéed onions and tomatoes. Eaten with rice.
  • Bun Bo Hue: Spicy beef noodle soup originated from the Royal Hue City of Central Vietnam. Beef bones, fermented shrimp paste, lemongrass and dried chillies give its broth the distinctive flavours. Often served with mint leaves, bean sprouts, lime wedges, shredded banana blossoms and shredded rau muong.
  • Bun Mang Vit: Bamboo and duck noodle soup.
  • Bun Oc: Vermicelli with snails.
  • Bun Rieu: noodle soup made of thin rice noodles and topped with crab and shrimp paste, served in a tomato based broth and garnished with bean sprout, prawn paste, herb leaves, water spinach, and tomato chunks.
  • Bun Thit Nuong: one of the more popular (and simple) Vietnamese dishes. Grilled pork (often shredded) and vermicelli noodles over a bed of greens (salad and sliced cucumber), herbs and bean sprouts. Also often include a few chopped up egg rolls, spring onions, and shrimp. Served with roasted peanuts on top and a small bowl of Nuoc cham.
  • Canh Chua: Vietnamese sour soup - typically with fish, pineapples, tomatoes, herbs, beansprouts. When made in style of a hotpot, it is called Lau Canh Chua.
  • Cao Lau: a Hoi An dish, made of specially burnt flavoured egg noodles topped with meats.
  • Cha-Lua: sausage made with pork, potato starch and fish sauce.
  • Chao Tom: Prawn paste cake on sugarcane.
  • Chao: Rice congee. There are also a variety of different broths and meats used, including duck, chicken, and so on.
  • Com Ga Rau Thom: Vietnamese mint chicken rice. Rice cooked in chicken stock and topped with a mint (and other herbs) fried chicken (which is shredded). The rice has a unique texture and taste which the fried mint garnish enhances. Served with a special herb sauce on the side.
  • Com Tam: Grilled pork (either ribs or shredded) plus a Vietnamese dish called bi (thinly shredded pork mixed with cooked and thinly shredded pork skin) over broken rice and sweet and sour fish sauce.. The rice and meat are served with various greens and pickled vegetables, along with a prawn paste cake, trung hap and grilled prawns.
  • Ga Xa: Lemongrass chicken. Lemongrass beef and other meats are also popular variations.
  • Goi: salad. Many varieties with the most popular including:
    • Goi Du Du: Vietnamese papaya salad typically with shredded papaya, shrimp, slices of pork, herbs, and with a more vinegar-based rendition of Nuoc cham.
    • Goi Hue Rau Muong: a salad dish originating from Hue (Central Vietnam), including water spinach (Rau Muong).
  • Mam: fermented fish in various styles.
  • Mi Bo Vien: Chinese influenced egg noodle soup with beef balls, shrimp and (sometimes) won tons.
  • Mi Quang: a noodle dish originating from Quang Nam featuring sharply contrasting flavours and textures in a shallowly filled bowl of broth, noodles, herbs, vegetables, and roasted rice chip (banh trang).
  • Mi Xao Don: crispy deep-fried egg noodles, topped with a wide array of seafood, vegetables and shrimp in a delicious gravy sauce.
  • Nem: pork mixed with noodles, eggs and mush-rooms, wrapped in rice paper and fried.
  • Nem Nguoi: a Hue dish and a variation of the Nem nuong meatballs, these also come from Central Vietnam. They are chilled, small and rectangular in shape, and stuffed with vermicelli. The reddish meat is covered with peppers and typically a chilli. Very spicy, eaten almost exclusively as a cocktail snack.
  • Nem Nuong: grilled meatballs, usually made of seasoned pork. Often reddish in colour due to food colouring and with a distinct taste, grilled on skewers like kabobs. Ingredients in the marinade include fish sauce.
  • Paté Chaud: A French inspired meat-filled pastry. Characterised by flaky crust and either pork or chicken as the filling.
  • Pho: A beef noodle soup with a rich, clear broth achieved from hours upon hours of boiling meat and different herbs. There are many varieties of pho, with different selections of meats (most commonly beef and chicken) along with beef balls. Pho is typically served in bowls with spring onion, (in pho tai) slices of semi cooked beef (to be cooked by the boiling hot broth), and then of course the broth itself. The use of vegetables and various herbs is common in the southern region.
  • Spring Rolls or Egg Roll (Nem Ran or Cha Gio): deep fried flour rolls filled with pork meat, yam, crab, shrimp, rice vermicelli, mushrooms and other ingredients.
  • Summer Rolls (Goi Cuon) or Vietnamese Fresh Rolls: rice paper rolls that often include shrimp, herbs, pork, rice vermicelli and other ingredients wrapped up and dipped in Nuoc cham or peanut sauce. Summer rolls almost constitute an entire category of Vietnamese foods, as there are numerous different kinds of rolls with different ingredients in them. They include:
    • Bi Cuon: rice paper rolls with the bi mixture of thinly shredded pork and thinly shredded pork skin tossed with powdered toasted rice, among other ingredients, along with salad.
    • Bo Bia: stir fried jimica and carrots, Chinese sausage, shredded scrambled eggs, all wrapped with vermicelli noodle in a rice paper roll. Dipped into a spicy peanut sauce (with freshly roasted and ground peanuts).
    • Bo La Lot: a rather spiced beef rolled in pepper leaf (la lot) and grilled.
    • Ca Cuon: a roll with fish and spring onions.
  • Sup Mang Cua: a creamy bamboo-crab soup, typically served as a first dish at banquets.
  • Thit Heo Quay: barbeque pork, often eaten at weddings (and with Banh hoi).
  • Thit Vit Quay: Roast duck, eaten over rice.
  • Vietnamese Hotpot: a spicy variation of the Vietnamese sour soup, with many vegetables, meats and seafood, as well as some spicy herbs. Also called lau.

Desserts and Drinks

Che is a sweet desert usually made from beans or beans and sticky rice. Many varieties of che are available, each with different fruits, beans (for example, mung beans or kidney beans), and other ingredients. Che can be served cold, cool or hot.

Fruit smoothies are also popular. They are simple to make and require just a few teaspoons of sugar, crushed ice and fresh locally available fruits. The smoothies come in many varieties, including apple custard, avocado, jack fruit, strawberry, passionfruit, dragonfruit, lychee, and banana.

Refreshing green tea is available throughout the country, while coffee is served rich and fresh. A Vietnamese favourite is cafe sua da (ca phe sua), a strong coffee most often served with sweetened condensed milk at the bottom of the cup to be stirred in. Local draught beer, Bia Hoi, is additive free, and rice wine is also popular.