Expanding your tastebuds while in a foreign country is unlike any other experience. The smells and tastes alone in Vietnam will make your trip memorable.

An array of unique food in Vietnam
An array of unique food in Vietnam
Photo by Piqsels

Delight Your Tastebuds

My life revolves around food, and so when I travel, my trip often does too. Food is an important part of learning culture and experiencing a country like Vietnam. Bland food can ruin an entire day and has no place in your Vietnamese travels.

Vietnam is known for many things, like their unique coffee culture. Their food is extraordinary and varies significantly depending on which region of the country you visit. The food they are most famous for is Pho (pronounced ‘fa’) dishes, which are noodles in a broth.

Vietnamese delicacies can be found in fine-dining restaurants, but the roadside eateries, vibrant food markets, and humble-looking restaurants frequented by locals are the best.

From North to South Vietnam, here is a list of 5 foods you have to try while there.

Traditional Vietnamese food called Pho
Photo by Pikist

Phở, the national food of Vietnam

It’s like a cheeseburger for Americans, a staple. Phở is eaten everywhere, any time of the day. It is what Vietnam is famous for and comes in varying shapes, sizes and flavors, depending on where in the country you are.

The food in the south is much sweeter than the north. Much like the neighboring countries of Vietnam- Thailand and Cambodia, the region has adopted the use of coconut and sugar in their cooking. A good way to learn about the differences in northern and southern Vietnamese food is to try a Phở dish in both regions.

Bún Chả, the noodle dish of Northern Vietnam

Swop your eggs and bacon for a dish called Bun Cha. Typically served for breakfast, you can get your hands on this dish almost anywhere in Hanoi. The best and most authentic spots in Vietnam are the almost makeshift restaurants on the roadside with plastic tables and chairs.

It’s a mixed plate of grilled fatty pork (chả) over a plate of white rice noodle (bún) and herbs, with a side dish of dipping sauce

Eating Bun Cha for breakfast on the side of a bustling street, sitting on a tiny chair in Hanoi will complete your experience of the city.

Vietnamese Bun Cha, a breakfast food in the North.
Vietnamese Bun Cha, breakfast food in the North.
Photo by Flickr

Bánh Xèo, the Vietnamese Pancake

Similar to a pancake, Bánh Xèo is made of rice flour, coconut milk, and turmeric. You can fill it with vermicelli noodles, a protein, and a variety of fresh vegetables for a savory experience.

Most roadside restaurants, local markets, and cafes sell Bánh Xèo, which traditionally comes with a side of fresh lettuce or rice papers. Eat your food like a local and wrap your Bánh Xèo in mustard leaf, lettuce leaves or rice papers together with mint leaves and basil, before dipping in fermented peanut sauce.

Bánh Xèo is Vietnam's version of a pancake.
Bánh Xèo is Vietnam’s version of a pancake.

Cau Lau Noodles, native to Hoi An, Vietnam

If Hoi An is not on your list of places to see in Vietnam, this dish will put it there. This hearty noodle dish is native to Hoi An, where lye water from a nearby well is used to make the noodles. It can’t really be eaten anywhere else because of this.

It comes topped with slices of barbecue pork, pork crackling, bean sprouts, lettuce and herbs, and crispy deep fried squares of those tasty noodles.

Can Lau is central Vietnam's breakfast food
Can Lau is central Vietnam’s breakfast food

Banh Mi, a Vietnamese baguette with a difference

A Bahn Mi breakfast in Ho Chi Mhin City, Vietnam
A Banh Mi breakfast in Ho Chi Min City, Vietnam

Banh mi is a famous Vietnamese sandwich. Made with a baguette, introduced by the French, but turned totally unique by the Vietnamese.

If you think the Europeans make bread well, you are in for a surprise. A good Banh Mi will have a very crusty outer layer and a soft, fluffy center. Packed with cold meats or egg, coriander, crunchy veg and sauce, it makes for a mouthwatering meal. Traditionally it is eaten for breakfast with a cup of Vietnamese coffee.