Food is one of the main reasons I choose to travel to certain destinations and, because of my love of Vietnamese cuisine, I always had a strong desire to travel to Vietnam. I was happy to learn about and taste as much of this delicious cuisine as I possibly could during my visit.
The Five Elements Principle
Traditional Vietnamese food is greatly influenced by the ‘Five Elements Principle’, which means each dish balances these five major flavours: spicy, sour, bitter, salty, and sweet. Even though the dishes vary according to region, you will always taste the essential balance of the five elements.
Geography and climate play an important role in the country’s cuisine and you will find great variations depending on the region.
Due to its proximity, Northern Vietnamese food is heavily influenced by the Chinese, so you will find many stir-fry dishes and noodle-soups- like the famous Phỏ. Dishes with a salty flavour are generally preferred to compliment the cooler weather.
In central Vietnam, the food is known to be spicier and many small side dishes are preferred over larger meals. One of the most famous Central Vietnamese dishes is White Rose- a steamed dumpling filled with shrimp- and is found only in Hoi An.
In the South, the cuisine is a combination of sweet and sour with a wider variety of spices and herbs incorporated into the meals. You will also see a French influence in dishes like Bánh Mì and Kem Flan.
bún riêu, and bánh cuốn, originated in
northern Vietnam and were carried to central
and southern Vietnam as the southerly
migration progressed – See more at: http://www.insidevietnamtours.com/vietnamese-culture/food/#sthash.Nuf56vME.dpuf
important role in the country’s cuisine. – See more at: http://www.insidevietnamtours.com/vietnamese-culture/food/#sthash.Nuf56vME.dpuf
I am not a Vietnamese food expert by any means- but I am a foodie (and slightly obsessed with Vietnamese food)- so of course I felt the need to share photos and descriptions of the amazing dishes I had in Vietnam. I was only in the country long enough to scratch the surface of their flavourful and diverse cuisine, but nearly all of the dishes I tried were truly outstanding and memorable.
Súp Măng Cua
Asparagus crab soup is flavourful with a very thick, clear broth and was reminiscent of Chinese Egg Drop Soup.
Grilled Prawn with Muối Tiêu Chanh
This simple dip is a combination of salt, pepper, and lime, and is an extremely flavourful addition to the prawn.
Steamed rice rolls are made from a thin, wide sheet of rice batter and filled with ground pork, minced wood ear mushrooms, and shallots. They are garnished with fried shallots and cilantro and served with dipping sauce.
Spring rolls are generally filled with minced pork, mushrooms, and diced vegetables, then rolled in rice paper and deep fried. The ingredients do vary and shrimp, chicken, or tofu is also used for the filling.
Rau Muống Xào
Morning glory sauteed with garlic- this side dish is simple and tasty.
The ingredients for these savoury miniature pancakes vary, but are usually made with rice flour, coconut cream, turmeric, mung beans, and shrimp. Lettuce and fresh herbs are served on the side to wrap the pancakes with fish sauce for dipping.
This savoury dish is just sticky rice with hominy (corn) and topped with mung beans and fried onions.
Summer rolls are traditionally filled with pork, shrimp, vermicelli noodles, lettuce, and herbs, and are then tightly wrapped in rice paper. A hoisin, peanut, or fish sauce is served on the side.
Com Chay Tom Kho
A deep fried rice cracker topped with dried shrimp- crunchy and delicious.
Con Nghêu Hấp
Razor clams cooked in a lemongrass broth was a simple dish bursting with flavour.
Bún Riêu Cua
Crab noodle soup has a tomato-based broth with crab and shrimp paste, tofu, and bean sprouts and herbs served on the side.
Essentially a small doughnut- which I bought on the street- made with glutinous rice flour and covered with sesame seeds.
Fresh and delicious, these scallops were served in oil with peanuts and scallions.
Cà Tím Dậu Phu
A hotpot dish consisting of eggplant, tofu, tomato, lemongrass, and chili.
This sweet snack is usually served in a glass with coconut milk and sometimes on ice. A wide variety of different ingredients are used such as mung beans, kidney beans, tapioca, lychee, and jackfruit.
I tried Sâm bổ lượng, which had dried red jujube, lotus seed, ginseng root, seaweed and water chestnuts. It was an.. interesting combination. I probably should have tried Chè ba màu- which is three types of coloured jelly and sweet coconut juice.
Served on a French Baguette, the ingredients of this sandwich vary from the North to the South. The protein is usually pork belly, grilled pork, pork pate, grilled chicken, Vietnamese sausage, fried eggs, or tofu. Accompanying toppings generally include cheese, pickled vegetables, coriander, chili sauce, and mayo.
Banh Bao Vac
Also known as ‘White Rose’, this dish originated in Hoi An and is formed into a shape which is similar to a flower. The steamed dumpling is filled with minced shrimp, topped with crunchy toasted garlic, and served with a sweet dipping sauce.
Crispy Vietnamese pancakes made with rice flour and filled with shrimp and pork, and served with lettuce, mint, basil and dipping sauce.
To eat one like a local, take a slice of the pancake with some lettuce and herbs and roll it up in rice paper before dipping it in the sauce.
This little treat is basically a Vietnamese version of Creme Caramel. The creamy custard was topped with shaved ice and espresso and served in a small plastic cup. You can find them at various street-side vendors and it costs less than 50 cents.
Nom Hoa Chuoi
Banana Flower Salad is a delicious combination of crunchy vegetables and peanuts, fresh coriander, fish sauce, lime juice, garlic, and chili.
Coconut wine is pure sap that has been fermented inside of a coconut for three to four days.
Freshly squeezed sugarcane juice is very refreshing- with added Kumquat juice to balance the sweetness.
Cà Phê Trung
Egg coffee is delicious and almost sickeningly sweet. More of a dessert than a beverage, it is made with Vietnamese Coffee, egg, and sweetened condensed milk.
Cà Phê Sữa Chua
Vietnamese coffee with yogurt is a delicious combination. The yogurt is sweetened with condensed milk and blends perfectly with the bitter coffee.
Yogurt Coffee with Coconut and Black Rice
This is similar to to yogurt coffee, but with coconut flavour and fermented sticky black rice at the bottom of the glass.
What’s your favourite Vietnamese dish?
Wow – I’m hungry now!
I’ve been lucky to stumble into a couple of Vietnamese restaurants in Southern California. I wouldn’t travel all that way to just eat but Vietnam has been moved up on my ‘must go list’ knowing how wonderful the food is there.
The food is worth the distance! 🙂 The friendly locals, beautiful scenery, and affordable prices aren’t so bad, either!
Mmmm… I love Vietnamese food too! Little wonder my husband & I wound up sending FIVE months there during our own Big Trip. I thought I knew Vietnamese cuisine fairly well before we arrived, but I discovered so many new dishes while we were there and now that we are home, I constantly find myself disappointed by the Vietnamese food we go out to get here in Toronto. It’s definitely been modified for western palates and the prices are difficult to swallow too. Oh how I miss being able to have a veritable feast for 30,000VND or less!
I’m jealous you spent 5 months in Vietnam- I would have loved to stay that long! I agree- nothing compares to the quality and prices of food in Vietnam!