10 traditional Vietnamese foods you can't miss

Photo by Marek Minor / Unsplash

Food exploring is a must-do experience while traveling in Vietnam, especially when it comes to traditional dishes. The dishes shall surprise you with the look, the smell and indeed the complex flavour. If you plan to visit the country, here are the top 10 traditional Vietnamese dishes which are highly recommended. More interesting, you can find these dishes varying from pavement food stalls to high-end restaurants.

Phở - a classic Vietnamese cuisine everyone would love to try

A regular serve of Pho

The simmered beef bone broth was cooked for hours before blended beautifully with spices, poured over the rice noodles, and is topped with various kinds of beef and spring onion. There are slight differences between Northern Phở and Southern Phở you might want to know. Phở in the North has the lighter soup and they rarely eat with herbs or else vegetables. Meanwhile, the Southern version was packed with a  savorier broth, and a more robust  beef flavour. Southern people also eat Phở with a variety of herbs and vegetables.

Either way, Phở is the unique combination of flavour you will never forget. If you want to experience a typical morning of Vietnamese, do not forget to have a bowl of Phở from sidewalk food stalls or the alleys. The price of those places are affordable, ranging from 25,000-40,000 VND (around $1.5). Likewise, you can also choose some famous restaurants to experience. Suggested places below are worth a try:

Address: 63/6 Pasteur street, Bến Nghé ward, district 1, Ho Chi Minh city

Price: 60,000-85,000 VND ($2.5-3.7)

One notice for this bistro is that you need to come early because they usually close around 9am

Address: 413-415 Nguyễn Trãi street, ward 7, district 5, Ho Chi Minh city

Address: 61 Đinh Tiên Hoàng street, Hoàn Kiếm district, Hanoi

Price: 40,000-60,000 VND ($1.8-2.8)

Address: 50C Hàng Vải street, Hoàn Kiếm district, HanoiPrice: 45,000-100,000 VND

Bún bò - a traditional Vietnamese food originating from the Central

Bún bò is a popular dish for every meal of the day. Photo by Vy Huynh / Unsplash

The basic ingredients of the dish are beef bone broth, beef, and rice noodles. The essence of Bún Bò is a special kind of shrimp paste blended in the broth, along with minced lemongrass which creates an exquisite taste. The rice noodle in Bún Bò is also different from Phở; it has a round shape.

Bún bò goes well with shaved morning glory, other vegetables and herbs and spicy chili oil. Have a bowl of Bún Bò and enjoy the strong aromatic soup and the heat from chili oil, soothed by accompanying vegetables. Experience your own at some recommended places:

Address: 20 Bạch Đằng street, Phú Cát district, Huế city

Price: 25,000-60,000 VND ($1-2.6)

Address: 29/1 Hùng Vương street, Phú Hội district Hue city

Price: 30.000-35.000 VND (around $1.5)

  • Bún bò huế Chú Há

Address: 300 Võ Văn Tần street, district 3, Ho Chi Minh city

Price: 80,000-100,000 VND ($3.5-4.5)

Address: 148 Lê Thị Riêng street, district 1, Ho Chi Minh city. Find more nearby chain store information here

Price: 35,000-55,000 VND ($1.5-2.5)

Perhaps, you might want to try random local food stalls along the pavement; you can also find your favourite place among them. This is the Vietnamese food style.

Bún chả - the flavour is beautiful and balanced

A flavourful serve of Bun cha. Photo by: Miusfoodmaps

Bún chả is a balanced collection of staple ingredients originating from Hanoi. The main components are pork patty, rice noodles, mixed vegetables, and boiled fish sauce. The specialty of this traditional Vietnamese food is the way we adjust the regular seasoning and spices to form a tasty dish.

Pork is divided into two kinds of meat; patty and sliced pork belly. They are all grilled on charcoal till turning brown outside while juicy inside. The grilled meat is dipped in boiled sweet and sour fish sauce, garnished with pickled green papaya or carrot, and served with rice noodles and mixed vegetables. Here are some recommendations for you while visiting Hanoi:

Address: 24 Lê Văn Hưu street, Hai Bà Trưng district, Hanoi

Price: 40,000-65,000 VND ($1.7-2.8)

Address: 41 Cửa Đông street, Hoàn Kiếm district, Hanoi

Price: around 65,000 VND ($2.8)

Bánh mì - easy to grab, delicious to enjoy

You can not miss Banh mi while in Vietnam. Photo by: Vietnamisawesome

Bánh mì is globally known as one of the most must-have traditional Vietnamese foods. Bánh mì is a special kind of sandwich with crispy bread to go along with a variety of fillings. The most common Bánh mì is served with Vietnamese cold cut, pickled vegetables, egg sauce, and seasonings depending on the place.

The interesting thing is that you can find different flavours of Bánh mì in different regions, different stalls or restaurants. Bánh mì is an easy food to grab on the way and convenient to enjoy on the go. If you are interested in some famous places, you can try the suggestions below:

Address: 26 Lê Thị Riêng street, Bến Thành, district 1, Ho Chi Minh city

Price: 48.000-58.000 VND ($2.1-2.5)

Address: 64 Hàm Nghi street, district 1, Ho Chi Minh city

Price: from 30.000 VND ($1.3)

Food stalls on the sidewalks or from the alleys always welcome you to experience; the price is also more affordable, just from 15.000 VND ($0.6) to have a Bánh mì.

Cơm tấm - a Saigon signature

Com tam with grilled pork chop, egg meatloaf. Photo by: asiantoprecipes

Cơm tấm is made from steamed broken rice, traditionally served with grilled pork chops, pork skin seasoned with roasted rice powder and Vietnamese egg meatloaf, served with lightly caramelised fish sauce, pickled vegetables and side dishes depending on the place.

This dish is considered an affordable, healthy choice for a complete meal, yet you can find it the most visible anywhere across Ho Chi Minh. There are some famous Cơm tấm places you might want to experience:

  • Cơm tấm Phúc Lộc Thọ

Address: 30 restaurants in Ho Chi Minh city, details in here

Price: from 35,000 VND ($1.5)

Diverse menu, clean, affordable price, fast serving

Address: 389 Hưng Phú street, ward 4, district 8, Ho Chi Minh city

Price: from 50,000 VND ($2.2)

Popular restaurant for locals

Mì quảng - a special kind of noodles soup

Mi quang goes well with rice crackers and green chili

Mì quảng originated from the Central of Vietnam. The specialty of the dish comes from the yellow thick, chewy noodles and the rich soup. Before simmering the broth, we stir fry chopped chickens, or pork ribs, shrimp with a special kind of chives called “Củ nén". Củ nén is the feature of Mì Quảng taste.

Different from other noodle dishes, Mì quảng is usually served very little  soup. The concentrated broth is savoury enough to eat with noodles, vegetables and rice crackers. To enrich the flavour, you can add special chili jam, green chili and lime. If you travel to Da Nang, do not forget to stop by and have a bowl of Mì quảng:

Address: 1A Hải Phòng street, Hải Châu district, Da Nang city

Price: from 35,000 VND ($1.5)

Address: 441 Ông Ích Khiêm street, Hải Châu district, Da Nang city

Price: from 47,000 VND ($2.1)

Bánh khọt - Vietnamese mini pancakes

Banh khot has a fascinating texture: crispy outside while fluffy in the inside

This traditional Vietnamese cuisine came from the South and is commonly called Vietnamese mini pancakes. Bánh khọt is made from rice flour, being fried on pans till crispy outside while fluffy inside, topped with fresh shrimps and spring onion.

Bánh khọt is eaten with sweet and sour fish sauce, garnished with pickled vegetables, wrapped in lettuces and Vietnamese herbs. A little bit of minced chili might embellish the taste. It is even more enjoyable if you have Bánh khọt in a group of friends or family.

Address: 40B Trần Cao Vân street, ward 6, district 3, Ho Chi Minh city

Price: from 90,000 VND ($3.95)

Bún đậu mắm tôm - a dish for courageous foreigners

Fermented shrimp paste is a challenge for every foreigner

This traditional Vietnamese food is usually served from noon. The fermented shrimp paste is the spirit of the cuisine. It is mixed with a bit of sugar, kumquat or lime, and blended well till it tastes appropriate for you. The sauce is firstly challenging to smell, but when you try and be familiar with it, you can be addicted. You can also eat it with fish sauce instead if it is too hard to bear the smell of shrimp paste.

Originally, people just served rice noodles with fried tofu and the sauce only. Nowadays, we have a variety of side dishes to consider such as pork belly, spring roll, boiled entrails, etc. If you find yourself in Hanoi, try to have a serve of Bún đậu mắm tôm; it shall be an unforgettable experience. Here are some suggested places for you:

  • Bún đậu gốc đa Ngõ Gạch (Get there)

Address: 4 Ngõ Gạch street, Hàng Buồn ward, Hoàn Kiếm district, Hanoi

Price: from 35,000 VND ($1.5)

  • Bún đậu phố cổ Thành Công (Get there)

Address: 106 B2A Thành Công street, Ba Đình district, Hanoi

Price: from 35,000 VND ($1.5)

Bánh cuốn - Vietnamese steamed rice roll

Banh cuon is a popular option for Vietnamese’s breakfast

Bánh cuốn is made from rice flour batter, spread on a thin layer on a steaming plate. The filling is a mixture of minced pork, minced wood-ear mushroom, sometimes minced fresh shrimp; all is stir-fried with spices then rolled in steamed rice cakes. Bánh cuốn is served with Vietnamese signature sauce - sweet and sour fish sauce; topped with chopped vegetables, crispy fried shallots and minced pork meatloaf (we call it “chả lụa").

Bánh cuốn is not only famous for the tasty flavour, but also its exciting making process. If you have opportunities to stop by at a stall, do not forget to observe the way it is made and have a bite. Below are some recommendations to have Bánh cuốn in Ho Chi Minh city.

Address: 127 Đinh Tiên Hoàng street, Đa Kao ward, district 1, Ho Chi Minh city

Price: from 56,000 VND ($2.5)

Address: 17A Nguyễn Thị Minh Khai street, Bến Nghé ward, district 1, Ho Chi Minh city

Price: from 43,000 VND ($1.89)

Just like other traditional Vietnamese foods, you also should try Bánh cuốn along the pavement or from the alleys. You can always find good local places along the way.

Cơm phần - Vietnamese family meal

Family meal is a tradition of Vietnamese

One of the typical traditional Vietnamese customs is family meal, a part of cultures and a symbol of union and love. Beside the meaning, Vietnamese family meal covers healthy dishes with steamed rice, daily vegetables, various meats or seafood, soup, and sauce. The side dishes menu can vary on a regular daily basis.

Some traditional cuisines you can find in a meal are “Cá kho tộ” (braised fish), “Canh chua" (Vietnamese sour soup), stir-fried or boiled vegetables, sauces are commonly fish sauce or soy sauce. Many bistros and restaurants are keen to serve Vietnamese family meals to spread out the country's culture. There are recommendations in Ho Chi Minh city:

Address: 10 Đặng Tất street, Tân Định ward, district 1, Ho Chi Minh city

Price: from 80,000 VND per dish (from $3.5)

  • Secret Garden - Vietnamese Restaurant & Tea House (Get there)

Address: 158 bis/40-41 Pasteur street, Bến Nghé ward, district 1, Ho Chi Minh city

Price: from 50,000 VND per dish (from $2.2)