Vietnam is home to some absolutely incredible food and in this post, I’d like to share twelve of my favourite Vietnamese dishes and where to find them. My boyfriend and I spent two months in Vietnam so we had lots of time to sample the country’s specialties and fall in love with its cuisine. Warning: The post will make you hungry!
Phố is probably the most iconic Vietnamese dish, well-known outside of Vietnam. This cheap and hearty bowl comprises of rice noodles, a tasty broth, meat (such as beef, chicken or meatballs), greens and a selection of herbs. Typically served at breakfast, you will see people eating it on just about every corner. Although not my favourite thing to eat in this beautiful country, it is still a great way to start the day. If the menu is all in Vietnamese, just remember – bo is beef and gà is chicken!
Where to try Phố
Phở Cồ Thịnh Gia Truyền, Hanoi
It’s hard to narrow down a place for Phố as they are literally everywhere. There will be plenty of sites recommending a few famous places in Hanoi, but I will promote a local we went to. In the more residential area of Tây Hồ, this small restaurant offers multiple tasty options to choose from.
Price: VND 30,000
Address: 127 Phố Yên Phụ, Yên Phụ, Tây Hồ, Hà Nội, Vietnam
2. Phở Chiên Phồng
Was there a part of you that thought Phố might be too healthy? Well, say hello to Phố Chien Phong! This naughty little dish is basically a brothless, deep fried version of Phố. The noodles are not cut into the usual strips, but into squares and fried until they puff up into a light and crispy little cushion (I wish my cushions were deep-fried…). I’d not heard of this until I arrived in Vietnam, but I’m glad I did as you can’t have enough deep-fried food.
Where to try Pho chien phong
Phở Cuốn Hương Mai, Hanoi
There is a small island in Trúc Bạch that seems to love this dish. There are whole streets full of restaurants specialising in Phở Chiên Phồng, but this one seemed very popular. They also serve a good Phở chiên trứng, which is a brothless version of Phố but with noodles.
Price: VND 55-65,000
Address: 25 Ngũ Xã, Trúc Bạch, Ba Đình, Hà Nội, Vietnam
3. Bánh Xèo
Bánh Xèo, literally translated as “sizzling pancake”, are made from rice batter mixed with turmeric, which is poured into a small cast iron pan and fried until lovely and crisp. They are then filled with little shrimp, slithers of pork and juicy bean sprouts before being folded over. They are brought to you alongside a basket of herbs and salad (one of the best things about Vietnamese cuisine – so many healthy greens!), meat skewers (nem), rice paper, some vegetable slices, a tangy and sour fish sauce dip and some…scissors?
First, grab a piece of rice paper, add your vegetables and herbs and snip as big a slice of Bánh Xèo that you can fit in. Very carefully roll that bad boy up, dunk it in the sauce and enjoy. They are fun to eat and incredibly tasty. One of our favourite things to eat in Vietnam, I even made one on a cookery course!
Where to try Bánh Xèo
Hương – Bánh Xèo & Nem Lụi, Hanoi
We first tried this awesome dish at a small eatery near our apartment. We ordered a couple assuming we would just get the pancakes, but ended up with a table full of the sides mentioned above. Luckily the friendly owner was there to explain how to assemble the rolls.
Price: VND 60-80,000 for two
Address: 139 Phố Yên Phụ, Yên Phụ, Tây Hồ, Hà Nội, Vietnam
Bánh khọt Cô Ba Vũng Tàu, Hồ Chí Minh
This more ‘upmarket’ restaurant specialises in both Bánh Xèo and Bánh khọt, which are also delicious. Just be aware, the portions are huuuuuge here (see above photo). This platter was easily enough for two people.
Price: VND 115,000 for one
Address: QMMW+8G Phường 6, District 3, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
4. Bánh mì
Probably just behind Phố in terms of global recognition, Bánh mì are some of the best sandwiches you will ever have. Although Bánh mì technically just means bread, the sandwiches consists of a crispy, airy baguette filled with meat, paté, pickled vegetables and a secret ingredient that makes you want to eat ten in a row, no matter how full you are. Fillings vary from vendor to vendor, but usual ingredients are sliced meat, meat patties or eggs and chilli sauce served at breakfastime.
Where to try Bánh mì
Bánh Mì Huynh Hoa, Hồ Chí Minh
Hồ Chí Minh is home to some pretty damn good Bánh Mì, but this one was ridiculous. There is usually a pretty long queue here, but service is quick and the sandwich is so worth it. Once you get inside you will spot shelves stacked with cold cuts, paté and other ingredients. These aren’t child-sized portions either. One will be generous enough for two people – or one greedy person.
Price: VND 40,000
Address: 26 Lê Thị Riêng, P.BT, Quận 1, Hồ Chí Minh 700000, Vietnam
Bánh Mì Hồng Hoa, Hồ Chí Minh
Located just round the corner from Bánh Mì Huynh Hoa, Bánh Mì Hồng Hoa is another fantastic option in Hồ Chí Minh. Go for the roast pork, which comes with succulent pork and crispy crackling for a satisfying crunch.
Price: VND 20,000
Address: 54 Nguyễn Văn Tráng, Phường Phạm Ngũ Lão, Quận 1, Hồ Chí Minh, Vietnam
5. Bánh mì ốp la
If you’ve had your fill of Bánh mì sandwiches (is that even possible?), why not try this deconstructed version? Crispy rolls come with a plate of sausage, pâté, meatballs (xíu mại) and a runny fried egg, all covered in a thick layer of tomato sauce. Just rip up the bread and dunk it into the yolky, meaty mess.
Where to try Bánh mì ốp la
Bánh Mỳ Trâm, Hanoi
Bánh Mỳ Trâm is one of the most famous spots for Bánh mì in Hanoi. You can get the Bánh mì ốp la pictured above or a classic Bánh mì sandwich.
Price: VND 40,000
Address: 252 Cửa Nam, Hoàn Kiếm, Hà Nội, Vietnam
Cửa Hàng Bánh Bao – Xíu Mại – Há Cảo Viễn Hưng, Cần Thơ
This place is super local, meaning you will definitely get stared at and English isn’t widely spoken. But don’t let that bother you. Just ask for “one” and they will know what you want. Their Bánh mì ốp la is served in a sizzling hot pan, so be careful!
Price: Around VND 30,000
Address: 61 Võ Văn Tần, Tân An, Ninh Kiều, Cần Thơ, Vietnam
6. Bún Riêu
Another of Vietnam’s delicious noodle and broth dishes, Bún Riêu can come in a few varieties such as with snails or fish. However, our favourite was Bún Riêu Cua. This variant has a tomato-based broth, with minced freshwater crab on top. Other ingredients are fried puffy tofu, fresh greens, and congealed pig blood cake(!)
Where to try Bun Rieu
Bún Riêu NHA, Hồ Chí Minh
If you are a bit tired of sitting on tiny stools that make you feel like a giant, surrounded by questionable hygiene standards, then you should eat here. Clean, comfortable and spacious with some nice wall paintings, Bún Riêu NHA serve up tasty bowls of Bún Riêu Cua amongst a few other dishes. You can also pay on card which is always a nice surprise.
Price: VND 37-50,000
Address: 93 Nguyễn Thái Học, Phường Cầu Ông Lãnh, Quận 1, Hồ Chí Minh, Vietnam
7. Bún Bò Nam Bộ / Bún Bò Xào
Any dish that contains peanuts gets an automatic thumbs up from me, and Bún Bò Nam Bộ is no exception. This light and delicious meal comprises of grilled strips of beef that have been marinated in lemongrass, garlic and oyster sauce. These are then layered on top of a bed of lettuce and herbs, rice noodles, some beansprouts, and a generous heap of crushed peanuts on top. Mix it all together in your bowl with a spicy nước chấm dressing for an instant winner of a dish.
Where to try Bún Bò Nam Bộ
Bún Bò Nam Bộ Bách Phương, Hanoi
Unsurprisingly, this little restaurant is known for its excellent Bún Bò Nam Bộ. It is a simple eatery with only a few dishes on the menu, but you really only need this one. It is big, filling and delicious peanut-y treat.
Price: VND 60,000
Address: 67 Hàng Điếu, Cửa Đông, Hoàn Kiếm, Hà Nội, Vietnam
Noodle & Roll, Hanoi
This is a popular restaurant for tourists as it is located near the pleasant Hoàn Kiếm Lake. As the name suggests, it offers a wide range of tasty noodle dishes and Vietnamese rolls. It also has a vegetarian version of Bún Bò Nam Bộ, made with tofu.
Price: VND 100,000 for two
Address: 67 Hàng Điếu, Cửa Đông, Hoàn Kiếm, Hà Nội, Vietnam
8. Bún chả
Bún chả is an irresistable Hanoian dish that you will immediately love. It gained international recognition when the late, great Anthony Bourdain took then-President Barack Obama to a restaurant in Hanoi. The whole meal consists of grilled pork strips and pork patties, served in a bowl filled with a delicious sweet and sour fish sauce ‘broth’. It also comes with a side of cold rice noodles, a hearty bowl of lettuce and herbs such as Thai basil, coriander and fish mint (watch out for that one! My boyfriend couldn’t stand the taste). Do as the locals do and add the noodles and herbs to the broth to make a noodle soup.
Where to try Bún chả
Bún chả 35k, Hanoi
If you are in Hanoi, you will find this cracking dish everywhere, so try to eat as much as you can as it varies from vendor to vendor. We went to Bún chả 35k a few times as it was near our apartment, and it was consistently tasty. You can smell the grilled pork wafting in the air before you even lay eyes on the restaurant.
Price: VND 35,000
Address: Ngõ 76 Yên Phụ, Yên Phụ, Tây Hồ, Hà Nội, Vietnam
Spice Bistro – Thi Sách, Hồ Chí Minh
For a slightly more ‘upmarket’ version, head to Spice Bistro. Whilst not a traditional Bún chả (it contains peanuts), and certainly not the cheapest you will find, it is still rather moreish. The cool, rustic, wooden and leafy décor is also a bonus. A good place for date night, perhaps?
Price: VND 100,000
Address: 2 Thi Sách, Bến Nghé, Quận 1, Hồ Chí Minh, Vietnam
9. Ốc (snails)
Snails are hugely popular in Vietnam, and not because of French colonialism. Snails have been eaten here for centuries. You will often see groups of friends sitting around tables, having beers, munching down bowl after bowl of these molluscs and enjoying the evening. Most snail restaurants will offer a wide variety to choose from, such as common periwinkle (Ốc Mõ) and sweet Babylonia areolata (Ốc Hương). Once you have chosen the types you want, just pick how they are cooked. They are typically stir fried, grilled, or steamed, and served in chilli, coconut or lemongrass sauces.
Where to try snails
Huong Lan Seafood, Hanoi
Located in the less touristy area east of the old quarter, Huong Lan has a great selection of seafood. You can get a number of snail dishes here, but the ones in chilli sauce are delicious. This lively and popular restaurant is also popular for whole crabs, razor clams and scallops.
Price: VND 60,000 a portion
Address: 42 Ngõ 12 Nghĩa Dũng, Phúc xá, Ba Đình, Hà Nội, Vietnam
10. Chả Cá
Chả Cá is a great meal to share with a group. The main ingredient is fish (usually snakehead) spiced with turmeric, garlic and galangal. It is served at your table in a sizzling hot pan, amongst spring onions and dill (which I was surprised to find in Asian food). The pan is placed on a burner so it keeps cooking, giving the fish a nice crispy finish. Sides include vermicelli noodles, peanuts, chilli, more herbs and spring onions and either fish sauce or fermented shrimp paste.
Where to try Chả Cá
Chả Cá Phan, Hanoi
Located down a little side street, Chả Cá Phan is a good local spot to try this famous Hanoian dish. It has a lively atmosphere, and friendly staff who will help you out if you need a hand with using the burner. Also, you get a complimentary coconut jelly at the end of your meal. Result!
Price: VND 280,000 for two including drinks
Address: 20 Xóm Hà Hồi, Hưng Đạo, Hoàn Kiếm, Hà Nội, Vietnam
11. Bánh Cuốn
This street food is made up of rice batter, ground pork, jicama and wood ear mushrooms. The batter is first spread out like a crêpe onto a stretched-out cloth, placed above boiling water. It is then covered with a large lid to steam the ingredients. The cook then uses a chopstick to carefully lift the delicate and slippery sheets, adds the fillings, rolls them up and sprinkles them with crispy shallots. It is usually served with Chả lụa (a type of pork sausage that has a slight cinnamon taste) and a fish sauce dip.
Where to try Bánh Cuốn
Bánh Cuốn Yên Phụ, Hanoi
This tiny little eatery on Yên Phụ is very popular, especially with workers during lunch hours when there will be a stream of motorbikes pulling up to grab takeaways. Make your order, take a seat, and watch the cooks expertly prepare them for you.
Price: VND 25,000
Address: 34 Yên Phụ, Trúc Bạch, Ba Đình, Hà Nội, Vietnam
12. Vietnamese coffee
OK, it’s not technically food, but no trip to Vietnam would be complete without sampling some coffee. Especially as one of the best things about this country is the café culture. You can have it in a few varieties, such as Cà Phê Den (strong black drip coffee) and Cà Phê Sua (which has a big old spoonful – or four – of condensed milk). You can have it hot (nong), but iced (da) is the way to go. Prices range from 10,000 – 25,000 VND per cup.
Where to try Vietnamese coffee
Cộng Cà Phê, multiple locations
Whilst you can find good coffee everywhere, Cộng Cà Phê stood out for a couple of reasons. This chain can be found all over Vietnam, and is popular with tourists and locals alike. Along with classics like cà phê den and cà phê sua, they are most famous for their frozen coffee with coconut milk. More a dessert than a typical coffee, it is nevertheless deliciously indulgent. Each cafe is also decorated in Vietnam war era knick-knacks, with communist-style imagery all around. The staff even wear military style clothing. Prices are a bit higher here than most places, but it’s a modern hang out and a relaxing place to chill out.
Price: VND 60,000 for coconut coffee
So that’s it, folks! Eleven absolutely delicious dishes – and one moreish drink – that you have to try when you are in Vietnam. If you have any other favourite dishes or restaurants that I haven’t mentioned, please share them in the comments below.
Ciao for now
The Curious Sparrow