Vietnamese food is known for its balance of salty, sweet, spicy, and sour flavors. Vietnamese dishes contain ingredients like rice, noodles, herbs, fruit, and vegetables.
Some of the most popular dishes you will find in places like Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi include Pho noodle soup, Banh Mi sandwiches, and Goi salads.
Most Popular Vietnamese Dishes
Vietnamese cuisine is very healthy and light, using a lot of seafood, vegetarian and vegan ingredients with minimal oil and plenty of fresh herbs.
Vietnamese food has been influenced by neighboring countries like China, Laos, and Cambodia, but thanks to immigration, traditional Vietnamese has traveled around the world and taken on fresh new twists. Here are a few of our favorites:
1. Com Tam
Com Tam, or Vietnamese broken rice, is a popular dish made from short rice grains. The dish usually features pork or chicken, herbs, and pickled vegetables.
Com Tam is often served with sweet, salty fish sauce. Com Tam is sold all over Vietnam as street food.
2. Banh Trang Nuong
Banh trang nuong, or toasted sesame rice crackers, are found in a variety of traditional Vietnamese dishes.
A thin layer of sesame paste is spread on rice paper and grilled until crispy. It's used as a substitute for bread or as a topping for salads, noodles, and soup.
3. Bun Cha
Bun cha is found in Vietnamese restaurants all over the world. The dish is made with grilled pork, minced pork balls, or marinated pork belly and rice noodles or rice vermicelli.
The meat is flavored with fish sauce, sugar, and spices before being grilled and served with herbs and dipping sauce. Bun cha is eaten with lettuce, mint, and bean sprouts for added freshness.
4. Ca Phe Trung
Ca Phe Trung, or Vietnamese egg coffee, is made by beating raw egg yolks with sweetened condensed milk and adding it to hot black coffee.
The result is a thick, creamy coffee drink with a custard-like texture. It was invented in the 1940s in Hanoi. It's usually served in small portions as it's very sweet!
5. Banh Xeo
Banh xeo is a savory fried pancake made from rice batter, flour, turmeric, and water. The batter is in a hot skillet like a crepe and filled with pork, shrimp, fresh vegetables, fresh greens, and mushrooms.
This crispy crepe is often served with sweet chili sauce or sweet and sour dipping sauce.
Banh xeo is best enjoyed by wrapping the crepe in lettuce leaves and fresh herbs before dipping it in your favorite condiments or sauces. It's a popular Vietnamese street food in the southern part of the country.
6. Cha ca La Vong
Cha ca La Vong is one of the most popular Vietnamese seafood dishes in Hanoi and Central Vietnam.
Fish is marinated and cooked on a charcoal stove and served in a small clay pot with vermicelli noodles, dill, roasted peanuts, and a dipping sauce. It's enjoyed with herbs, vegetables, and bean sprouts.
This noodle soup dish is synonymous with traditional Vietnamese food! Made with beef or chicken broth, aromatics, and thick Japanese udon noodles before being served with thinly sliced meat or fried tofu, lime wedges, and sauces.
It's often topped with a quail egg, green onions, or crunchy rice crackers for extra flavor!
While this noodle dish is often enjoyed with breakfast, you can enjoy it at any time of the day!
8. Xoi Xeo
Xoi Xeo is a flavorful Vietnamese sticky rice dish made by steaming rice with turmeric powder before mixing it with mung beans, diced chicken, Vietnamese sausage, or mushrooms. You'll often find xoi xeo served for breakfast with scallions and savory or sweet toppings.
9. Nem Chua
Nem Chua, or Vietnamese pork sausage, is made by fermenting pork belly, fish sauce, sugar, and salt before wrapping it in banana leaves.
The result is savory and slightly sour. Nem Chua is enjoyed with salads, noodles, and soups or as a filling for spring rolls and banh mi sandwiches.
10. Bun Dau Mam Tom
This Bun Dau Mam Tom dish isn't for the faint of heart! It includes bun (rice vermicelli noodles), dau (crispy fried tofu), and the infamous mam tom (a strong-smelling fermented shrimp paste). The combination may seem strange, but the end result is delicious!
11. Bun Bo Hue
Last but not least: bun bo hue. It's a rich, spicy soup from Central Vietnam topped with beef, pork, and herbs. The broth is made from shrimp paste, pork bones, and chili paste, and it packs a real punch.
The reason it's not quite as popular as Pho (another traditional soup dish from Vietnam that made its way into the US) is that it uses a few ingredients that may seem strange in the West, including congealed pork blood and banana flowers.