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Pho and Other Delicious Dishes You Should Try during a Vietnam Tour

Traveling Vietnam is pretty much like a journey through time and space in regards to the local cuisine. Vietnamese gastronomy is complex, given its roots that spread far and wide.

If you are readying yourself for a Vietnam tour, you must have heard about Pho. However, there are many other dishes you should try during your trip.

For starters, let's take a look at Vietnam's geographical features. The country shares land borders with China, Laos, and Cambodia. Thus, the Vietnamese cuisine features many similarities with the cuisines of its neighbors, China in particular.

The South China Sea and Gulf of Thailand edge Vietnam from northeast to southwest.

Vietnam food
Vietnam food

When we speak about the local gastronomy, however, we can't leave out French influences. These European colonists tried their best to leave their stamp on the cuisine of Vietnam. Baguette, coffee, and creme caramel are some principal imports from France.

What you need to understand about dining here is a balance of different, often opposite, elements. That's why you will find crunchy alongside chewy, or crispy alongside soft, ingredients in many dishes.

Such a practice reflects the Buddhist philosophy that requires balance for keeping harmony in life.

Speaking of ingredients, the cuisine of Vietnam abounds with meat and seafood. Fish and oyster sauces and shrimp paste are among the most common components.

The ingredients of Vietnam food
The ingredients of Vietnam food

Vegetables, such as carrot, cabbage, cucumbers, radishes, and cauliflowers are typical ingredients, too. However, these veggies tend to be sweeter than their counterparts in other parts of the world.

Other common ingredients are rice, rock sugar, and shallots. Green onion, cilantro, Thai basil, cinnamon, cardamom, and lemongrass are among typical spices local gourmands happily use.

If you prefer a certain cooking method, you are sure to enjoy it during your trip in Vietnam. Fried, steamed, grilled, boiled, and stewed food is ubiquitous.

Traditional Dishes You Must Give a Try during Vietnam Tour

In Vietnam, you can choose to be whatever you wish - a gourmand, vegetarian, or something else. Depending on your preferences, make sure to try some of the following dishes during your Vietnam tour:

Green Papaya Salad

Green Papaya Salad is your way out if a Vietnamese invites you for a meal and you aren't hungry. Besides green papaya, beef jerky and basil are other components of the salad. You can prepare the appetizer on your own since preparation doesn't involve cooking or much effort.

Green Papaya Salad
Green Papaya Salad

The dressing of Green Papaya Salad usually consists of several ingredients. These are soy sauce, vinegar, sugar, garlic, and chili paste.

The salad is on the menu at some restaurants. However, you may find it easier to make one yourself than find a restaurant serving it. In Vietnam, you shouldn't have trouble finding the ingredients in supermarkets.


Pho is the number one specialty in Vietnam. While wandering around, pay attention to what people eat at the stands. Then, you may conclude that 90% of the Vietnamese would starve without Pho.

Pho is very delicious and quite affordable. And it is always available, day or night. The main ingredients of Pho are rice noodles, beef or chicken meat, and various spices. Most of the time, you will recognize chili, basil, and lime among them.

Vietnam Cha Ca
Vietnam Cha Ca

Extras allowing you to customize this steamed soup to your liking accompany the dish most of the time.

The origins of Pho might relate to the French. French soup called "Pot au Feu" might have something to do with the introduction of the most popular Vietnamese dish.

Banh Mi

Banh Mi is the name of the dish whose only constant is a baguette. In the north, its main ingredients are margarine and pata. In the south, the specialty may comprise cheese, pickled veggies, fried egg, chili sauce, and else.

If you are a meat-eater, there will be a variety of meat fillings for you to choose from. Barbecued or roasted pork, poached chicken, and boiled sausage are some common fillings. Fried fish is among the available options, too.

Vietnam Banh Mi
Vietnam Banh Mi

Finding Banh Mi in Vietnam is a piece of cake, maybe just a bit harder than finding Pho. So, whether you explore Hanoi, Hoi An, or Ho Chi Minh City, you are covered well.

The price of this diverse Vietnamese specialty typically varies between 50 cents and 1.5 USD.

Cha Ca

Do you follow Muslim dietary traditions or are a vegetarian? If so, look no further than Cha Ca when you visit Hanoi, the capital of Vietnam. Just ask the locals about the Cha Ca Street, and you are on your way.

The dish, whose main ingredients are fried flaky fish pieces, is unique in North Vietnam. Other possible extras are garlic, turmeric, dill, and ginger. Peanuts and noodles are other typical additions.

Vietnam Cha Ca
Vietnam Cha Ca

If you are far from Cha Ca Street, try your luck at one of the local restaurants. Many of them serve this popular dish, recommended by many reputable magazines and websites as a must-try in Hanoi.

Bun Cha

While you are in the Vietnamese capital, don't miss Bun Cha, a favorite dish for lunch. The specialty is both savory and sweet, combining pieces of pork steeped into a fish sauce. Lettuce and rice vermicelli noodles are typical side dishes accompanying Bun Cha.

Carrot and papaya may be additional components. Commonly served at street-side restaurants in Hanoi, this popular crispy dish is a good option for dinner, too.

Vietnam Bun Cha
Vietnam Bun Cha

Finding an eatery serving this outstanding specialty can't be easier around lunchtime. All you have to do is notice meaty smoke produced from grilled pork.

Certain eateries advertise Bun Cha as "Obama noodles," since the former US president had a pleasure to eat the specialty.

Banh Cuon

Banh Cuon is a savory pancake available in a few versions. Banh Cuon Nhan Thit consists of ground pork and wood ear mushrooms. Banh Cuon Tom's main ingredient is shrimp.

Translated as "rolled cake," the dish's main component is steamed rice noodle roll. If you would like to order the specialty served without the above-mentioned extras, ask for Banh Cuon Thanh Tri.

Vietnam Banh Cuon
Vietnam Banh Cuon

Common side dish accompanying the delicacy is fish sauce dip, in which you dunk main ingredients.

The specialty is favorite among the locals and travelers alike. Originated in North Vietnam, Ban Cuon is available countrywide. It is most commonly served for breakfast and lunch.

If you don't eat meat, the vegetarian version of the dish is available in vegetarian restaurants.

Cao Lau

Cao Lao is an "endemic" dish of Hoi An, a city in Central Vietnam. Hoi An is the only place on Earth where you can taste the dish because of a secret ingredient. And that ingredient is - water from a specific well.

Besides noodles, Cao Lao comprises pork trotter or loin, lettuce, bean sprouts, and various herbs. Frying pork in a marinade is the first step of preparation. Roasting afterward is the second.

Vietnam Cao Lau
Vietnam Cao Lau

The best place for buying Cao Lao is Nguyen Hue Street. There, you will see an elderly woman selling the specialty. You are sure to find her around midafternoon. Just see where people that look hungry gather.

Che Ba Mau

Three Colored Dessert is a popular, well, dessert among the Vietnamese and foreigners. You will like it in particular when traversing humid and warm regions. Purchase Che Ba Mau from street vendors in any major city during your Vietnam tour.

Vietnam Che Ba Mau
Vietnam Che Ba Mau

This vegan- and vegetarian-friendly dessert comprises sugar syrup, jelly layer, coconut cream, mung bean paste, and a cup or two of ice. The good thing about Che Ba Mau is that you can customize the delicacy however you wish.

Che Bap

By now, you have concluded that "Che" means "dessert" in Vietnamese. And Che Bap is as delicious as it is simple.

The main component of this extraordinary pudding is corn. Hence, make sure to try the dessert between March and September around Hoi An. That's when the harvesting season of this sweet corn takes place.

Vietnam Che Bap
Vietnam Che Bap

Glutinous rice, which tends to be replaced by tapioca starch, is another key ingredient of Che Bap.


Many people have a prejudice that if something is healthy, it surely isn't tasty. Vietnamese cuisine, which is among the healthiest in the world, is proof that it doesn't have to be so. And there are many more dishes you ought to try while enjoying the Vietnam tour.

Banh Xeo, a mixture of pork, shrimp, and beans, and Goi Cuon, comprising meat or seafood and salad greens, are other top-rated Vietnamese specialties.

Travelers coming from Islamic countries should pay attention to Mi Quang and Nom Hua Chuoi. Be cautious with the former, which might comprise pork instead of beef meat. The latter, however, is a 100% Halal specialty.

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